With the advent of technology, the world of work was already beginning to change. As corporations seek to retain talent, there has been a shift in recent years to afford some employees the flexibility of working remotely on certain days of the work week. The outbreak of COVID-19 will no doubt push agile working even further into the fore.
As countries all over the world went into lock down, it became apparent that with the correct planning, the necessary technology and corporate will, the ability for employees to work outside the confines of an office is not only possible but an asset.
Even as countries begin to ease their lock down measures, it will be some time yet before office workers can return to their physical offices. Without a vaccine, offices will have to be reconfigured to permit social distancing before workers can be let back in.
That does not mean that businesses have to be less productive. With the correct toolkit, there is no reason why workers can’t be even more productive while working remotely.
As the world gets used to the “new normal”, both businesses and workers are beginning to embrace the positives that remote working brings.
Social media giant Facebook has led the way by publicly announcing that it is planning to allow most of its employees to work from home permanently. He directly attributes this move to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had this to say:
“It’s clear that Covid has changed a lot about our lives, and that certainly includes the way that most of us work,......Coming out of this period, I expect that remote work is going to be a growing trend as well.”
This could well be a win-win for both company and employee given that the employee will not have to uproot and move to Silicon Valley while the company may get cost savings by adjusting salaries to meet local costs as opposed to the costs of living in Silicon Valley.
If most employees are able to work from home in future, the work landscape will be forever changed. The entire framework of recruitment will likely face major overhauls as well. With technology and this new mindset, businesses will have access to global talent while workers will gain access to international opportunities without having to leave the comfort of their own homes.
While this seismic shift will create opportunities, it will also mean that workers will have to compete with an international talent pool for the same jobs.
What does this mean for Singapore?
As noted by Ms Amarjit Kaur, an Employment law specialist at Withers KhattarWong:
“We need to ensure the Singapore workforce is ready to face the geography-agnostic talent war through urgent upskilling and reskilling.”
As she presciently asks: “Is the Singapore workforce ready for the challenge? Being able to adapt and remain productive while working from home is one thing; being equipped and ready for a geography-agnostic talent war is another.
Similarly, are local firms able to compete for talent in an environment where workers are no longer bound to the constraints of geography?
Is our private sector labour market ready and able to accommodate individuals living overseas performing Singapore-related roles, with the appropriate contractual and tax structuring?
Changes are afoot and we emerge from lock down or circuit breaker measures a different world. To thrive, both businesses and workers alike “should be acutely aware of the paradigm shifts caused by digital transformation and the reshaping of talent pools, as sharply hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic.”