Best practices for flexible work arrangements in Singapore

Expert details focus points for employers relating to Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) Requests

Best practices for flexible work arrangements in Singapore

With the upcoming Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) Requests in Singapore, employers should be making the necessary changes, according to one expert.

The upcoming rules will “shift the needle on FWA implementation in Singapore,” says Barbara Matthews, chief people officer, of HR solutions provider Remote, in an email to HRD Asia.

“The Tripartite Guidelines will encourage employers to objectively evaluate the impact of different working arrangements, and help them prepare for the future by considering FWAs seriously.” 

By now, employers should be looking at their culture and values “to see if they align with these new guidelines,” she says.

“Effective and transparent communication is the most crucial aspect that will help the FWA policy succeed. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and discussions and disagreements on expectations and work arrangements can be held more openly and honestly.”

Formal request for flexible work

Employers across Singapore must start considering formal requests for flexible work arrangements from employees starting in December, as the government accepted all the recommendations made by the Tripartite Workgroup on the Tripartite Guidelines on FWA back in April. 

And nearly four in 10 businesses in Singapore are starting to embrace hybrid work arrangements ahead of the state's implementation of new guidelines to accommodate flexible work requests, according to a previous survey.

Employers should also begin aligning their FWA policy with Singapore's guidelines, says Matthews.

“This policy should outline the process for making and considering formal FWA requests. It's also crucial to review any existing formal and informal practices to ensure they benefit both employees and employers. 

“Human resources (HR) can then focus on training managers to handle FWA requests effectively. Managers should understand the need to assess each request individually, considering both the employee's circumstances and the business's needs.”

How can companies ensure data security?

With FWA, one thing that employers should pay particular attention to is data security, says Matthews.

“Collaboration between HR leaders and IT security teams is critical to developing and enforcing cybersecurity protocols specific to remote and hybrid work environments.”

Employers should also invest in educating workers about cybersecurity, and make sure that workers feel safe and confident when reporting cybersecurity issues, she says.

Matthews also cautions employers against looking into workers’ activities too much.

“Excessive monitoring and micromanagement of employees can negatively impact culture and morale. It's important to build trust and promote transparency within the organisation. Fostering an environment of accountability and openness can significantly improve security awareness and compliance.”

Companies must also regularly review and test cybersecurity measure to ensure their effectiveness, and consider purchasing cyber liability insurance to cover potential data loss, legal fees, and other related costs, she says.

“By integrating these strategies, employers can improve their data security posture in a flexible work environment, minimise the risk of cyberattacks, and protect both company and employee data.”

Ransomware and extortion incidents went up by 67% in 2023, according to a previous report.

Respecting workers’ right to disconnect

With the Tripartite Guidelines on FWA Requests, employers must also respect workers’ right to disconnect, notes Matthews. To do this, companies must set clear expectations that address out-of-hours communication, she says.

“This involves developing detailed policies and guides that outline when and how such contact should occur. These policies, by clarifying the rules for both employees and managers, help ensure everyone understands and adheres to their obligations,” she says.

At a minimum, workplace communication policies should specify that employees are not expected to respond to out-of-hours contact that is deemed “unreasonable”. 

Before initiating any such contact, managers should assess the necessity of the communication and the appropriateness of the timing. Also, employees should be aware that the right to disconnect does not equate to an outright ban on all out-of-hours contact, “nor does it permit selective response to employer communications,” says Matthews.

“A best-practice policy would also provide a clear procedure for employees to express concerns about out-of-hours contact they consider unreasonable.”

Employees want to prevent their bosses from contacting them outside work hours — and they want penalties in cases of violations, according to a previous report.

Moving forward, once the Tripartite Guidelines on FWA take effect later this year, employers should find the right balance when it comes to employees’ requests and the needs of the company, says Matthews.

“When it comes to assessing FWAs, employers and employees should focus on creating win-win scenarios, aligning on aspects such as work responsibilities, hours, and pay when ironing out FWA requests. Employers should be transparent in the evaluation process, avoiding the rejections on unreasonable and subjective grounds. Likewise, employees should be reasonable not to make FWA requests that would put the company in a position of unnecessary strain.” 

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