Privacy, productivity holding Singaporeans back from office return

'Employees are more concerned with working in spaces that are free of distractions'

Privacy, productivity holding Singaporeans back from office return

Employees across Singapore remain hesitant about returning to workplaces – but the reasons why may surprise employers.

Unispace's survey of 500 employees and 250 senior decision-makers found that only 40% of respondents are in the office four or more days a week.

Singapore's data is lower than the global average of 50%, and lags when compared to other markets including the United States (57%), India (47%), and Hong Kong (63%).

The findings come amid a widespread push from executives around the world to bring back employees to workplaces after years of working remotely due to the pandemic.

The survey found that among Singapore-based staff who are back in the office, 79% are back because of mandates, but only 26% are happy with that frequency.

What's the problem with the return to office?

Singapore's employers believe that their workforce is hesitant to return because of two reasons:

  • Commute (28%)
  • Ability to eat more healthily at home (25%)

However, the survey found that employees have completely different reasons for refusing office returns, including:

  • Lack of privacy in the office (34%)
  • Feeling more effective in a quiet, remote working environment (31%)
  • The belief that they are more productive at home (29%)

"Where employers believe that workers' reluctance to return to the office is based on convenience, employees are more concerned with working in spaces that are free of distractions and allow them to work more effectively," Unispace said in a media release.

In fact, the report found that 68% of employees are struggling to work in their current offices, with 61% saying they would take a pay cut just to work from home.

What can employers do?

The findings suggest that employers have yet to create spaces that allow their people to be effective at work as they are at home, according to Sean Moran, Senior Principal, Client Solutions, Asia at Unispace.

This comes as 56% of respondents in Singapore are under "hot-desking," or the practice in an office where employees are not given their own personal desks and instead allocated one on a rotating system.

According to the report, 94% of hot-desking staff said they would be happier to come to the office more if they were given an assigned space.

"Employers have a significant opportunity to listen to their employees and adapt and implement changes that align with what their workers need in the workspace. Ignoring the data – and not seizing this opportunity – invites risking talent attraction and retention," Moran said.

The report, however, noted that some employers are already carrying out measures to make it easier for staff to return, as 36% of them said they considered employees' locations when they expanded their office footprint in the last two years.

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