Flexible Working Arrangements: What HR needs to know

Flexi-working will be a key component of Singapore's future

Flexible Working Arrangements: What HR needs to know

Singapore was relatively slow to adopt the flexi-working concept, but its popularity grew quickly as a result of the pandemic. A White Paper on Women’s Development in Singapore submitted to parliament this week reveals the government believes flexi-working will be a key component of Singapore’s future workplaces as they seek to establish flexible working arrangements (FWA) as a ‘pervasive and sustainable workplace norm’.

The ministry for manpower (MOM) said that businesses with a FWA will benefit from access to a wider talent pool and they’ll benefit from being ‘future-ready’, which in turn will aid in talent attraction and retention. MOM called it a “win-win for employers and employees alike”.

The White Paper recommended the government expands the availability of FWAs by introducing a new set of tripartite guidelines that require, by 2024, employers to consider flexible work arrangement requests fairly and properly. The move aims to create a workplace norm where employees feel it’s acceptable to request flexi-work arrangements but still allows employers a level of power to accept or reject requests based on their business needs.

In the meantime, the White Paper recommended implementing measures to increase business participation in the voluntary Tripartite Standard on FWA from its current level of 27% of all employees to 40% by the end of this year.

As the global war for talent intensifies, businesses are increasingly turning to new and innovative HR strategies to attract and retain employees as work life balance becomes more important than a pay rate among a new generation of better educated and more mobile employees. FWAs should be a serious consideration for businesses looking to effectively meet their objectives of attracting, motivating and retaining employees. A recent survey conducted by Ranstad revealed that 41% of Singapore’s employees would pass over an annual bonus if it meant they could work remotely and a talent war means Singapore’s businesses are going to have to meet those demands.  

Also, of interest to employers, the White Paper recommended enshrining the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices in law to ensure workplace fairness. Requiring businesses to have formal and confidential internal grievance processes in place. The paper said however that “legislation is not a panacea” and mediation was still the preferable option for resolution.


  • Make sure that the proposal for a FWA is backed by a strong business case with benefits that are measurable.
  • Talk to employees to find out what would meet their needs and take time to work through the stages of discussion and explanation with your employees.
  • Set down clear goals and targets for the scheme and make sure you have an effective monitoring system to track those goals and targets to ensure you are achieving them.
  • Buy-in, support and ownership from top management is crucial to ensure that the initiative is taken seriously by everyone in the business.
  • Have the policy framework documented to reinforce the ideas and to reduce ambiguity and refer to when needed.
  • Build an effective communication strategy that supports the new work environment. Clear and continuous communication is essential to keep all employees informed of the latest developments.
  • Start small. Initially start the scheme on a pilot basis to see what works and what does not.
  • Flexibility works best if there is a high degree of trust between employers and employees.

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