Prior to the current outbreak of COVID-19 infections and the subsequent restrictions on activities, the vast majority of organisations in Singapore had already made decisions about returning employees to on-site locations, according to the most recent pulse survey by Aon. The survey, which was conducted towards the end of April, found that at the time, 71 percent expected at least half their employees to return to the office—but perhaps aware of how uncertain the situation remained, 75 percent had not actually finalised a return date, although most organisations were willing to estimate in which quarter of 2021 they might begin the return.
The findings also showed that most organisations are not willing to commit to a full-time return yet, with 33 percent of respondents saying they will look at 2 or 3 days a week, and 29 percent planning to give managers and/or employees the autonomy to decide how frequently they need to be in the office. Only 20 percent of the respondents said they expect employees to be on-site for 4 or more days.
Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of organisations already have or are planning to have an updated remote working policy, whether formal or informal. Around 60 percent have either already assessed the job roles and individual employees that are suitable for remote work, or are planning to do so. Notably, the majority of the survey respondents were technology firms, which have led in providing flexible working options since even before the pandemic.
However, the openness to remote work does not yet extend quite as far as budgeting for it. The survey found that expenses, compensation, and benefits hold a low priority in remote working policies, and respondents were for the most part not willing to formalise the reimbursement of remote working expenses. The exceptions were a limited one-time allowance for home office setup, and providing employees with equipment and supplies. 58 percent of organisations were also open to reimbursements on a case-by-case basis.
Aon's survey also found that despite remote work occasionally extending across borders, companies are not entirely ready to adopt location-based pay strategies. Only 35 percent of organisations have adjusted or are considering adjusting pay differentials to account for employees' location. Interestingly, this number is noticeably lower than the findings of a different, US-based study by WorldatWork, which found that 44 percent of US organisations are looking at localised compensation.