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Singapore banks making flexi-work a permanent post-Covid feature

DBS is latest to announce new work practices; UOB had earlier announced a two-day work-from-home policy post-pandemic

DBS will also launch a 5,000 square foot "Living Lab" in Singapore that aims to blend physical and virtual workspace configurations.


A GROWING number of Singapore banks will make flexible work arrangements a permanent fixture for staff, as they make firm strides to new ways of working in the "new normal" brought about by Covid-19.

DBS was the latest lender to announce a slew of new work practices on Tuesday. UOB had earlier announced instituting a two-day work-from-home policy post-pandemic.

Singapore's largest lender will give its 29,000-strong workforce the option to work remotely up to 40 per cent of the time, as well as implement a formal job-sharing scheme which enables two employees to share the responsibilities of one full-time role.

The salaries of employees under such job-sharing schemes - a relatively new concept in Singapore - will be adjusted based on their new work arrangements.

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Employees on this scheme will retain all existing medical benefits in full and continue to be covered under the bank's insurance plans. DBS said it will introduce more part-time work arrangements.

The bank will also launch a 5,000 square foot "Living Lab" in Singapore that aims to blend physical and virtual workspace configurations. This comes as over 80 per cent of employees indicated that they prefer to have more open collaboration spaces to facilitate discussions and cross-team interactions, which they found difficult to do remotely.

Other new initiatives include a more agile way of working across functions through "project-specific, data-driven squads", usually seen only in the technology space. In addition, over 7,200 employees across the bank will be trained in emerging areas such as design thinking, data and analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and agile practices.

Piyush Gupta, chief executive of DBS, said the bank is prepared to "radically transform" the way it works in order to "address the magnitude of the disruptions" that lie ahead. "By implementing these measures, we believe that Team DBS will emerge as a confident future-ready workforce."

Last Friday, UOB said about 65 per cent of its 26,000-strong workforce will have the option to work remotely two days a week. To support its remote work options, UOB will accelerate its infrastructure improvement plan to enable more agile team-based work and deeper collaboration across different functions.

For example, at Boat Quay, it has converted an office into a clubhouse for collaboration and recreational activities. It will be opened when safe-distancing measures are eased.

Dean Tong, UOB's head of group human resources, said the future of the workplace is a hybrid one where employees choose how to manage their work commitments based on the space and place they can be most effective.

OCBC has no designated work-from-home days, but its head of group human resources, Jason Ho, said the bank will continue to be agile in the way it introduces new initiatives and measures to transform the way employees work.

What the local banks are doing are in line with their global counterparts. Standard Chartered was among the first global banks to take the plunge earlier in November, with plans to offer flexible work options to more than 90 per cent of its 85,000 staff over three years.

About half of its staff will be able to apply for some form of hybrid work from early 2021, with the bank expecting the programme to apply to about 75,000 workers in 55 markets by 2023.

It is also said to be in talks with a third-party firm to provide "near-home" workspaces for staff.

When contacted by The Business Times, HSBC said it offers staff the following categories of work arrangements to choose from:

  • Office worker: Role is permanently office-based, and cannot be undertaken elsewhere due to compliance, technology or other reasons. Examples include client-servicing employees at retail branches during branch opening hours.
  • Flexible office worker: Role is primarily office-based, but does not have a fixed work-from-home (WFH) schedule during the week and may WFH one to two days per week.
  • Flexible home worker: Role is primarily home-based, with a fixed WFH schedule of at least 50 per cent measured on a monthly basis. For eligible junior flexible home workers, HSBC Singapore is also offering a one-time reimbursement for them to set up an ergonomic home office.

Maybank Singapore also said it has plans to adopt a hybrid working model as a permanent arrangement when the pandemic is over, subject to operational and staff needs.

Between 70 and 90 per cent of bank staff in Singapore were working from home during the circuit breaker period between April and June.

However, JPMorgan chief executive officer Jamie Dimon has said he wants staff back in the office as working remotely for too long could decrease productivity.


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