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DBS joins the fray as more Singapore banks make flexi-work permanent post Covid-19

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DBS was the latest lender to announce a slew of new work practices on Tuesday, following UOB's move to institute a two-day work-from-home policy post Covid-19.

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 also earlier announced instituting a two-day work-from-home policy post Covid-19.

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 responsibilities of one full-time role.

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 that it will introduce more part-time work arrangements.

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

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Piyush Gupta, the chief executive of DBS, said that 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,” he added.

DBS said that its latest initiatives were the result of its research and employee surveys conducted by an internal Future of Work Taskforce which the bank convened six months ago.

UOB had announced last Friday that about 65 per cent of its 26,000-strong workforce will have the option to work remotely two days a week, in a move to boost mental well-being. 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 Covid-19 safe-distancing measures are eased, said the bank.

Dean Tong, UOB's head of group human resources, said that 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.

Meanwhile, OCBC has no designated work-from-home days. Its head of group human resources Jason Ho said the bank will continue to be agile as it introduces new initiatives and measures to transform the way employees work. This takes into account its employees' preferences, as well as their physical, emotional and mental well-being, he said.

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 that the bank offers staff the following categories 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 that it has plans to adopt a hybrid working model as a permanent arrangement when the pandemic is over, subject to operational and staff needs.

The move to more hybrid working models may not be a surprise in Singapore, given that between 70 and 90 per cent of bank staff were working from home during the Republic's circuit breaker period between April to June.

However, not all bank management are convinced by this shift to work from home. Among them is JPMorgan's chief executive officer Jamie Dimon, who has said that he wants staff back in the office as working remotely for too long could decrease productivity.

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