If you're running an SME in Singapore, you're probably facing a lot of challenges in the current business landscape, especially with the growing trend of remote work. One important decision you'll need to make is whether to adopt a permanent remote or hybrid work model.
Remote and hybrid work models offer many benefits, including increased productivity and flexibility, but it's important to remember that they also come with their own set of challenges.
In this article, we'll provide you with valuable insights into the future of remote work, and offer practical advice on how to ensure your business stays competitive and resilient.
What is the Future of Remote Work?
The global shift catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic has reframed our notions of work from a specific physical location, to an activity that can be accomplished anywhere.
We can expect the future of remote work to pan out in several ways:
1. From Location to Activity: Increased Generational Clashes in Defining What Work ‘Is’
It's been a few years since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic panic in offices, and a lot has changed, both structurally and perceptually.
We've come to realize that work can be done just as effectively from a variety of settings, not just a traditional office space. This revelation has uprooted the long-held association of work with a designated physical space. From the formal office setting to the comfort of one's home, or even a bustling café in a different city, our possibilities and perception of what a 'workspace' is have expanded dramatically.
Unfortunately, this has led to frequent workplace clashes about what constitutes work among the generations (think Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z).
According to a study released in April 2023, 94% of U.S. executives (mostly the Boomer or older Gen X) believe that employees who work remotely “were less connected and have fewer opportunities within the company than their office-working counterparts.”
Contrast this attitude with the millennials and Gen Z staff who report to them today. 41% of millennial employees in remote work arrangements reported that they were highly engaged with their work; the highest rate that Gallup has ever seen.
A comedy video sketch of the differences in generations attitude towards working in the office
This divide in opinion is expected to continue in the near future, and managing it will be a challenge for SME owners, especially if your staff has a broad age range e.g. multi-generational family businesses, older established SMEs, etc.
2. Increased Acceptance to Changes in Workplace Dynamics and Strategies
However, it's exciting to see that businesses and their employees are embracing hybrid work models more readily. While the pandemic initially forced us into remote work, many SMEs have recognised the benefits of this model, leading to its wider adoption.
This shift has significant implications for the workforce, particularly for highly skilled, educated workers in certain industries. The more forward-looking SMEs seeking to future-proof their manpower have revised their policies to accommodate remote employees.
In response to the growing remote workforce, SMEs have been proactive in providing the necessary resources and tools for their employees to carry out their work effectively. They have invested in robust communication and collaboration platforms, ensuring seamless connectivity and efficient virtual workflows. By equipping their remote workforce with the right technology, SMEs enable their employees to collaborate effectively, share information, and contribute to projects regardless of their physical location.
Recognizing the unique challenges that remote work can pose to mental health and well-being, SMEs have also taken steps to provide support to their remote employees. They offer mental health resources and counseling services, creating a supportive environment that acknowledges the importance of employee well-being. These initiatives help address the potential feelings of isolation or burnout that remote workers may experience and contribute to maintaining a positive and healthy work environment.
Furthermore, SMEs have established formal mentorship programs to support the career growth and professional development of their remote employees. These programs provide guidance, feedback, and opportunities for skill enhancement, fostering a sense of belonging and investment in the company's future. By nurturing their remote workforce, SMEs demonstrate their commitment to employee growth and create a pathway for advancement within the organization.
In line with the digital transformation wave, SMEs have leveraged technology to digitize and streamline internal workflows. They have implemented digital project management tools, online document collaboration platforms, and automated processes to enhance efficiency and productivity. This shift toward digitalization not only benefits remote employees but also improves overall operational efficiency and allows SMEs to stay competitive in a fast-paced business landscape.
For SME owners who prefer a more traditional approach to collaboration, it may be worth considering the benefits of adopting more modern approaches. This could increase the appeal of your business in the highly competitive labour market in Singapore.
3. Increased Reliance on Technology in Facilitating Work to be Done
As the definitions of what constitutes 'work' and 'workspaces' changes, SMEs are expected to rely more heavily on technology to make this happen.
From productivity tools to virtual meeting platforms, technological advancements have been integral to facilitating the transition to remote work.
Some examples of tools include:
1. Collaboration and Communications PlatformsTo enable effective remote work processes for their employees, SMEs have utilised collaboration and communications tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.
These platforms come with necessary features for ensuring that remote employees stay connected and able to collaborate with their teammates seamlessly, such as chat, video conferencing, file-sharing, and real-time collaboration.
2. Cloud Computing
Cloud-based technologies have been invaluable in making remote work possible for SMEs, which are more likely to lack the resources needed to enable remote work in-house.
Cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) have provided the storage, computing power, and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions needed to ensure remote employees have access to their company’s resources, applications and data anywhere, at any time.
For function-specific work, such as accounting, inventory and warehouse management, service management and more, Cloud ERP solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central and Oracle - NetSuite ERP, have made it easy for SMEs staff to securely access the information they need wherever they're at.
3. Project Management And Task Tracking Tools
With project management tools such as Trello, Asana and Monday.com, SMEs have been able to manage their remote employees, and track their progress on tasks and projects effectively.
These tools ensure effective coordination and transparency within remote teams with features for assigning tasks, setting deadlines, tracking milestones, and collaborating on project-based activities.
4. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and Security Tools
With remote employees logging into company networks and systems from various locations to a greater extent than before the pandemic, security becomes a top concern. One way SMEs secured their networks is with the implementation of VPNs, to establish encrypted connections between remote employees and company resources.
Other security tools such as antivirus software, firewalls, and multi-factor authentication (MFA) also helped to protect SMEs and their remote employees from malicious actors.
Alternatively, you could outsource your security needs to a trusted third-party MSP. This is not only efficient and cost-effective, it also eases the burden of data security on your business, and allows it to focus on its core value proposition and boosting its competitive edge.
At AFON, we can be that MSP for your FinTech firm. With the IT expertise and the technology at our disposal, you can entrust the security of your business to us. If you'd like to know more about what we can do for you, do schedule a free consultation with us today!
5. Time Tracking And Productivity Tools
With time tracking and productivity tools such as Time Doctor, RescueTime and Toggi, SMEs have monitored and managed the productivity of their remote employees.
Such tools enable the tracking of work hours, measuring productivity levels, and provided insights into the time allocation of their remote employees, which helped SMEs optimise the efficiency of their remote workforces.
So How Can You Seamlessly Transition To A Hybrid Work Model?
Transitioning to a hybrid work model requires careful consideration and effective implementation to maximize its benefits.
Here are some key strategies to adapt to a hybrid work model successfully:
Fine-tune Communication and Collaboration Processes
Establish clear guidelines and protocols for remote communication and collaboration. Define expectations for response times, meeting etiquette, and document sharing. Encourage open and frequent communication to maintain a sense of connection and facilitate effective teamwork.
Adjust KPIs to Focus on Results
In a hybrid work model, it's essential to shift the emphasis of key performance indicators (KPIs) from mere presence or face-time in the office to measurable results.
This shift encourages a results-oriented approach, enabling employees to work towards goals and outcomes, irrespective of their physical location.
Strategise WFH Schedules
Most employees tend to prefer Monday and Friday as their WFH days. However, it's essential for managers to determine the optimal WFH schedule for their teams based on operational needs and collaboration requirements. Strive for a balance that accommodates both individual preferences and team dynamics.
Overhaul Your Office Space For Collaboration And Social Connection
According to a Milieu Insight survey, employees in Singapore are still motivated to come into the office, at least for certain days of the week. The respondents often cite reasons such as the opportunity to meet with their teams and colleagues for collaborative work, brainstorming sessions, and building social connections.
It is why many SMEs like yours are transitioning to a hybrid work model, as it combines the best of both worlds. Consider overhauling your office space to better accommodate what your employees will actually use them for in the near-future – to innovate, collaborate, and connect.
Embrace Communication And Collaboration Technologies
With the right tools, working from home may be equally as productive, if not more so. Make sure your team has access to effective platforms for remote communication and collaboration.
Adopting solutions like Microsoft Teams, which offers a full range of communication options like texting, video conferencing, and file sharing, is something you might want to think about doing.
Implement a Centralised Information System
With employees working from various locations, it's essential to have a reliable centralised information system to ensure their easy access to vital information, and enables seamless collaboration across teams.
Invest in a robust platform, such as SharePoint, that allows everyone in the company to create, upload, and edit documents on a real-time basis.
The Future Of Remote Working Is Hybrid
As we move into the post-pandemic era, remote work is becoming a reality that businesses must embrace. This blog post highlights the growing acceptance of remote work among businesses in Singapore in 2023.
While some companies may resist the idea of remote work, it's important to note that Millennials (and soon Gen Z) make up the largest segment of the workforce, and they prefer flexible work arrangements. A hybrid work model that combines remote and in-office work throughout the week offers the best of both worlds. Not only does it meet employees' desires for flexibility, but it also increases engagement, productivity, and retention by allowing individuals to create a comfortable and efficient workspace.
By leveraging communication and collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams and SharePoint, SMEs can successfully transition to a hybrid work model, creating a work environment that fosters both employee satisfaction and business success.
At AFON IT, we understand the challenges of enabling remote work arrangements, and we offer a selection of managed IT services that can help your business overcome these challenges.
If you're looking for a trusted managed services partner to outsource your IT needs to, schedule a free consultation with us today. Alternatively, if you want to learn more about how to leverage collaboration tools in Microsoft Office 365 to enable the transition to a hybrid work model, download our free brochure below.