As governments begin lifting Covid-19 restrictions around the region, organisations have begun to assess how and when employees are to return to their physical offices. Beyond ensuring the health and safety of workers, leaders are now looking to short and mid term workplace solutions as they plan for the new normal. From flexible working arrangements to attractive incentives – institutions are considering various ways to instil confidence in their staff to return to the offices.
With varying government mandates, there can be no one-size-fits-all solution to the future of work. When speaking with our clients and partners across South East Asia, this realisation is further compounded by the unique culture and behaviours observed in their regional offices. To help organisations establish new work practices and assess their workspaces, we have developed a 3-phase process to capture learning points from their remote work experiments, and identify opportunities to move forward stronger than ever before.
Recognising the need to address workplace adaptation through the lens of different cultures and behaviours, we’ve embarked on an exciting research study with clients and collective members across Singapore, Thailand, Philippines, and India. This process will enable us to understand their key concerns as we work together on short to mid term workplace solutions addressing the impact of COVID-19 on their employees and organisation.
Our Client Partners
In the interest of our partners, the identities of our clients have been anonymized.
Client 1 – Singapore
Employees: 300 (Y2020) to 335 pax (Y2022)
Project Leaders: Workplace Resources Manager & Office Manager
- Through initial employee feedback, our client has learnt that the majority of their employees in their Singapore office have adapted well to work-from-home arrangements, enjoying the flexibility that remote work offers.
- While most employees have realized they are capable of performing their work duties remotely, many have indicated that they miss day to day interaction with their colleagues, and would prefer to work from the office when collaboration is required.
- In addition to ensuring the physical safety of their employees, our client’s Project Leaders are also concerned with ensuring the psychological wellbeing of their employees as they transition to the new normal, and want to avoid sacrificing the employee experience when implementing the necessary safe distancing measures.
Client 2 – India
Project Leader: Administration & Facility Manager
- In contrast to our Singapore client, our client partner in India has received conflicting feedback from employees regarding remote work arrangements. While some employees have adapted well to work-from-home arrangements and are in favour of long term remote working, others are eager to return to the office permanently.
- Employees in favour of remote work have specifically mentioned convenience as a key benefit of working-from-home, as they no longer have to spend hours each day commuting between office and home and can avoid public transport which is an inconvenience.
- Employees who have struggled with remote work arrangements have cited challenges such as lack of essential work resources at home like reliable internet connectivity, proper desks and chairs, printers, scanners, air conditioning and other office amenities. Many have also indicated more frequent distractions at home, as several employees live with multiple family members – some with as many as 7 to 8 people living in one household.
- Moving forward, our client’s Project Leaders are first concerned with maintaining sanitization and social distancing in the office, followed by ensuring high levels of productivity. Some key questions to be addressed include: how will the client manage the staggered work schedules required by the government? Do they need more space to accommodate social distancing? Is hot desking safe?
Client 3 – Thailand
Industry: Food & Beverage
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Project Leader: Chief of New Business
- Our client’s industry (F&B) has been especially affected by COVID-19 and has faced many challenges in nearly every aspect of the business. Through the process, they’ve experienced some benefits from their remote work arrangements, noticing that some of their more introverted employees responded especially well, participating more in team meetings and group discussions via Google Hangout than they typically would in-person.
- However, while productivity has improved, so have stress levels of their employees who miss the balance brought by casual interactions with their colleagues over lunch and coffee breaks in the office.
To address the challenges brought by COVID-19, the client has put together 15 scrum teams to move faster and more efficiently. As they prepare to return to the momentum, a key objective for their Project Leaders is leveraging the office space to fit the work patterns of these teams and maintain a rapid pace of work.
Client 4 – Philippines
Industry: Market Research
Location: Manila, Philippines
Project Leader: Admin & Operations Managers
- Similar to our India client partner, our client in the Philippines has experienced several challenges in implementing mass remote work arrangements and in particular, employees have voiced frustrations over inefficiencies caused by a lack of essential workplace amenities at home.
- Moving forward, the Project Leaders anticipate additional challenges in shifting back to the workplace particularly with regards to managing the required social distancing measures imposed by the government, both at the office and otherwise. For example, many of their employees rely on public transport to get to work. As the country opens up, social distancing will be applied on public transportation methods, which will cause some difficulty and inconvenience for employees in commuting to the office.
- A key consideration in developing their workplace strategy will be to minimize disruptions to work both in the office setting and in remote work arrangements.
Over the next few weeks, Paperspace will be working with our client partners to collect data through leadership interviews and employee surveys that will inform custom short to mid term workplace strategy and design solutions for each of our clients that will then be piloted in their organizations to evaluate the effectiveness and inform long-term solutions.
Recognising that the office is much more than just a space or place, our solutions will aim to address four key pillars that address space, culture, and behaviours – Hygiene and Wellness, Security & Infrastructure, Work Practices and Places and Space.
As we collect data from this collective research effort, we will share our findings along the way in three follow up articles to provide valuable insights for companies across the APAC region. To stay updated, sign up below to receive our latest insights and developments.
Paperspace is a collective of experienced strategists, designers, and change activists based in Singapore, Bangkok and Manila with expertise in workplace strategy, design, and change management. We work with Leaders and employees to understand physical, behaviour and culture change required to transition into New Ways of Working, define business challenges and opportunities to empower business performance of the future, and create impactful spaces for people.