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IHRP Statement – Easing of Workplace Restrictions

IHRP Statement on Easing of Workplace Restrictions – 24th September 2020

With the recent announcement that more employees will be allowed back to office beginning from 28th September[1], it is important for HR professionals and business leaders to understand the broad principles to bear in mind as they go about implementing the easing of workplace restrictions in their workplaces.

Safeguarding employee safety and well-Being

The overriding principle is the safety and well-being of our employees. Where practically possible, working from home should still be the default. IHRP encourages employers to have a conversation with the employee in deciding if the employee should return to the workplace and come to a mutual consensus. If the employee expresses discomfort in returning, employers should not force it upon them. Pay special attention to vulnerable employees to enable them to work from home or temporarily redeploying them to minimise their exposure and risk in the workplace

Although work-related events at the workplace are now permissible it must be on the basis that prevailing workplace Safe Management Measures are adhered to and are subjected to the following requirements:

  • The number of persons per event must be capped at 50 persons to limit the risk of exposure to infection
  • Food and drinks should preferably not be served at workplace events. If deemed necessary for practical reasons to serve meals, individuals must be seated and served individually with minimised contact with one another while eating
  • Employers must not organise social gatherings (e.g. team building lunches, birthday celebrations), as employees may feel obliged to attend. If employees are having informal meals with colleagues, they should be reminded to adhere to the permissible group size based on prevailing guidelines (i.e. current limit of 5 pax)
  • Companies should continue to conduct virtual meetings as much as possible, and minimise physical meetings between employees and visitors/suppliers/contractors

Not more than 50% of the workforce may return to the office at any point, and employers should have appropriate arrangements in place such as split teams, flexible work hours and staggered reporting times (with half of all employees starting work at 10am or later).

Keeping an eye on your business continuity

As evidenced by the experience of other countries, a surge in cases can take place without warning and at rapid speed. Organisations should therefore continue to stay alert and enforce measures for their business continuity. Split team arrangements should continue with each team restricted to one worksite wherever possible. No employee should work in more than one team or worksite.

There should be no cross-deployment or interaction between employees in different shifts, teams or worksites, even outside of work. Employers must ensure clear separation of employees on different shifts or split teams, such as implementing human traffic management measures and stepping up cleaning of common areas during shift or split team changeovers.

If cross-deployment cannot be avoided (e.g. due to the nature of the job), additional safeguards must be taken to minimise the risk of cross infection.

Plan ahead and prepare an evacuation plan for unwell and suspected cases, as well as for other onsite personnel.

Encourage more flexible working arrangements

Although hybrid working, whereby some employees work from home while others go to the office and some do a bit of both, takes some effort, it is nevertheless here to stay. The findings of an EngageRocket survey[2] conducted during the Circuit Breaker, clearly demonstrated that over 80% of respondents see themselves working from home more than half their time. Many of us still work from home and will continue to do so. Concerns over productivity and performance are diminishing with more than 70% of respondents reported that they took the same or less time to achieve the same level of productivity as pre-COVID.

A more flexible work arrangement opens the door to a more diverse workforce by redesigning jobs and allowing organisations to tap into a broader range of potential candidate pools. Beyond just employee engagement, tech-enabled tools and platforms are available to remotely perform a range of activities such as recruiting, onboarding, training, and performance management.

Leaders and HR professionals are key enablers in this journey for employees and their managers to assimilate new ways of working. It requires experimenting with new ideas and making multiple iterations before landing on what best suits their organisation.

Mayank Parekh

CEO

Institute for Human Resource Professionals

[1] Requirements for Safe Management Measures at the workplace, Ministry of Manpower

[2] The Resilience of the Singapore Workforce White Paper, EngageRocket, August 2020

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