Singapore might be entering Phase 3 of reopening the economy in the next few weeks, according to Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the governmental task force tackling Covid-19.
This means that in the coming weeks, safe-distancing rules will be eased and more activities will be allowed to resume.
This is also in part because Singapore has managed to keep the number of Covid-19 cases in the community relatively low.
However, this might not be good news for those who have enjoyed working from home thus far.
While working from home remains the default mode of working, more employees will be allowed to return to workplaces from September 28.
Here’s what you need to know about returning to the office:
Returning To Office Even If Work Can Be Done From Home
As long as a job can be done from home, the employee should be working from home half the time. This should be calculated over a “reasonable period of time” not exceeding four weeks.
Thus, if one normally works a five-day week, they are allowed to go back to the office for 2.5 days every week.
For part-time workers, the requirements will be pro-rated. Thus, if a part-time worker works three days a week, he or she can only be in the office 1.5 days a week.
Employers should also ensure that not more than half the employees who can work from home are in the office at any one time.
Although the government has said that meetings should be conducted virtually when possible, regular physical meetings are allowed, as long as the above rules are adhered.
To have an employee return to work full-time, employers are required to demonstrate business or operational reasons on why said staff cannot work from home.
External Meetings And Workplace Events
Any work, training or meetings done outside of the workplace is considered as time spent in the office.
Work-related events are allowed to resume within the workplace premises, with up to 50 people (or less, depending on the venue’s capacity). Strict social distancing has to be adhered to, with at least one metre between each employee.
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), work-related events include those that are “business-oriented”, such as conferences, seminars, corporate retreats, Annual General Meetings and Extraordinary General Meetings.
As per existing guidelines, employers are not allowed to organise or encourage larger scale social gatherings within or outside the workplace.
However, MOH mentioned in a statement that it would consider allowing the resumption of work-related events at external venues at a later date.
Additionally, religious ceremonies or prayers can be held at the workplace, with up to 30 people at a time, or fewer if there is insufficient space for safe-distancing.
Interaction With Colleagues
Much like how it is in public, everyone in the workplace has to have their masks on at all times — unless the nature of your work or the work environment makes doing so prohibitive.
Employees have to be at least one metre apart from colleagues, including at their workstations or in meetings.
There should also be no gathering in groups larger than five (or the prevailing permitted group size for social gatherings).
According to the MOH, split team or shift arrangements must continue to be implemented. Employers must also ensure clear separation of employees on different teams or shifts.
They are also recommended to implement flexible workplace arrangements. For instance, allowing employees to work from home in the morning and return to the workplace in the afternoon.
Transitioning Into A Post-Pandemic Workplace
Most Singaporeans have been working from home for months now, so it’s safe to say that we have adapted to this new work arrangement.
The current arrangement of going to the workplace half the time seems to be a reasonable solution for employees who have a love-hate relationship with working from home.
However, even though Phase 3 is fast approaching, socialising in the workplace still has to be kept to a minimum, and safe distancing rules have to be followed.
Covid-19 is highly infectious, and even though Singapore’s community spread is low, it is important to continue being vigilant and exercise necessary safety precautions.
Featured Image Credit: Ed Jones via AFP