Hybrid work arrangements are likely to become a new normal. Here are some insights on what irks or motivates PMEs.

After around 10 months of remote-working, employees in one South-east Asian country are expecting this mode of working to be a fixture even as its national infection numbers have been under control.

Even as Singapore moves into its most relaxed set of social-distancing and infection-control restrictions (Circuit Breaker Phase 3), employees in the Professionals, Managers, and Executives (PMEs) categories are not expecting to return to office workplaces full time even in the post-pandemic era, according to one study commissioned by Lark, makers of a “next-gen” collaboration software suite.

According to its study of 1,000 PME respondents who worked at least 35 hours a week and were representative of various age groups and gender, Singapore is poised to offer flexible work arrangements for the long term. In such hybrid arrangements, having the right mix of collaboration tools could foster a positive work environment.

Said Joey Lim, Vice President of Commercial (Asia), Lark: “Singapore organizations are faced with a growing interest in flexible work arrangements and must find ways to adopt and integrate these practices into work routines, or they will see a decrease in employee satisfaction. It is understandable that one major concern about this type of arrangement is the impact on team collaboration. With a dispersed workforce and the option for remote-working, more employees are relying on collaboration tools to communicate, connect, and at the end of the day, get the job done.”

What about existing collaboration tools?

The study asserts that 94% of PME respondents wanted flexible work to stay, This sentiment was consistent across all age groups polled, and was “relatively stable across industries such as Healthcare, Architecture, Computer & Technology, Education, Financial Services, Transportation, and Science & Research.” This was also consistent across job levels, business decision makers, and the work sector.

However, only one in five PMEs were “very satisfied” with their current remote and online collaboration work setup. Half were somewhat satisfied while the rest were neutral (22%) or dissatisfied (11%).

Yet, there was a 40% mismatch in responses given by decision makers (director level and above) and those by other staff in claiming that teams were “very well adapted to using collaboration tools”. This disconnect may underscore the importance of ensuring senior members take an active role in utilizing collaboration tools to ensure the latter are being used.

The report concluded that senior members should collect feedback from their teams on how well the tools are being used, and deploy a tool that enables aligned satisfaction and adoption across all levels.

Top collaboration tools

The report concluded that the top three tasks amongst Singapore PMEs were the same among respondents:

  1. Chat/messaging
  2. Video meetings
  3. Emails

The extent of each of these tasks used varied according to the employment position of the respondents.

The following three features were used by respondents for up to half of their day:

  1. Video Meetings (94%),
  2. File Search (90%)
  3. Messaging (80%)

About one in five PMEs noted that messaging took up more than half of their work day.

Based on these figures, the report asserts that organizations need to understand which collaboration features employees most rely on, then ensure that the proper tools are in place to accommodate multi-channel collaboration. To make collaboration between these various channels more seamless, “it is important to deploy a collaboration tool that can cover all three major tasks and more, where possible.”

Ensuring remote-workforce satisfaction

When respondents were asked what they felt was important, 64% stated tools that made work easier, 60% stated tools that made them more productive, and 39% stated having the right tools can make work “more enjoyable”—a sentiment shared across all age groups but most strongly felt among the millennial generation (25-39 years old).

Could this imply that, in a hybrid way of working where employees and superiors do not always see one another, fostering a positive work experience cannot be restricted to just pure work but also positive social engagement and cohesion?

Many collaboration tools have already not waited for definitive answers, having added more features that boost work satisfaction and enjoyment to make up for the gap in personal face-to-face interactions.

While complex political and socio-economic factors in other South-east Asian countries may require different studies and office policy pivots, the general lessons here about the need to revamp the “old normal” of office-based work collaboration instead of keeping the status quo, are definitely sound.