A Calibrated Reopening: What This Means For SMEs Owners And Freelancers

It was previously inconceivable that the Singapore government, known for its calculated efficiency, would say one thing in a public announcement and pullback from it, no matter the extent. But this is the situation we find ourselves in today as dining-in at F&B outlets were not only pushed back by a week, but reduced from 5 to 2 person. This is a stark reminder on just how quickly things can change in the COVID-19 world we live in.

Read Also: Phase 3 (Heightened Alert): 6 Things Businesses Need To Know

For F&B businesses, the retraction from 5 to 2 persons as dining-in is considered a high-risk activity may not have come completely come as a surprise given the number of shocks such businesses have faced over the past year or so. By now, the fluid nature of the pandemic and the calibrations of the Multi-Ministry Taskforce (MTF) would be familiar.

A Lifeline for some SMEs from 21 June: Two-Person Rule (for High Risk Activities)

In any case, the green light to proceed with 2 persons for high risk activities will breathe life into businesses such as ‘destination’ dining outlets, fitness studios, and gyms, among others. 

Come Monday (21 June), dining businesses like hawker stalls, coffee shops, restaurants and bars will be able to entertain groups of twos. Music and video screenings are, however, not allowed, to discourage diners from talking loudly.

Gyms and fitness studios will also be able to conduct indoor, mask-off activities for groups of twos. For mask-on and outdoor mask-off activities, groups are kept at 5. Class sizes are capped at 30 persons (including the instructor) for both cases.

Business owners and employees involved in higher risk and mask-off scenarios are to conduct regular FET, or fast and easy tests. This includes personal care establishments from facial and nail services to spa and make-up services. The FET regime will be mandatory from mid-July.

Employee Engagement as Work-from-Home (WFH) Remains the Default

Work-from-home will continue for the foreseeable future. This means the home office will remain vital and making it conducive is necessary. At DollarsAndSense, we share our recommendations for 6 tech upgrades (from $30) to level up your WFH productivity. Our list includes suggested Internet routers, ergonomic computer chairs, and standing work desks.

As employees grow accustomed to remote working, having engaged employees becomes a challenge. The DollarsAndSense team explored team building through virtual games such as Minecraft, and we found that the gaming experience does offer a comparable alternative to real-life bonding.

Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) Extended

As for the Jobs Support Scheme, the task force announced that it will be extended by three weeks for affected businesses. This is a scheme that subsidises Singaporean workers’ salaries. The extension will mean that businesses in sectors that had to suspend operations – such as F&B, sports and performing arts – will continue to receive 50% JSS support from 21 June to 12 July.

For sectors that were severely affected (but did not suspend operations), they will continue to receive 30% of JSS support for the same period. Such businesses include art galleries, cinema operators, and personal care services.

One sector that remains mired in uncertainty is the wedding business. For folks who had booked wedding receptions and related services (venues, make-up, bridal studios, event planners, videographers) around this period, this calibration is proving to be a nightmare scenario. For the time being, wedding receptions remain ban till mid-July. Self-employed individuals who rely on work within the wedding industry will probably have been hard-hit over the past year.

For example, a friend of ours, Xeo Lye, CEO and Co-Founder of a boardgame publisher – Capital Gain Studio, shared with us in an interview that he had to postpone his wedding at least three times over the past year.

Broad Improvements in Singapore’s Labour Market

Beyond the immediate cautious reopening, Singapore’s labour market seems to be back on track as total employment increased for the first time since the pandemic. This is according to the Labour Market Report for Q1 released by the Ministry of Manpower earlier this week.

While the numbers obviously do not reflect the current uncertainty Singapore is in due to the new COVID-19 variants, our writer surmises that the worse may be behind us given the drop in retrenchment levels and unemployment.

Let us hope that Singapore can keep the momentum and beat this recent wave of outbreaks. In the meantime, the taskforce has called on employers to give their employees time-off for vaccinations and recovery.

Read Also: It Hasn’t Been Business As Usual For “Non-Affected” Sectors In Singapore

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