Owing to stricter social distancing measures and workplace shutdowns announced by the government on 3 April 2020, the majority of Singapore’s workforce are now working remotely from home.
With compulsory work-from-home measures for non-essential business services, some employees found themselves incurring additional costs in order to prepare their living spaces to be work-ready and acquiring the necessary computer equipment.
This article explores additional expenses employees incur, and some schemes companies can use to help their staff defray these costs, leading to happier, more productive employees.
Computer And Phones: Employers should not expect all their employees to use their personal laptops and mobile phones to work from their home offices. Moreover, in sensitive businesses, personal computers and phones might not be secure to preserve company-sensitive information.
(Acceptably) Ergonomic Chair: Not all employees have the luxury of a spacious home to set up a conducive work office. Your employee might need to get an ergonomic chair to work comfortably at home while contributing to their business. If your employees have existing health problems, they might have to invest in getting such chairs simply to continue working.
Additional Monitor(s): If employees include in-house graphic designers and programmers, your company might consider giving them an allowance for additional monitors to be bought and set up in employees’ homes. After these work-from-home measures are lifted and the situation in Singapore gets better, these additional monitors can be transferred back to the workplace.
Home VPN Access: If remote employees are required to access sensitive company information by connecting to the company network, consider giving employees a stipend for VPN access at home. Alternatively, you can consider to defray part of employees’ home Internet costs for the duration they are working remotely.
Video-Conferencing Software Plans: Employees who have to participate in a lot of company and client meetings will have to install additional video-conferencing tools that might or might not be free to use. For example, tools such as GoToMeeting and BlueJeans have limited free trial versions. If your company is using these tools, you might want to provide employees with a stipend to upgrade to the paid and better quality versions of these tools.
Home Electricity Bills: With the majority of Singapore’s workforce set to remain at home to work, household electricity bills will inevitably rise. Employees forced to remain at home will have to use computers, electricity, the Internet and other utility bills – will have to bear the brunt of these added costs – unless employers step in to mitigate them. That being said, such costs will not be so clear-cut as employees might already rely on energy-saving light bulbs (LED ones) to reduce energy consumption and reduce utility costs. The reality is that any additional bills would mean more financial burdens for many employees, especially if their salaries have been cut in light of this economic recession.
Is It Fair For Remote Employees To Fork Out More Costs?
Some might state that remote employees should fork out their own additional costs in exchange for the freedom of working away from the office and from their bosses.
However, upon closer scrutiny, during this current situation of COVID-19 and the circuit breaker measures imposed by the Singapore Government, we must acknowledge that many employees have been forced to work-from-home and thus might be struggling to adapt to the home office work environment.
It would indeed be heartwarming if employers extend their welfare provisions to employees working outside the office during these unprecedented times.
Employers should not demand their remote employees to work using their personal laptops and home phone services. Such demands might put an additional toll on already decreasing employee morale.
Instead, what employers can do to make their employees as comfortable as possible with the new work-from-home measures include offering stipends of varying amounts depending on company and team size to cover costs for additional hardware or software tools employees might need. Employers who wish to go a step further might opt to partially or fully defray the costs of employees’ Internet fees for the whole month of April.
Enhanced Work-Life Grant To Defray Costs Of Remote Employees
Thankfully, Singapore employers can receive governmental help under the Enhanced Work Life Grant by Workforce Singapore. With this grant, employers can receive funding capped at $105,000 per company for a period of up to two years.
To apply for the scheme, companies can only do so through these official partners: NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) and Singapore Manufacturing Federation (SMF). Application is free.
According to Workforce Singapore, the Enhanced WLG will be open till 30 Jun 2022, or when the grants are fully subscribed.
Flexible Working Arrangement (FWA) Incentive
Singapore employers should use the FWA to claim up to $70,000 for their companies over two years. Each year, employers can receive $2,000 per local employee. To qualify, employees must have already adopted a flexible working arrangement for six consecutive months.
To apply for the FWA, companies have to submit the following documents to either of the three partners:
- Proof of adoption of the Tripartite Standard (TS) on FWAs
- Proof of regular usage of FWAs, including a claim form completed by each employee claimed
- Impact evaluation report using the template provided
- List of employee(s) who is/are regular users of FWAs
- Copies of employees’ employment contracts and CPF Form 90 (CPF Contribution Statement)
Be Flexible In How You Reimburse Remote Employees
Businesses are encouraged to be flexible in the ways in which they reimburse remote employees.
Fortunately, businesses can receive aid from the Singapore government in various forms, such as via the Enhanced Work-Life Grant and the Flexible Working Arrangement (FWA) Incentive.
Some businesses might choose to provide employees with a one-off stipend to be used for any miscellaneous expenses during this period of remote working. Other businesses might provide employees with hardware (such as computers and screens) to be returned to the office once the work-from-home period is over.
Whatever the case, helping your employees defray partial or full costs can go a long way in increasing employee morale and ultimately employee productivity in these difficult times.
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