Time to get productive

The world of work is an entirely different landscape from just 10 years ago, and it is no revelation to say so.  Even basic elements such as the hours and location of work have altered dramatically. Worker are now constantly connected to smartphones, tablets and high speed internet from a number of locations, so it is standard to expect an almost immediate response even outside regular working hours. This in turn has made it necessary for workers to attend to tasks from a wider range of locations more frequently than a few years ago, effectively puncturing the myth that the main office is the only place of work. On the up-side though, professionals are also increasingly proving that work can be completed productively outside traditional locations, thus building a strong case for firms to introduce a greater element of flexible working.

Late Evenings are Out-of-Bounds

Specifically, as workers are increasingly expected to be always responsive and ‘on-call’, it will come as no surprise that traditional working hours are no longer the most productive, according to the latest report commissioned by Regus. The research canvassed over 22,000 senior managers and business owners across the globe, 292 in Singapore alone, asking them where and when they are most productive. The research indicates that it is outside of office hours, before the onslaught of emails and phone calls that interrupt work flow, that office workers feel they can achieve the most work.

In particular, the survey found that it is the early bird that catches the worm as over two fifths of respondents (45%) answered that the early morning is their most productive time of day. This result is echoed in Singapore (42%), Malaysia (48%) and Japan (42%), while a more traditional preference for the regular 9-5 is still a reality in China, where 40% report this is the time they are most productive, South Korea (52%) and the Philippines (45%). Singapore businesses, which have reportedly been holding back take up of initiatives such as Free Pre-Peak travel with lack of flexible working options, should take note that not only will workers starting earlier be able to spend less on their commute, but they will also be more productive.

Conversely, at a global level, the lowest times for productivity were late evening (13%) and night time (6%).  Singapore follows suit with 14% of workers selecting the late evening and 9% the night, a trend also confirmed in Malaysia (18% and 7%), China (15% for both times), South Korea (10% and 8%), Japan (7% and 11%) and the Philippines (12% and 16%). Although workers are happy to consecrate their early mornings to their growing workloads, it appears that later in the day still remains relatively sacred to the majority of respondents. As businesses increasingly realise that if they want their employees to be available outside the regular 9 –to-5 working day, they need to seriously address the number one issue – work:life balance.

Work:Life Balance Can Increase Productivity

There is a strong drive from workers, and especially younger generations, for flexible working to become the norm. One explanation is that younger generations, having grown up with technology that enables them to be connected at all times of the day, are more aware of the important contribution that flexible working can have on work:life balance in this constantly connected era. In fact, by allowing workers to choose where they work from, be it closer to home, to a crèche, or simply to the location of their next meeting, helps workers juggle the demands of extended working hours with their personal lives.

As the hours of work expand to suit the changing nature of the working day, so does the space in which tasks are completed. No longer chained to the office, working remotely has become a common occurrence in many Singapore businesses with employees choosing to work anywhere from cafés to business centres and driving up the popularity of cost-effective co-working spaces[2].  In fact, Regus research reports that 43% of Singapore employees work outside the main office at least some of the time.

In addition to this, traditional suspicions towards remote worker productivity are continuing to be eroded as the practice becomes more popular: a recent joint experiment between Stanford and Beijing Universities showed that home workers were actually more productive than fixed office workers, were less likely to take sick leave or to resign and reported being happier.[3] However, a number of reservations against home working, such as difficulties getting supervisors to notice their performance and qualifications for promotion, are sometimes raised, often by home workers themselves.

In recognition of this, forward thinking businesses acknowledge that in order to attract top talent, they  have to provide millennials with the type of perks they value; specifically, a recent report by the Employer Alliance, shows that in Singapore 20-29 year olds are most likely to be attracted to firms that nurture a good work:life balance. However, it’s not only younger generations that are driving up the demand for flexible working in Singapore, with the same report showing that most working mothers would actually give up their positions in the company if there were no flexible work arrangements available.

Finally, businesses looking to maintain and improve the productivity of their employees (as working habits continue to evolve and the traditional working day becomes obsolete) need to offer workers a way to be productive without burning out. As the limits of both the working day and the office environment are expanded, companies offering employees the option to work outside the main office at least some of the time will reap the benefits of having a more motivated and productive workforce that can adapt working rhythms to real-world demands without sacrificing their personal lives.