top of page

The blurring lines between work and home

Google has allowed staff to stay home for the rest of the year. Facebook has also allowed staff to permanently work from home. Is it because the companies are adapting to a new modus operandi or is this a subtle exercise to start furloughing staff?

Tech companies probably have the best advantage in being able to pivot into this work paradigm amidst the pandemic. Most companies are also going digital and some even have business continuity procedures in place. But a large part of what makes going to the office so meaningful are its perks - the experiential factors such as having a decent and professional business-front for clients (meng mian 门面), a place to facilitate employee welfare and thoughtful engagement. Besides, have you ever tried to troubleshoot a problem on the computer with someone else through the phone? The time it takes as compared to an in-person interaction is almost always lengthier and more frustrating.

So in the near term, you can say goodbye to those sleeping pods, luxurious pantries and fridges lined with free snacks, drinks and sometimes beer. Clients, visitors and employees are not going to be able to experience that feeling of taking the escalator up to the 3rd floor at the very classy looking Marina One Towers and be greeted by the uniformed concierge.

Flexi-work hours long overdue?

For some time now, we have been talking about encouraging work-life-balance and flexible working arrangements beyond the "9-to-5" regime, especially given how inter-connected we are with using Whatsapp, Wechat and now increasingly, Zoom, Hangouts, Webex, Microsoft Meetings... the list goes on. It seems like the circuit-breaker and lockdowns resulting from the pandemic has compelled businesses to evaluate this more seriously - not from a working preference perspective but out of necessity, given the draconian rules around social distancing in some cities.

I personally prefer the office setting - I enjoy my daily (and sometimes weekend) commute to the office using the subway (in Singapore) and the morning leisurely walks from Anfu Road (when in Shanghai). Before I ventured into my own business, part of the office experience included interactions with colleagues in other departments within the same building, some times we would even brush shoulders in lifts or hang out over lunch and coffee.

The cityscape and its people energizes me. I feel more productive and focused whenever I am at the office, whether alone or with colleagues. I enjoy sitting with my cup of coffee and overlooking the view outside.

Can we really afford to leave all of this behind? If so, does it also imply that we are willing to accept emptier malls and offices as part of a new way of life?

When the dust has settled, there will be increasingly blurred lines between work and home.

Face to face meet ups will never be eradicated, but flexible work arrangements will be a permanent thing. If any, video and communication technology accelerates breaking the ice in a first meeting by encouraging more upfront interaction, albeit digitally. Studies have also demonstrated that, as humans - at the very basic level - we yearn for tangible interaction because it gives us comfort and re-assurance.

Lifestyles at home over the last 2 months have def