For the first time in corporate history, companies are entertaining the idea of a hybrid workforce.
Before the pandemic, remote working was frowned upon in many traditional companies. The physical office was still central to corporate culture. COVID-19 challenged this idea.
Just ask Fujitsu in Singapore. The company is announcing flexible work arrangements for all its Singapore employees. It means they can choose to work up to 90% of their time at home or remotely.
The announcement continues efforts by Fujitsu to offer the right connectivity and equipment for their remote-working staff. It is also giving SGD 1,000 on top of these benefits for each employee (permanent or contract) to create the remote working environment they want.
Having the majority of their workforce remote working is not something new. But for a Japanese-headquartered company, it is a significant shift in mindset and culture.
“Of course, it came as quite a surprise to everyone. As a Japanese company, this statement is quite an achievement,” says Elson Chia, vice president and head of delivery for Fujitsu Asia.
The new changes are part of the company’s “Work Life Shift” strategy. The “holistic workplace transformation” will also cover critical areas such as work, allowance, and employee welfare.
“An adaptive enterprise is critical to unlocking success, especially in uncertain times. Through Fujitsu’s Work Life Shift initiatives in Singapore, we are reimagining working styles through technology and innovation, connecting people and boosting collaboration,” says Motohiko Uno, president for Fujitsu Asia, in an announcement.
“By incorporating the know-how gleaned from our internal learnings, we are better positioned to pivot from risk, add value and productivity, and enable companies in Singapore and Asia to be more agile and resilient,” he adds.
While the strategy is driven by top management, employee feedback played a large role in the implementation. For example, the amount of time allowed for remote working was based on an employee survey conducted during Singapore’s Circuit Breaker in 2020.
But that does not mean the office will be disappearing any time soon. For Chia, it still forms the heart of the company — it just got 50% smaller.
According to the survey, employees still want an office. But the reasons changed, from housing employees to driving employee engagement and human connection.
One in three respondents cited meetings as their primary purpose to return to the office in the survey. Almost one in two (43%) preferred to be in the office to clear administrative matters. Employees also want the office for more face-to-face interactions for more efficient meetings and project discussions. Social interaction with colleagues is another reason for meeting at the office.
Fujitsu Asia also does not want to see their employee base “disappear” into remote working. So, it set about creating a policy that sees employees spending at least two days in a week at the office, says Chia.
Another reason why the office will not disappear is foreign talent. Fujitsu Asia employs a large contingent to supplement their talent pool. But many of them do not own homes and are living in rentals that may not be ideal for remote working.
The company will roll out several “Work Life Shift” digital solutions for collaboration and enhanced workflow. It will allow employees to stay connected across different locations, securely access critical files, and easily collaborate with their global peers. A new Helpdesk tool aims to streamline IT support for employees who are either remote-working or at the office.
The announcement also follows another major digital transformation initiative called “Fujitra,” announced in October 2020. It will introduce sweeping changes to internal processes, including HR.
Costing JPY 100 billion, Fujitra will re-evaluate existing processes, remove silos and overplanning, and standardize all management, business processes, data, and IT on a single ERP system, including the current HR. The initiative aims to make Fujitsu more agile and competitive.
Chia is under no illusion that changing physical space or adding new technology will change the culture overnight. It is why Fujitsu is putting more focus on training and skills development. “It is how we can be ready,” he explains.
He also added that the underlying ingredient for success will be employer-employee trust. “Trusting the employee is important. We need to trust that they will do their jobs and would not require us to micromanage them,” Chia explains.
Image credit: iStockphoto/Peshkova