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A Guide to Remote Working in Singapore in the Midst of the Coronavirus Outbreak

Posted on March 2020

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​What Impact has Coronavirus had on the Singapore Banking and Finance Sector?

While the world continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus epidemic, Singapore has proven its resilience—as has its financial district. The nation has become a load-star for effectively containing the virus. This is not altogether surprising, as the wider region was desperate to avoid repeating the nightmare of the 2003 SARS epidemic. So far, Singapore’s preparedness has paid off and numbers of infections have been kept low.

For the most part, Singapore’s banking and financial services firms have dealt with the situation quickly to protect their operations and to mitigate the risk of infection for their employees. Natasha Madhavan, team lead for financial recruitment at Selby Jennings, has seen first-hand firms mitigate the impact successfully, thanks to robust risk management and continued investment in digital transformation, “It was a very easy transition to go into a work-from-home mode, as most firms were already using cloud software, or in the process of migrating to it. Singapore also has strong business continuity practices: most firms having a dedicated business continuity planning (BCP) officer or even a team to prepare for times like these.”

Natasha Madhavan stresses that as a risk-conscious country, financial firms have strong risk cultures and ensure that their staff follow best practices and procedures, “The business continuity plans that were put into place during the virus were all prepared for ahead of time, and have clearly paid off; they were not something put together as a short term reaction to the outbreak.”

Indeed, many businesses in the banking and finance industry have ready-made contingency plans prepared for situations such as these, with many utilising a fund kept aside for sending employees home with paid leave. Although, more commonly, businesses are using the options available to them in the form of remote working to lessen the impact of the coronavirus on their operations.

“Most firms are also already globally integrated, having in-house video conference facilities as part of their enterprise software, which makes remote working and cross-border work easier,” agrees Natasha Madhavan.

Such technology also enables companies to minimise disruption to their hiring plans because they can conduct interviews via video call. “We, of course, see disruption and slowdown in hiring as firms are uncertain about the near future,” suggest Natasha Madhavan, “however necessary roles such as compliance and risk still need to be filled, and we are working together with our clients to drive solutions for their hiring plans.”

Remote working allows employees and businesses to maintain the same level of productivity they enjoy in their usual workspaces, directly from home. If your business doesn’t have a remote working plan in place, creating and fast-tracking one isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. 

The rise in remote working has enjoyed a significant trajectory in recent years as the world looks for a more flexible working environment and the banking and finance sectors have enjoyed this as much as anyone, offering executives the freedom of working from anywhere in the world without facing limitations. The rise in popularity is matched with the increased number of tools and software available to compliment remote working at mass scale. Service like Zoom and Skype have opened up new worlds of online and video meetings, while cloud services like Dropbox and Sharepoint have enabled seamless file transfer, communication and collaboration through businesses. 

If you think remote working can help your business functionalities during this coronavirus outbreak, here are four ways to ensure it’s a success, with benefits across the board:

Management Support

Companies utilising remote working are continually walking a fine line between allowing employee automation and neglecting their workforce. Nobody wants their boss continuously checking on them, but in contrast, many employees reported feeling quite cut off from the business while working from home due to a lack of support. Regular and positive communication between managers and employees make a world of difference in the confidence and morale of the entire team. Firms exploring the option of remote working must understand the importance of communication, especially in the banking and finance sector where roles are often high pressure and high risk. 

Clear Planning

When formulating a remote working plan, ensure that each employee knows precisely if or how their responsibilities change during these periods. Nothing causes more disruption than uncertainty, especially in an industry like finance, where time is money. 

If there are members of your team that cannot complete their regular duties away from the workplace, such as customer-facing roles like Bank Cashiers, take the opportunity to conduct upskilling or training with those employees. You can also utilise them for admin tasks in the interim until it’s logistically logical to reopen operations in the usual place. 

Use the Tools Available

Earlier in this article, we mentioned the great leaps that technology has taken in terms of remote working and the abundance of available tools on offer. With this in mind, consider how prepared your business and employees are in terms of equipment and services. A slow internet connection can be almost impossible to work with, as is the same with laptops or computers not fit for the job. Software is equally as crucial in these cases.

Research tools, resources and software that can help you make remote working success. Invest in the tools that will keep your production moving. Merely having a messaging, video conferencing and file transfer cloud system can provide enough to keep the wheels turning in the face of adversity. 

Keep Up Contact

This point is similar to the first; however, communication is more important than checking the work is getting done. In crisis times, the welfare of your employees is paramount. Making a proactive effort to regularly touch base with colleagues and employees will make a fantastic difference to the morale, happiness and productivity of everyone. 

This outbreak will impact the banking and finance sector in Singapore indefinitely. There is no avoiding some periods of downtime and a reduction in productivity. However, utilising a plan that involves remote working will lessen that impact incredibly. Sooner rather than later, you can recommence regular business practice with a healthy and happy workforce.

Get in touch for expert advice

In challenging times, it is more important than ever to manage your most effective resource: people. Benefit from expert advice, get in touch with your local team to discuss how to attract and retain banking and financial services talent. 

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