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Employees calling the shots – how can employers adapt?


In the past, businesses dictated the terms of employment. They called the shots about how, when, and where people worked, and still had candidates banging at the gates to be let in. Even now, whether it’s a fresh grad keen to join the hallowed ranks of investment bankers, or a trainee lawyer eager to join the Magic Circle, major corporations continue to prove the most alluring to hopeful graduates.

But some of these types of companies have reputations for propagating burnout culture. According to a 2021 survey by Kisi, Singapore has the second-most overworked population in the world, next to Hong Kong. Driven by rising unemployment and Asia’s hustle culture, employees were clocking in an average of three hours more each day than before the lockdown. With lockdown burnout looming, employers are starting to rethink the way they manage people.

Under Singapore’s current Transition Phase, working from home is still the default for most workplaces. Employees are starting to think ahead though, with 67% of respondents preferring to be able to continue working from home once restrictions have been lifted, according to a global survey conducted by Cigna.


The question for employers is, how can they adapt?

It starts with rethinking hierarchy. Employers can’t take a top-down approach to management; they need to understand what’s happening on the ground and adjust their strategy. Many have seen the benefits of increased flexibility in both their professional and personal lives during the pandemic – and many would like these benefits to continue.

Despite fears amongst businesses, providing flexibility doesn’t lead to disengagement. If anything, it makes employees more connected to leaders and more engaged by promoting a culture of trust. Leaders can’t rule with an iron fist; they need to listen to employee pain points and ensure they are managing flexibly in the right way.

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