Singapore: Working Hours Survey 2016

4 min read

Singapore’s work-life balance improving - Increased flexibility is having a positive impact while overtime is highly productive

SINGAPORE, 23 June 2016 

The latest Working Hours Survey from professional services recruiter Morgan McKinley reveals that while the majority of professionals in Singapore work longer than their contracted hours, the situation has eased substantially compared to 2014. Moreover, many employers are now offering more flexible working arrangements. Roughly two-thirds of the nearly 1,000 respondents to the survey stated that they felt obliged to work longer than their contracted hours.

However, this was 10% less than in the 2014 survey. Notably around 80% of those who said they worked beyond their contracted hours felt more productive during this time, which is good news for Singapore employers. However, of those who work beyond their contracted hours, (more than 80% of respondents reported that they felt that this time is productive), nearly 90% are not paid for this overtime.

Nearly half of those surveyed said that their employer offered home-office working as an option, while two-thirds said they could exercise discretion on start and finish times and more than a third could take time off in lieu of extra hours worked.

These findings are broadly in line with the advice to employers and employees published by the Ministry of Manpower last year regarding effective work-life strategies. While 57% felt that the long hours had some impact on their work life balance, they felt that this was something they could deal with.

Nevertheless it is not all good news with 12% of professionals contracted to work more than 46 hours when the legal limit set at 44 hours according to the Ministry of Manpower. 35% of respondents stated that long working hours was having a significant impact and required them to make sacrifices in terms of their personal and family life.

Andrew Evans, Managing Director, Morgan McKinley Singapore commented, “It is refreshing to see that companies are adopting a broad range of strategies to lessen the impact of long working hours. Singapore-based professionals are among the hardest working in the world and when we conducted the 2014 survey it seemed that the strain was becoming intolerable for many. While there is still progress that needs to be made, it appears that many organisations have taken on board the MOM’s message that a work-life friendly workplace is a win-win situation for both employers and employees. This bears out in what we hear day-in, day-out from professionals: they do not mind working beyond contracted hours – within reason – so long as the time is productive, and with 80% reporting that it is productive this is positive news.”

“With Generation Y and even some Generation Z entering the workforce we strongly believe that more flexible working arrangements will play an even greater role in attracting and retaining the most talented and dedicated professionals. Employers will need to work closely with employees to uncover what financial and non-financial factors are important to them.”

Technological change has been blurring the distinction between the office, home and travel between the two for some years now, and the trend will continue. The Morgan McKinley survey found that 75% of respondents work remotely at least on occasion, with 15% also working remotely at weekends. However, some 40% of employers do not allow employees to work remotely at their own discretion or even occasionally. Only 10% allow it as a matter of company policy.

The geographical location of Singapore is also a factor in longer working hours. Professionals working for multinational companies with offices in the USA or Europe were often expected by their employers to attend tele-meetings or conference calls at unsociable hours. Where this is the case employees are often able to work remotely.

987 professionals working in banking and financial services, technology and a range of service and manufacturing sectors responded to the survey, which was conducted in the first half of 2016.


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Morgan McKinley is a global professional services recruiter connecting specialist talent with leading employers across multiple industries and disciplines. With offices across Ireland, the UK, EMEA, Asia and Australia, the company’s professional recruitment expertise spans banking & financial services; commerce & industry and professional services. Morgan McKinley is a preferred supplier to many of the major employers in its specialist sectors and thousands of smaller local firms.

Morgan McKinley APAC provides specialist recruitment services across the APAC region, including Australia, Mainland China, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, working with clients and candidates to deliver local knowledge as well as global reach.

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