The central business district of Singapore on April 7, 2020, is almost deserted as the country ordered the closure of all businesses deemed non-essential to combat the spread of Covid-19. Photo: AFP / Roslan Rahman

U.S. tightens exports to China’s chipmaker SMIC, citing risk of military use

The coronavirus pandemic could and should be used as a catalyst to reform, revolutionize and update the corporate culture in many major cities across Asia.

Covid-19-triggered social distancing, self-isolation, quarantine and widespread lockdown measures have forced many companies, including my own, to encourage or insist that employees work remotely, fully or as part of a hybrid team, whereby there’s a mix of onsite and home work.

I have long held the view that because of major technological advances and cultural and societal shifts, working remotely is the future.

What I didn’t anticipate was the acceleration in the pace of this trend due to a global public health emergency.

But as normal rules and norms for business were shaken up and shaken down in the first quarter of this year, remote work has now become a major global workplace phenomenon.

I believe it is the future of work in an increasingly internationalized and digitized era.

Why? Because I am confident that history will teach us that working remotely either fully or some of the time will be beneficial to employees, employers and our communities.

For millions of workers across Asia, their days begin and end with typically long, uncomfortable and expensive commutes. With remote working, regular commuting becomes a thing of the past, meaning employees will not only feel better, but be better off financially too.

Avoiding commutes plus working remotely also gives people more time to spend with family and loved ones. For instance, fathers could be more “hands on” raising their children and with household duties and elderly relatives could be looked after more easily by families.

Flexible work plans typically lead employees to be healthier, both physically and emotionally. According to The Sloan Center, a study of more than 19,000 employees at nine different companies revealed that stress and burnout were lower among those who had workplace flexibility.

Research shows that with more time employees are more inclined to prioritize staying fit and healthy. Evidence also suggests that flexibility is good for the brain, leading to happier, more productive and more creative workers.

There are major advantages of remote work for employers, too.

Allowing workers greater flexibility and autonomy over their working lives is likely to increase the retention rate of employees.

A reduction in the amount of time spent on a stressful and unpleasant commutes is undoubtedly a benefit for employees, but it is likely to give firms a boost too. The health and well-being of a workforce have been proved to be directly correlated to productivity and a reduction in absenteeism.

Employers will also have access to a wider recruitment pool as talented employees can be based anywhere in the world.

Another major benefit is the almost certain reduction in business operating costs as expensive office rental contracts, among other fixed costs such as electricity and staff perks, are significantly lower.

The boost of cash flow will better position companies to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented.

With companies more streamlined, agile and financially better placed to invest and grow, with employees who are happier, healthier and more motivated, and with dramatic environmental benefits due to a reduction in unnecessary travel, our communities will thrive.

Covid-19 has forced our hand into moving toward remote working. But it must be seen for the enormous opportunity it is for both employees and employers.

Now it is up to us all to embrace the advantages of the workplace revolution.

Nigel Green founded deVere Group in 2002 from a single office in Hong Kong after discovering a niche market for expatriates in the financial services sector. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest independent financial advisory organizations in the world with offices and clients across the globe.

Asia Times Financial is now live. Linking accurate news, insightful analysis and local knowledge with the ATF China Bond 50 Index, the world's first benchmark cross sector Chinese Bond Indices. Read ATF now.