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Virtual and flexible work environments on the rise

Virtual and flexible work environments on the rise

By SMBWorld Asia Editors | Nov 27, 2012

Managing an increasingly virtual or flexible workforce may become one of the top priorities for human resource (HR) functions over the next three years. This is according to the Singapore findings in a new global study commissioned by KPMG.

Titled Rethinking Human Resources in a Changing World, the study finds that almost one-third (or 30 percent) of senior executives polled in Singapore said that supervising such a workforce will become a primary focus over the next three years. This is a three-fold increase over the 11 percent who believe this to be the case between 2010 and 2012.

The same trend can be observed in the Asia-Pacific region. While 18 percent of respondents in the region feel that their company’s HR function focused most on managing more flexible or virtual staff over the past two years, almost twice or 30 percent said that this will become the key concern in the coming three years.

Globally, 20 percent of respondents said that HR functions will see managing more flexible or  virtual employees as a key focus over the next three years, five percent up from the 15 percent  who said the same for the previous three years.

“Business leaders are accepting that we operate in a global, borderless workplace and there is a wide diversity of talents with a plethora of work arrangements. For instance, they could be working on a temporary, contractual or part-time basis,” says Miranda Lee, director of people and change management at KPMG in Singapore.

“The Asia-Pacific region, in particular, is seeing the most rapidly changing working environments and the most evident war for talent. With more companies, including those in Singapore, looking outward for expansion, HR functions must think about how to manage an increasingly mobile and flexible workforce.”

Globalization and new ways of working
Indeed, globalization has a strong effect on today’s workforce. Some 71 percent of survey respondents worldwide believe that working across borders has increased over the past three years. More than half of companies polled also said that international reporting lines and talent flows have become more common.

Other survey findings support the assertion that companies all over the world are embracing newer, more virtual and flexible ways of working.

For example, In Asia-Pacific, 66 percent of respondents saw an increase in videoconferencing and the hiring of temporary or contract workers; more than 70 percent of the respondents in Singapore experienced similar increases.

About 66 percent of Singapore respondents said that flexi-time arrangements such as telecommuting and alternatives to physical office premises such as hot-desking have become more common.

Correspondingly, technology will become increasingly vital for the HR function to accommodate the  needs of a more global, virtual workforce.

“Mobile or web-based platforms, laptops, notebooks and cloud- all these are helping workers to become more mobile. More employees now also have the option to work remotely,” said Lee.

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