Calibrated Return To Office Urged As 97% Of Workforce Inoculated
SINGAPORE – The Ministry of Manpower revealed that about 97 percent of the city-state’s labour force have been vaccinated against COVID-19, reported The Straits Times on Sunday morning (12 December, SGT).
As a result, approximately 75,000 staff were unvaccinated as of 5 December. This figure is about 33 percent lower than in 17 October 2021, during which roughly 113,000 workers in Singapore had not yet received the jab.
The significant drop follows the government’s announcement in October that uninoculated staff will not be allowed to return to their workplace starting from 1 January 2022.
Workers can also be permitted to return if they have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 270 days or show a negative pre-event testing (PET) result for the period they need to be in the workplace. However, the PET result is only valid for 24 hours.
Given that nearly all of Singapore’s staff have been vaccinated, workplace curbs could be relaxed to perhaps 25 percent to 50 percent of workers being allowed to return to their office, opined Professor Teo Yik Ying, Dean of the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health. However, he doesn’t advise letting 100 percent of workers return to their workplace.
“Allowing all staff to return to work physically will significantly increase the extent of people movement in the community. This will potentially exert greater pressure on our healthcare system, especially when unvaccinated people are expected to be at a much higher risk of being hospitalised when infected.”
As such, Jaya Dass, Managing Director of recruitment agency Randstad Singapore expects that most businesses will likely adopt a wait-and-see approach before allowing most of their workers to go back to the office.
For instance, Randstad Singapore targets to return to the workplace after Chinese New Year, as it still needs time to plan how its staff and split teams could be rotated and integrated, she revealed.
Nonetheless, Tricia Tan, Human Resources Director for Southeast Asia at recruitment agency Robert Walters, believes that an eventual return to the workplace is very likely
“Being in an office environment helps to strengthen a sense of belonging and inclusion,” explained said. On the other hand, unvaccinated staff who request to work from home (WFH) may feel less motivated, and this may eventually affect their performance, she said.