Indonesia – Tax Information Update

More information about our PEO Indonesia:

In Indonesia, Personal Income Tax (PIT) is applicable to individuals at progressive rates ranging from 5% to 35%. Expatriates should be aware that PIT is determined through a self-assessment scheme, and the country follows a worldwide income taxation system. Indonesian tax residents must pay tax on both their domestic and foreign income unless a double tax agreement is in place. Non-residents are only taxed on income earned in Indonesia, subject to tax treaties. 

Eligibility for PIT is based on an individual’s presence in Indonesia for more than 183 days in a 12-month period or having the intention to stay in the country. Factors defining “residing in Indonesia” include having a place of residence, vital interests, and habitual abode in Indonesia. The “intention to stay” requires supporting documents like a permanent stay permit or limited stay visa. 

Foreigners who become domestic tax subjects are taxed only on Indonesian-sourced income if they meet expertise requirements. This expertise should be certified, and there should be an obligation for knowledge transfer to an Indonesian citizen. Certain foreign expatriates, like diplomatic personnel, military staff, and specific international organization representatives, are exempt from PIT. 

Residents are subject to progressive withholding tax rates, while non-residents face a flat 20% tax on gross income. Deductions and relief are available, including deductions for individuals, spouses, and dependents. 

The PIT rates for residents are as follows: 

  • Up to IDR 60 million: 5% 
  • Above IDR 60 million to IDR 250 million: 15% 
  • Above IDR 250 million to IDR 500 million: 25% 
  • Above IDR 500 million to IDR 5 billion: 30% 
  • Above IDR 5 billion: 35% 

However, starting January 1, 2024, the PIT rates for residents will be withheld based on the new effective tax rates (ETR), as stipulated by Government Regulation No. 58 of 2023. These rates will be applied from January until November. Nevertheless, the annual calculation that is carried out in December is still done using the progressive income tax rate under Article 17(a) of the Income Tax Law as above, potentially leading to underpayment or overpayment in that month.

There are three categories of taxpayers based on GR 58/2023;

  • Category A (Single with no dependent, Single with one dependent, Married with no dependent)
  • Category B (Single with two dependents, Single with three dependents, Married with one dependent, Married with two dependents)
  • Category C (Married with three dependents)

Employers are responsible for withholding and remitting taxes monthly, and expatriate employees must complete an annual tax return. Individual taxpayers, both residents and non-residents, can deduce specific amounts from their gross income when determining the annual taxable income. 

Tax deregistration is recommended for expatriates leaving Indonesia to avoid continuous tax residency. To do so, they must submit an application to the local tax office.  

Indonesia provides income tax exemptions for certain types of income, such as foreign dividends received by domestic taxpayers, subject to reinvestment requirements. 

Reporting individual tax returns can be done directly at the tax office, through postal services, or authorized online tax services. It’s crucial for expatriates to seek assistance from registered local tax advisors to understand their tax liabilities and potential exemptions. 

Link Compliance extends its presence in Indonesia !

Indonesia – Our extended presence in Indonesia marks a significant step in our commitment to providing innovative solutions to our clients, especially those looking to explore the Indonesian market.

Link Compliance adds Volt Solutions to the group and expands into Japan

TOKYO – Volt Solutions, a Tokyo based HR Technology and managed service provider, is now part of the Link Compliance Group. Through this new financial and business alliance, Volt Solutions will offer a wider range of HR services in Japan, in addition to its customized RPO solutions.

Major cities cost per hire. Second Ep.

  Hiring a new employee is a great investment for the company everyone understands that quality most of the time matters more than quantity, and the quality in a talent pool is not easy to find. It requires handpicking one out of hundreds, sometimes even thousands to hire an employee or employees, there is even a whole study called “talent analytics” which helps to determine the causes of successful hiring using data. Hiring can be costly, let’s break down some of the costs to consider when you’re looking for your next investment.

  First, need to decide, whether it is an independent contractor or a long-term employee? If a long-term employee, then study which source of hiring is the best for your company. To understand the source of hiring, you will need to study and have data on previous “successful hires” this way you can save time and decide what is the best way to hire: referred; job boards; sourcing, or career fairs.

There are two stages of the costs: External recruiting costs and Internal recruiting costs

External recruiting costs include:
• Job sourcing
• Pre hire assessments
• Background checks, work eligibility, health check
• Recruitment process outsourcing
• Recruitment technology
• Job boards
• Contractors
• Marketing

Internal recruitment costs include:
• In house recruiting staff
• Full time internal recruiters
• Systems (ATS)
• Referral rewards

Formula by Glassdoor

  After finding out how much it will cost per hire, we can look at how much you will spend in some major cities during hiring and outsourcing. Need to make sure there won’t be any “surprise” costs after hiring an employee. Let’s break down gross pay + withholdings + employers’ contributions of an employee in each of the major cities: Shanghai; Hong Kong; Singapore; London; Tokyo; New York.

There are two things to consider: is the employee local or someone who needs a work permit? Both cases have their different expenses, we will cover hiring a local employee as a foreign or local employer.

Shanghai. When hiring a Chinese employee from a foreign company, one needs to understand local tax laws, first thing to consider is an employer must submit contributions to the area’s corresponding tax bureau. Contributions in Shanghai made to Social Insurance (includes Pension, Unemployment, Medical, Injury), now employee’s Pension rate is 8%, and employer’s 16% of the monthly salary. For Medical insurance, while the employee’s rate is 2%, the company must contribute 10.5% of the employee’s gross salary. Injury insurance (in the workplace) is covered by the employer only, the rate is 0.25 % of the employee’s monthly salary. The unemployment tax rate is 0.5% for both parties. Housing funds also should be paid by both sides, and it is 7%.

Example: Monthly gross income is CNY 15,000 net pay will be CNY 11,925 after 20.5% tax. The employer in this case with all the taxes and social security payments ends up with +34,25%, CNY 20,137.

  The cost of recruitment agencies in Shanghai (local agencies) is from 21% – 28%.

Hong Kong. Notification by an employer of a new employee should be done through the IR56E form. This needs to be completed and returned to the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) within three months of commencing employment. Inland Revenue Department (IRD) is responsible for collecting taxes and duties. The employee must pay the annual taxes themselves, there are no income tax withholdings done by the employer. The Mandatory Provident Fund (MPF) employee and employer pay 5% of the employee’s gross pay. There is also Income Tax which is paid by employees. Salaries Tax payable is calculated at the progressive rate (2%-17%) on your net chargeable income or at a standard rate (15%) on your net income, whichever is lower:

1.(Net Chargeable Income = Total Income – Deductions-Allowances) *(2%-17%)

2.(Net Income = Total Income-Deductions) *15%

Example: Annual salary let’s say is around HKD 25,000, the net pay will be HKD 22,966 after 8.14% deduction, 5% is MPF tax, and 3,14% Income Tax. For employers, there is only MPF tax which is 5%.

  Hong Kong’s local recruitment agency fee is 10% of the successful placement of an employee into a new position.

New York City. In general, in the US the taxes are handled by IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Let’s talk about tax rates for local employees and an employer, New York State has one of the most burdensome taxes compared to let’s say Wyoming. There are New York state taxes vary from 4% up to 10,9%. Social Security Tax which is 6,2% (every 147,000 USD) must be paid by both parties (*if self-employed it is 12,4%). Medicare tax is 1.45% paid by both parties, additional Medicare tax is 0,9%, paid only by an employee. Federal income taxes vary according to the employee’s gross income from 10% up to 37% paid only by the employee, there is a retirement savings plan which is called 401(k) *that has contribution limits and can be around 2%-3% of the income of an employee and paid by both parties. FUTA (Federal Unemployment Tax Act) rate for the employer is 3,4%. SUTA (State Unemployment Tax Act *new employer rate) 4.1%. Reemployment tax is 0,075% paid only by the employer. The tax brackets also have different sectors: single; married; head of household.

Example: A local New Yorker gets hired and the monthly gross pay is USD 5300 (26.6% taxes) in the end employee’s net pay will be USD 3887. For the employer, while the Employee’s income is 5300 and there are several taxes plus insurance. On top to make the position more attractive most companies or employers also offer (health insurance benefits, dental insurance, paid holidays, and paid medical leave) benefits. In the end, the approximate number excluding benefits is + 25,1% is the cost on top new employee’s gross pay, which is USD 1,330, a total of USD 6630.

  The recruitment agency fee in NYC is around 15% – 20% of the annual salary of your new employee.

In Singapore, you will start with choosing the best option for you to find the next talent by referred; job boards; sourcing, or career fairs. If need to use a platform here are the most common job posting sites: Indeed/ Google for jobs/ Beamstart / Glints/ Startupjobs.Asia/ STJobs / Linkedin, all of which are free, but some have paid options. After finding your talent we can investigate how much it costs to hire a new employee. In Singapore the employer must take into consideration CPF contribution rates, CPF (Central Provident Fund) is a mandatory retirement savings scheme for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents, it is a compulsory comprehensive savings and pension plan for working Singaporeans and permanent residents. The rates vary, depending on the age of an employee, which is paid by both parties. Employees pay from their gross salary and employer must contribute their portion as well. Benefits and health insurance are not compulsory. Here you can learn more all about it:

Example: Singaporean or permanent resident gets hired by a foreign or local company, the employee is 35 years old this year, ordinary wage SGD 3350 and additional wage 0, in this case, employee’s contribution is 20% (SGD 670) and employer’s 17% (SGD 570), which leaves monthly net pay at SGD 2680. Can be calculated here:

  The second option is to use an outsourcing agency, average coverage is around 15% – 30% of a successful jobseeker’s annual salary.

Tokyo. Since Japan struggling with labor shortage finding a local talent is harder than in any other places, a lot of Japanese companies must attempt to attract any possible talent with many bonuses and paid leaves. So, when hiring a new employee there are several additional costs over the employees’ gross pay. Shakai Hoken is Social Security of Japan, and it covers things like health insurance, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, pension. Combined all social security amount for employers is 14.6% to 16.65% on top of employee’s pay. 

Example: Let’s say the gross income of a new employee is JPY 410,000, employer’s contribution is 14.6%. Employee’s rate is: income tax, health insurance, pension and unemployment insurance are 25.6%.

  Recruitment agency’s fee 30% – 35% in Japan.

In UK London hiring a new employee is quite costly, first, you need to make sure you have all the papers and are ready to hire a new employee, the tax authority in the UK is HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) equivalent to IRS in the US. In the first year, the cost of a new employee might exceed the usual numbers. Mandatory costs for employers are National insurance Contribution of 13,8%; Pension Contribution of 3%; Bonuses of 6% *not mandatory, benefits, training, and office equipment depending on the position. There is also Holiday pay, which entitles workers to take 5,6 weeks of paid leave, at that time might need to hire contractors while the employee is away. Here is the most important information relating to employment:

Example: If monthly gross income is GBP 3,500, the employer adds 13.8%, and the employee must contribute 24.1% which is income tax and NIC.  Net pay is GBP 2,655. Total GBP 4892.

 The average in the UK recruitment agency fee is 20% – 30%.

In conclusion, here are the three main factors, gross pay, net pay, and total cost per hire for new employee.

Numbers are calculated according to given examples

Big Cities High Rent Prices. First Ep.

From this week we will be comparing life in 6 major cities around the world: Shanghai, Chengdu, Singapore, London, Tokyo, New York. This week we will look at rent prices.

Shanghai – real estate is one of the costly things. In recent two – three years people with middle income must contribute one third of their income to rent.Most international and big local companies are in the city centres or the financial centres of Shanghai, like Jingan Temple, Lujiazui. We will treat these criteria as our golden ratio. Since Shanghai is the most International city in China and attracts big multinational companies around the world, it is naturally one of the costliest city.The average wage would be around 10,000 to 15,000 CNY (depending on the position). The central area rent depending on factors like, transportation; location; the building (with or without lift); type of the apartment; which side windows’ face; and the compound itself also plays big role on how much you will be paying. Shanghai’s rent prices always increase after the new year, yearly increase of accommodation is very normal. This year a studio apartment 30㎡ in central Jingan will cost you around 7,000 CNY, it most likely is older residential area. But further from central Shanghai cheaper the cost of rent prices.

Chengdu – it is the capital city of Sichuan province also known as city of pandas. It is the new tier 1 city in China. Chengdu is considered a “Beta + (global second-tier)” city classification (together with Barcelona and Washington, D.C.) according to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network. In 2021, Chengdu ranked 35th in the Global Financial Centres Index. In Chengdu mid-high salary approx. 7,000 CNY to 7,500 CNY. The central area of Chengdu includes: Jinjiang district; Qing Yang district; Jin Niu district; Wuhou district. To rent around Jinjiang, 40㎡ studio apartment will be  2,500 CNY.

Singapore – it is without a doubt one of the main financially developed cities in Asia, which means it is also one of the cities that makes to the list of costliest cities in the world. Average salary in Singapore is between 3,500 SGD and 4,100 SGD. Above average salary is around 4,500 to 8,000 SGD.The city’s business centre is Marina Bay, Chinatown, Singapore River areas and city centres are Orchard Road, Tanjong, Holland Road, Tanglin. In Orchard, River Valley rent of decent 33㎡ studio apartment will cost you 3,000 SGD.

London – by the global metrics there are only 2 cities considered Alpha ++ which are London and New York, for these are “most integrated with global economy”. A lot of professionals do their best to be working in cities like London and New York. In London the average salary is around 40,000 GBP per year before tax, which will be 2,570 GBP per month after tax.  Residential central areas are Richmond, Noting hill, Kensington And Chelsea. Studio apartments around these areas will cost you from 950 to 1,500 GBP. Younger people do not rent studio apartments but will rent in the central area shared apartments which is 450 GBP up to 800 GBP.

Tokyo – another city that attracts a lot of people around the world with its culture, fast-growing technology and economy. This year the average monthly income in Tokyo is around 350,000 to 410,000 JPY depending on a lot of factors from the field of the company to its size etc. The central Tokyo: Ebisu, Shinjuku, Azabu are some of the central and more residential areas. And if we look for business centre in Tokyo, they are Nihonbashi, Roppongi, Shibuya etc., finding a studio apartment to rent in Tokyo is pretty easy. The studio apartment in Tokyo Shibuya Ku – Ebisu or Hiroo area, 35 or 40㎡ the cost is around 130,000 to 180,000 JPY depending on the building’s location and condition.

New York – to pursue any professional’s dreams, it has ultimate opportunities for everyone, and it is one the most diverse city in the world. The income in New York is from 5,300 to 6,500 USD, there isn’t an average we can point at, but if we generalise it is 5,500 USD. Upper West and Upper East side makes the New York’s central area, in Manhattan. City’s business centre also in Manhattan which is why that area is the busiest and the costliest. Living in a studio apartment in Manhattan River East for example is going to cost around 3,000 – 3,500 USD for 50㎡ in Wall Street.

Conclusion, In the end of the day if your income is in range of average it is not the perfect fit to be renting a studio apartment in big city center, as the ones mentioned above. Most young people will rent downtown rooms in a shared apartment or give up the benefits of living in the center for living comfortably alone without any conditions and terms.

Average income and prices for studio apartment

Income information by:, 2020 report
Rent information by: China: Ziroom/ Singapore: London: Tokyo: New York:

China and Southeast Asia: The World In Recession

Let’s talk about economics, to be more precise about recession. There are so many debates between economists:  what causes, how to prevent or recover from recession, but everyone agrees on that it is a cycle of healthy reaction of economic growth.

Recession:  “a significant decline in economic activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, normally visible in real GDP, real income, employment, industrial production, and wholesale-retail sales”. It also has different informal “shapes” V U W L Swoosh, each to characterise recessions and their recoveries.

But what does recession mean to us, on our day-to-day life?

Well, economic recession from previous experiences we can say that it affects employment the most, and then things like spending habits, manufacturing, and sales. It is most likely that a lot of people will lose their jobs and for some time won’t be able to find a new position, that is the most devastating effect. But again, it all depends on what kind of recession it is. Since 1929 “The Great Depression” which started with recession, since then there were dozens of economic recessions. The one, we must mention is 2007 – 2009 “Great Recession”, many believe it was due US “Subprime mortgage crisis” in 2005 and many other factors. This economic downfall felt differently worldwide while in developed countries particularly in North America, South America, and Europe, fell into a severe, sustained recession, many more recently developed economies suffered far less impact, particularly China, India and Indonesia, whose economies grew substantially during this period. Similarly, Oceania suffered minimal impact, in part due to its proximity to Asian markets. After 2008s recession another point is worth mentioning is peak of global growth in 2017.

The most recent recession, which is the result of pandemic and lockdowns around the world, governments demanding on closing/work from home/study online, and travel restrictions. But there is another reason which started in 2019 with economic slowdown, it might be from tension around the globe, like oil issues between Russia and Saudi Arabia, China US trade war, and of course Brexit.

  Covid – 19 pandemic recession, the effects in China and rest of Asia?

First wave of recession was end of February, global stock market noticed the worst drop since 2008. In China particularly outbreaks lead to lockdowns of cities businesses etc. which can be seen in declines in consumption and supply chain disruptions. Since the outbreak, the average two-year growth rate of China’s GDP in 2020 and 2021 is 5.1%, and the two-year average growth rates in each quarter are 5.0%, 5.5%, 4.9% and 5.2% respectively. In general, in the past two years, China’s economic slowdown has been mainly dragged down by final consumption expenditures, while external demand has played a positive role. The second largest economy in the world was the first hit by the pandemic, and many predicted it will weaken the half century striking growth of Chinese economy. But predictions were wrong, in first quarter China did see some decline, but is picked up speed in the fourth quarter, with growth, beating expectations. It was V shaped recession which started in the beginning of 2020, V shaped meaning it suffered a sharp but brief period of economic decline with a clearly defined trough, followed by a strong recovery.

 How other parts of Asia had reacted to the Covid-19 recession, and its consequences? (Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong)

Singapore – struggled the worst recession since its independence(1965). While the whole world had their own issues in 2020, Singapore had to deal with: high demand and supply shortages, travel restrictions and implementation of Circuit Breaker from April to June of 2020. By the end of the year some sectors of economy recovered to pre pandemic levels or came close, but areas like travel and air passengers were still significantly low compared to 2019. In 2021 Singapore’s overall GDP overpassed the full-year growth to 7.2 per cent, on the higher side of the official full-year growth forecast of “around 7 per cent”. Locals are still under some restrictions, for example, last year November Multi – Ministry Taskforce have announced that people can have a gathering of 5, previously 2.

Malaysia – due to economic restrictions and lower global demand, the pandemic wave late in 2020 helped drive the economy to its worst annual showing since the Asian financial crisis (1997). The last seen declined of Malaysia’s economic was in 2009 (-1.5%), and the economy downturn of 5.6 per cent (2020) was the lowest after 1998 (-7.4%).  2022 Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) on Friday (Feb 4) reiterated that the Malaysian economy will expand between 5.5% and 6.5% this year, underpinned by continued expansion in global demand and higher private-sector expenditure, said governor Tan Sri Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus.

Philippines – in 2021 struggled its fifth consecutive quarter, The latest GDP statistics for the first quarter of 2021 showed that the Philippines economy contracted by 4.2% year-on-year, the fifth consecutive quarter of recession. This follows a severe contraction in GDP in the 2020 calendar year, with the Philippines economy having contracted by 9.6% year-on-year. In 2021 Philippines expecting GDP growth to be in range of 5% to 6%, the full year growth settled at 5.6. This year the official forecast for 2022 GDP was pegged at 7-9% with growth expected to get a boost from national elections scheduled in May.

Thailand – Covid was especially tough on Thailand. Thailand’s GDP fell by 6.1 percent in 2020, the largest contraction since the Asian financial crisis. The tourism sector, which accounts for about a fifth of GDP and 20 percent of employment, has been especially affected by the cessation of tourist travel. It hit different on each socio-economic group.  In January this year, Thailand introduced new regulations affecting tourists and enterprises in the country: “including 26 provinces with “blue zone” pilot tourism destinations. And other areas, such as “orange area”, etc.”

Hong Kong – the recession started around 2019, Hong Kong’s Gross Domestic Product in 2019 contracted by 1.2% on-year, the first annual decline since 2009. In 2020 as in other countries around the world local businesses struggled the most from the new restrictions, and fear of the pandemic. But for the first half of 2021, economy grew by 7.8% over a year earlier. By the end of 2021 the economic growth was 6.4% which ended the recession. In 2022 Hong Kong expecting full recovery and growth of exported goods and local consumption level, trade reliant fields will also see benefits from China’s fast recovery from pandemic crisis.  Some of the fields still will have struggles, like international travel (restrictions will continue to weigh on tourism) and related retail and services sectors.

Why China’s Chinese New Year Holiday May Not Actually Be 7 Days

This year’s Chinese New Year/Lunar New Year will be coming early, with Chinese New Year Eve falling on the 31st. It is a time for reunion, for festivities and joy as people welcome spring, which is why it is also known as the Spring Festival. The Spring Festival technically lasts for 15 days, but for many people, it simply isn’t realistic to take this many days off. For some countries like Singapore, the Chinese New Year holiday lasts for two days, covering only the first and second day. For China, where most people celebrate Chinese New Year and where Chinese New Year is regarded as one of the most major holidays for the whole country, they may take up to 7 days off… or do they? 

Officially, Chinese New Year holidays are 3 days in China, covering the day before, and the first, and the second day. However, arrangements for people to enjoy 7 consecutive days are made via the shifting of work days instead. For instance, as this year’s Chinese New Year holiday falls from 31st January to 2nd February, Monday to Wednesday. Employees will have to work on 29th and 30th January to make up for the days taken up by the 7 days, meaning that they will be working for that weekend. In addition, leaves are also added from Wednesday to Friday, thus allowing them to enjoy the Chinese New Year holiday for 7 days straight (the weekend should be a rest day by default). In other words, part of the 7 days holiday is actually taken from working extra days prior or after, depending on the holiday. 

The same goes for other long holidays in China too, such as Labour Day and National Day Golden Week, where additional work days are added before or after the holidays in order to allow a week of consecutive holidays. The Labour Day holidays will be taking place from April 30th (Saturday) to May 4th (Wednesday), with additional work days added to April 24th (Sunday) and May 7th (Saturday). For National Day Golden Week, it lasts from October 1st (Saturday) to October 7th (Friday). Subsequently, October 8th and 9th (Saturday and Sunday) will become working days instead. 

What does this mean for the Chinese people? For some, it means strategically taking leaves in order to maximise the length of the break. The phenomenon of “Chunyun”, or “the Spring Festival Travel Rush” marks the travel of millions and millions of people across China, as workers working in faraway cities and students studying outside of their hometown all flock home in order to make it in time for reunion dinner. The Chinese transportation system faces the greatest stress test during these times. However, this means that their holidays would be further taken up by time taken on the road. Hence, some advice that one should also spend their leaves on the 29th and 30th of January, so as to get a head start for those travelling home, or at least, so they would be able to make it in time for the reunion dinner taking place on the 31st, aka Chinese New Year Eve. Alternatively, one could also apply for leave for the 7th of February, thus allowing one to enjoy 8 days of break and the chance to avoid the post-Chinese New Year travelling crowd. 

For many, the travelling time is a large part of the reason why the suggestion of extending the full break to 10 days has been repeatedly brought up in government over and over again. Some would also like more time to spend with their family in general, and 10 days would allow them to truly soak up each other’s company before heading back to work/school. Still, there seems to be no sign of the break being extended any time soon. 

Overall, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Long breaks are the results of additional working days strategically placed on the weekends. However, with some maneuvering, it is still possible to maximise the break, and take a much-needed rest. 


Employers: Approaching Hybrid Work in the New Year

It’s the beginning of a new year, and this calls for new changes in Singapore’s employment scene. Particularly, the new year calls for a new way of work, as work from home in Singapore is no longer the default from 1 Jan 2022. Singaporeans, that means to say that it’s time to pack our bags and squeeze with the morning commute once more.  

As workers are shuffling back to offices and getting used to a forgotten routine, symptoms of burnout and exhaustion may surface. This is because the introduction of remote work has benefitted many in terms of higher flexibility and autonomy. Forcing a sudden change back to the pre-pandemic office life may require some time for readjustment. Thus, it remains imperative that employers tackle these challenges addressing employees’ mental wellbeing and take measures to create a supportive work environment for their employees.  

While most of us can agree that working in offices can ensure a certain level of productivity, employers should also understand that not all employees are ready and excited to be back in offices. Not just adding on to commute hours, meeting colleagues in person and navigating social anxiety could be a challenge for some. After all, there exist numerous personal struggles that every individual will face, and it is without a doubt that neglecting mental well-being is detrimental to productivity. 

Keeping an open channel and being equipped in holding the right conversations 

Hence, on the topic of keeping a supportive work environment for employees, one way that employers can approach hybrid work in the new year is to keep an open channel of communication. Ideally, employers should spend time to check in on employees and meet each employee where they are. However, a more macro level initiative could be investing in mental wellness initiatives to highlight the importance during these uncertain times. 

In Singapore, Senior Minister of State for Health – Janil Puthucheary – mentioned that the Health Promotion Board (HPB) has seen a rising demand for training programmes that surround the topic of equipping employers and human resource managers with skills and knowledge on how to identify symptoms of common mental health conditions among their work peers and employees. This can be a good place to begin, as navigating through mental health conversations can be tricky. With more than 7 out of 10 Singaporeans indicating that they are facing more struggles with their mental health in 2021 compared to the start of the pandemic, it is high time that employers be equipped with the necessary skills to hold the right conversations with struggling employees.  

Providing online resources 

Often, struggling individuals do not always find comfort in reaching out and speaking out about their private issues. Therefore, employers should also consider providing online resources where employees can tap on to get appropriate help. Some popular options adopted by Singaporean companies today are wellness webinars, paid counselling sessions with partner mental health organizations, chatbots, and even virtual meditation sessions that help employees relax. Such dedicated platforms can signify to employees that their mental well-being is being cared for, which is important in their transition back to the office.   

Structured team events 

The lack of face-to-face interaction coupled with Zoom fatigue can cause a bumpy return to pre-pandemic office life. Employers are also encouraged to facilitate this by holding structured activities that focus on letting employees catch up over a non-work-related activity. This can be as simple as a mandatory team lunch, or even just a meeting that let employees interact with one another to ease back into socializing beyond the screens. After all, reinforcing friendship as the working culture is proven by research to create higher engagement that will result in better work productivity.  

The bottom line is that creating a workplace culture of acceptance, respect and empathy is extremely crucial. Mental wellness has never been more relevant today, and progress in recognizing the importance of workplace well-being must be made. Employers hold great responsibility in nurturing the relationships with and amongst their employees, and such investments will definitely help organizations come out of this pandemic as a stronger employer brand and a loyal talent base. 


Work and Digital Privacy

The digital revolution is also known as the fourth industrial revolution, placing its impact on society on the same level as the industrial revolutions that precede it. For all the talk about technology and how it’s revolutionising the way we are living, the changes also come down to people too — “our sense of privacy, our notions of ownership, our consumption patterns, the time we devote to work and leisure, and how we develop our careers, cultivate our skills, meet people, and nurture relationships”, according to Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the World Economic Forum. Yet, in the context of work and technology and the on-going pandemic, data security at work remains an under-discussed topic, especially now that a lot of us are still working remotely. 

When it comes to caring for the employee and the company, data security should not be neglected, and is in fact a part of the employee. Opening a phishing email may result in vulnerabilities in the company’s network, depending on the work the employee is doing. With a good portion of work being moved online, attacks on cloud services that facilitate such online work present a very real threat towards the company’s business.  

Hence, within each company, there is a need to keep employees educated on the importance of data security, even more so if the company is a business that also handles confidential data from clients. Phishing emails can be sent out by the IT department as an exercise to test the alertness of the employee, and only with a successful reporting of the phishing email will the employee then pass the test. Communication should also be kept on secure, encrypted platforms, and confidential information like passwords and usernames should not be displayed in the public eye, like post-its stuck onto the screen monitor. One should also be careful about plugging thumbdrives/USB drives of unknown origins into the computer device, for it is possible for an attacker to launch their attack through such a method. Update firewalls and anti-virus programs as needed. 

The employee is also entitled to their privacy. In countries like Singapore, sensitive, personal information such as identification numbers are not allowed to be kept or passed around publicly even within the business context, and an employee is entitled to know what would be done with the information collected and where it would be headed to. 

Overall, with these technological changes happening to society, there is a need to acknowledge the importance of data security and how we treat both our personal and business information as well. This article is also written with the help from Anastasia Tohmé and Martin Worner’s book, Work Remotely, and is a must-read especially in the age of remote working. 

Remote Working & Tools

The year draws to a close again; at this point, we have come so far in this pandemic, with various rules and regulations put in place and then subsequently lifted. More importantly, the way we work has been revolutionised, with drastic changes made to past ways of working. As offices shift back and forth between hybrid-working and work from home, the importance of the tools we use are incredibly understated, which is precisely what we are going to discuss in this article today. 

Fast Internet 

Everyone hates it when their YouTube video takes a little too long to buffer. Imagine how much worse it would be when a video call constantly gets interrupted, with the screen freezing or the voice breaking up, lagging in a way reminiscent of the dreadful moans of the damned. Or, to be the poor speaker rambling on for 5 minutes straight only to realise that nobody has caught what you just said because only parts of your speech made it through. Slow internet is frustrating for everyone in the call, and only serves to reduce work productivity.  

There are various solutions for ensuring fast internet, such as finding a decent spot in the house with good access to the router, or looking into wifi extenders (if you live in a relatively big house). It might even be time to think wired, by utilising LAN cables or a desktop computer with a wired connection instead of challenging fate with fluctuating strengths of wifi signals. 

Quality Set-up

We are talking about a decent camera, microphone and headphones. Perhaps even a laptop stand for those of us still working on our laptop, elevating the screen to face level such that we can have better posture. All these would serve to improve QOL in terms of “workspace”, adding an even more “legit” feel to whatever we are doing at work. 

Video-calling Subscriptions 

If for some reason your team is still working via “free” video-call services, then this article is a sign for you to quit cheaping out, and just buy that subscription already. Services like Skype, Hangouts and Zoom, while technically “free”, add several restrictions to the type of meetings that can be held. It is false economy to use these services; reducing costs should not come at the expense of severely limiting work efficiency and reducing the quality of calls needed for work to function. The paid version of the services is paid for a good reason, as they have the quality needed for business calls and are a prerequisite for connecting remote teams. 

Messaging Apps 

It is essential for asynchronous communication. It is also all too easy for groups on messaging apps to go out of hand, or have many disorganised channels of communication. Having someone specifically in charge of managing and updating the groups would smoothen communications out much better. Differences in communication styles also means that it is important to establish clear boundaries and guidelines in online workplace conversations. Ultimately, this is still a professional space, and having some form of moderation will prove to be beneficial for everyone. 

Cloud Storage 

Having documents stored in a central online space, accessible to everyone, is much more efficient than constantly emailing each other with file attachments, especially when multiple parties need to access the same files. Programs like Sharepoint, Google Drive and many others are essential for remote workers. 

Remote Whiteboards 

Cloud-based whiteboards can cater to the needs of remote teams or enterprise teams working across several locations and time zones, allowing collaborations across space and time via digital tools.  

Expenses Management System 

There needs to be a centralised and automated place to process invoices, and also approve and manage spending of remote teams.  

Overall, it is important to consider the tools we are using for remote working, that is certain. I would also like to attribute parts of the article to Anastasia Tohmé and Martin Worner, for without their book Work Remotely, this article could not have been written. Beyond the points brought up here, Work Remotely provided insights into what is needed for making the most out of working remotely, including advice such as managing communication and more. This is a must-read, especially during this precarious period.