- "I applaud the British for their show of strength. Just days after lunatics, bent on murder, set off bombs in London, the British have already pulled themselves together and are back to work. Do not give those lunatics the pleasure of watching you writhe in fear. London, Britain, I applaud you."
With modern technology, many employees don't really need to be in the office to do their jobs. Nowadays, we have the telephone, email, fax etc. With a few pokes at your telephone buttons, you can fix up a conference call with several people at the same time. With a little thumbdrive or a CD-ROM, you can easily carry huge amounts of electronic data back and forth between home and office.
Exactly what kind of alternative working arrangements should be introduced? That depends on the job and the company. For some, it could mean, say, coming to work only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and working from home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For others, it could mean coming to work on a need basis, that is, the default is that you work from home, and you would come to office only if you needed to, say, physically attend a meeting. For yet other employees in yet other jobs, it could mean spending the morning in the office, and then spending the afternoon at home, or vice versa.
There are several advantages. If employers in Singapore really, seriously implemented these sorts of arrangements, then in the event of a terrorist attack, there would be a lot less disruption to the affected companies. This is because a large number of staff would be quite able to continue running a wide range of business operations from their home (because that's what they'd have been doing all along).
Secondly, a large number of people working from home at any one time also means that there will be a large drop in the number of commuters using public transport during the traditional peak hours. This drop makes it easier for authorities to monitor public areas such as MRT stations for security threats. Fewer people would be hurt during a terrorist attack, say, on the public transport system.
Of course, there are other assorted corollary advantages - the most obvious one being that the Singapore working lifestyle would become more family-friendly. Working parents would be able to spend more time with their kids at home. If implemented in a big way, these alternative working arrangements could even enable companies to save on rent for office space. You wouldn't need to lease so much space if only 50% of your staff are actually going to be in the office on any particular working day.
To effect all these changes, there needs to be a big change in mindset. But I feel that it's worth looking into. Apart from the fact that many jobs really don't need to be done in the office, one must consider the idea that terrorism is a long-term threat. It will be here for the next 5, 10, 15 years. It's worth the hassle of making all these changes to the working world.