Work Culture in Singapore 2021

How can employers foster an environment that attracts and retain talent in Singapore?  

The work culture in every country is different, usually shaped by the society, education system, leadership and policies. Highly ranked in business competitiveness and economic growth, Singapore is considered one of the best places in the world to work in and possibly start a business. With excellent city infrastructure, technology, lifestyle, education, health care and safety- it is no wonder that many would hail Singapore as the top contender according to the economic freedom index.

Traditionally, Singapore’s work culture is comprised of hierarchical relationships, collectivism and many rules. However, there has been a shift in mindsets over the recent years with Millennial and Gen Z Singaporeans changing the way work is being conducted in Singapore.

How has the work culture changed?

1. Flexibility > Rules

Singaporean work culture seeks rules appropriate to each situation, in fact, they are notoriously known as a “fine” country because breaking the rules would warrant a fine of sorts. Hence, it is of no surprise that Singaporeans have subscribed to “unspoken” workplace rules that on hindsight, are toxic.

· A) Overtime is normal.

· B) The expectation to go “above and beyond” despite it being unpaid.

· C) Playing with politics.

While flexible schedules do not eliminate all these behaviors by default, many cited that this flexibility has granted them more autonomy over their working lives. They are reluctant to trade it back in for the presenteeism and surveillance of the pre-pandemic era.

The pandemic has made the need for flexibility far more pressing. 8 out of 10 workers prefer to work from home or have flexible working arrangements, according to a survey commissioned by The Straits Times of nearly 1,800 people. We are seeing a democratization of the workforce, where people could decide how to work and when to work.

2. Work Life Balance

Singaporeans have associated longer working hours with competitiveness, where people must work hard to keep up with the competition. It is also a common argument where long hours are necessary to maintain our level of productivity and remain as a strong economy.

Apart from job security worries, a survey conducted by UOB found that the Covid-19 pandemic has given rise to concerns over well-being, with 56 per cent of Singapore residents worried about their mental health and happiness.

So instead of having fixed schedules, work and play will have to co-exist. This desire for more balance means that a certain level of flexibility is a requirement when people search for jobs now.

3. Room for growth and progression

Majority of the local firms don’t want too many employees running around with too many crazy ideas, nor do they need unfocused fragmentations of the core businesses managed by over-enthusiastic entrepreneurs. It’s often thought that mass Singaporeans cannot innovate because they’re conditioned to be followers instead of creative idea generators.

However, as much as companies were hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, local entrepreneurs still managed to defy the downturn to open a striking number of new businesses.

When employees have the strategic awareness of the bigger picture of where opportunities lie, they may want to expand their boundaries of competence. There were 63,480 new enterprises in 2020- a period that included Singapore’s worst recession since independence – up from 61,573 in 2019. This means that the “self-employment” is becoming more commonplace. Firms will have to provide a strong case for career progression and development in order to retain talent

How to attract Singaporean Talent

1. Implement a Profit-Sharing System

While this may not be a viable solution for all businesses, there’s no better way to value your employees than to give them a stake in the success of your company. It attracts prospective employees who already believe in the growth of your business. They will then work towards  a common goal.

2. Encourage Employee Engagement

By offering employees occasional breaks from work with team building activities, firms can build stronger bonds amongst employees. 

Good health of a company can be seen through the interactions of its employees and positive inter-office relationships that display a family-like culture are sure to appeal to prospective employees.

3. Ensure Career Advancements and Recognition

Most prospective employees ultimately seek out jobs that offer growth and stable pay increments. It is necessary that SMEs have in place structural career advancements that new employees can strive towards.

Aside from that, having recognition of ‘small’ achievements will also contribute to a great working environment. 

Such recognition does not necessarily have to be expensive or even be monetary, it can be a simple ‘thank you’ or a sign of appreciation to ensure employees are given the credit they deserve.

Aside from attractive remuneration, to attract and retain talent in Singapore, firms need to foster a healthy workplace culture that allows for flexibility and progress.

Why Hire Locals

Locals may have a better understanding of your business and market you are aiming to target. There is a possibility that there will be better service and higher quality work because locals care about their reputation in the community.

Ease of transaction is another factor to consider. Being based in the country your operating can ensure that problems are taken care of quickly. There will be more credibility and greater customer trust.



Global People is a leading local employment solutions provider for national and international corporations and can advise and escort you in your next destination.

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Global People aims to assist its clients to fully focus on their development and success in their target destinations without having to worry about the regulation and compliance involved in the employment of their local and expat employees.

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