Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, many firms have allowed their employees to work fully or partially from home. Minister of State for Manpower Mr Gan Siow Huang also stated that in 2020 over three-quarters of employees worked in firms that allowed for such arrangements. This drastic change has no doubt affected foreign Work Pass holders here too. Long periods of isolation can lead to poorer mental health, at the same time, the flexibility of working from home has also allowed some to visit their home country while still working with the firm based in Singapore.
Work Pass holders in Singapore often do not have as much family support as compared to locals in Singapore. This is especially true for Work Permit and S Pass holders as these Work Pass holders are even less likely to be able to bring their family to Singapore (the Work Pass holder needs to earn a monthly income of no less than SGD 6000 to apply for Dependant’s Pass in Singapore). Therefore, this sudden cut from physical social interactions between colleagues and friends can result in the feeling of isolation. This feeling of isolation will severely affect the mental health of a person as when in need to help, one will not know where to seek help and support. A survey conducted by Straits Times last year found that mental health among people have significantly reduced, with 76% stating that they feel discouraged and 65% feeling alone. The lack of small talk during work due to the nature of online meetings and work further worsens this problem. As unresolved problems, stress and pressure build up, mental health will deteriorate, affecting the ability to work and live life normally. Therefore having a strong network of friends in Singapore to support each other is crucial to maintaining a better headspace in these challenging times.
Besides isolation and mental well-being, working from home has also caused many to doubt their ability to keep their job. In this time of uncertainty, many working from home have also expressed their fear of losing their jobs. The percentage is likely higher among Work Pass holders as companies are often incentivised to prioritise locals first before foreigners due to laws and policies. Therefore, this fear of losing their job which immediately affects their ability to continue residing in Singapore can also have a mental toll on foreign Work Pass especially those who lack support from employers and colleagues. Therefore, it is also essential for foreign Work Pass holders working from home to have constant positive communication with employers and colleagues to maintain a healthy mindset and confidence.
However, there are still benefits to working from home as a foreign Work Pass holder. Companies that allow employees to work completely from home for extended periods of time, may also allow employees to work overseas remotely. This flexibility has allowed some foreign Work Pass holders to return to their home country while still working. While not all companies allow for such arrangements due to various considerations, those that do have attracted many workers, foreign workers keen on leveraging on this flexibility. For instance, Mr Jamin McKee, an Employment Pass holder, decided to switch jobs when his previous company did not allow him to work from his home country, New Zealand, where he would like to spend time with his sick father. Mr Jamin McKee, is not alone in trying to leverage on the flexibility online work has brought. Therefore, working from home for some companies have created flexibility greater than ever before for foreign Work Pass holders in Singapore.
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