WFH vs WFO: 5 Singapore Agencies Share Which Camp They’re In And Why

Jessica Lai Thought Leadership

Work from home (WFH) or work from office? The battle rages further, especially as the pandemic cloud has lifted somewhat, and folks are returning to once vacant offices in droves. 

But while some are firmly in the return-to-office camp (Elon Musk, we’re looking at you), others believe that WFH is a road of no return and has changed the working landscape forever. We speak to a few leading creative agencies in Singapore to find out just where employees these days at working at.

Guan Hin Tay, Creative Chairman of BBDO says…

We believe in a flexible workplace arrangement. The future workplace needs a hybrid model that allows us to create a better work ecosystem. We return to the office for a minimum of two times per week. Personal interaction is critical to building team bonding and culture. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction to build stronger relationships. 

However, it is sometimes tough to plan meetings when we don’t factor in travel time. We need to travel from meetings after meetings when we meet in person. In virtual, the meetings come to us with the click of a button. 

There are certain advantages and disadvantages of in-person vs virtual meetings. It’s about keeping the balance alive by understanding the needs of our clients and the efficiency of our output without sacrificing our company culture.

Joshua Lee, Managing Director of DDB Group Singapore says…

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to WFH vs WFO. The truth is the pandemic has changed our working model indefinitely.

At DDB Group, we encourage a 3-day work week with 2 days working from home. It’s not just about striking a balance for the moment, but that of integrating that flexibility into “the new normal”. 

Our return-to-office plan is is guided by this fluid approach, which is supported by our IT infrastructure and collaborative tools. We also allow flexible work arrangements for staff that require more time at home, for example, new parents, or staff who have special needs dependents. 

The pandemic has taught us how to adapt to change without compromising work quality. And our teams have maintained high creative standards no matter where they work (not to mention in other DDB offices all across the world). But, we also know the importance of staying connected and tapping into the company culture, as in-person interactions and teamwork at the office are invaluable.

In fact, we are currently renovating one of our office floors to accommodate and optimise this working model. This is to ensure time spent at the office is productive and conducive to a thriving company culture.

Terence Teo, Co-founder of Meet Isaac says…

Meet Isaac is practising a hybrid model – we work in the office on certain days, and work from home on others. Management doesn’t dictate when the teams have to be back in the office – they are trusted with working out a schedule that works best for them. After all, we are all mature adults who don’t need any micromanaging!

There’s an unspoken consensus that employees will have to be in office for things like production shoots, important meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Last year, while many companies were WFH, we also took the opportunity to move into a new working space – my Creative Director called the new space Kampong 5.1! The initial plan was for it to be a hotdesking set-up but everyone was so excited that they started to “chope” their own seats and even personalised them in advance.

WFH vs WFOA new office created in the midst of the pandemic. Image credit: Meet Isaac

Many of our team members started returning to office more often as it was a conducive environment. It’s great we can all catch up over lunch and mini parties, yet there’s still breathing space on WFH days. Facetime is important but it’s good to strike a balance in this post-pandemic era. Gen Zs love their personal space and it’s something we should respect.

As for myself, I am quite an office person so I enjoy going to the office every day, except on occasional Fridays when I set aside some time to plan ahead for the upcoming week.

Dawn Teo, Talent Engagement Lead of Havas Group Singapore says…

We are currently on a hybrid working model, where we come in an average of 3 days a week. With this, comes a lot of trust and effort (from all parties) to pivot and adapt, but we’ve already seen the merits – social interactions are coming back to life, new joiners are assimilating more easily, and we have maintained the same strong momentum with business results through the transitions.

Havas Group SG hybrid wfo

Moving back to office meetings. Image credit: Havas Group Singapore

Permanently moving into a hybrid model is a big step in normalising work-life harmony for the agency. It also helps retain the flexibility and agility of the team to adapt to different working modes, making for a more efficient workforce. In the last two years, we’ve seen that our folks have adapted well and continued to thrive even when working remotely. 

We never know what the future of work is going to look like – lockdowns may one day return, and work-travel lifestyles may become a norm. Maintaining the hybrid model helps break the mould of traditional workplace expectations, and hopefully cater to a more fulfilled talent pool, knowing that they will be supported, regardless.

Evangeline Leong, CEO and co-founder of Kobe says…

Even though most agencies are resuming WFO right now, Kobe continues to adopt a flexible schedule. Currently, we’re on a hybrid arrangement. Most of us will be back in the office on Mondays and Fridays, and WFH the other days.

The Covid pandemic has taught us to be flexible and vigilant in the way we manage our human resources and time. The traditional 9-5 with a two-way commute, totalling up to about an hour and a half or two for some, is no longer the norm. 

With a hybrid model, employees can work in an environment that best suits their work needs. Office time allows face-to-face communication and collaboration, which is conducive to team-building activities such as lunch, birthday celebrations and the like – great for our tight-knit friendly culture! Yet, the introverts among us can still enjoy personal space on WFH days.

WFH vs WFOSaid birthday celebrations.

If we activate a physical meeting during non-WFO days, everyone will be cool with it. I am honored to lead this amazing team. My philosophy in human capital is:

1) Attitude over aptitude. Good people can learn skills, but poor attitude even with qualifications can do nothing.

2) Innocent until proven guilty. Typically, in a company, many rules are set and autonomy is usually not granted to employees till capability is proven – a.k.a. guilty unless proven innocent. However, we believe the opposite – we grant employees autonomy right from kickoff and give people space to reciprocate that trust.

After all, culture eats strategy for breakfast.

Work from home (WFH) or work from office for you?

Most of the agencies here seem to be adopting the hybrid model, with WFH days sprinkled with a dash of in-office work. But it’s still early days navigating this post-pandemic fog, and only time will tell if such hybrid arrangements will stay, or revert back to the ol’ 9-5 in office. 

As for us at TheSmartLocal, we are happy with our hybrid working arrangement as it gives us the best of both worlds – camaraderie with our colleagues, coupled with the flexibility and time saved from not having to commute as much. 

What about you? What is your company’s working arrangement today? 

What other career or thought leadership topics you’d like us to discuss? Else, feel as if you have an opinion you’re dying to express, or think writing is your next big move? Feel free to drop us an email at [email protected]


Cover is for illustration only.

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