More than WFH: Staggered hours keep home-grown bakery chain staff happy and productive

Since joining local confectionery chain Polar Puffs & Cakes last year, Ms Patsy Xie has grown closer to her teenage son Jared.

This is thanks to a company policy that lets her pick from one of five start-and-end times. Ms Xie, 39, opted to report at 7.30am so she can send her 14-year-old to school, and clocks off at 5pm to pick him up and prepare dinner.

This was not possible at her previous job, says the customer service executive. But now, she enjoys bonding with her son on car rides, and benefits from a quieter office environment to handle tasks in the morning, when she is at her most efficient.

“It helps provide work-life harmony,” Ms Xie says of Polar’s flexible work arrangements, which include the option to work from home two days a month. “My productivity has improved, and I have more time for my family.”

Staggered working hours have been adopted by many companies in Singapore since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. But at Polar, employees have been enjoying this perk for nearly a decade.

“Our head office is in Woodlands, which is very far from the homes of many staff,” says Polar chief executive officer (CEO) Francis Looi. 

Around seven in 10 of his 330 employees are women, and over the years, he has observed that many of them are their families’ main caregivers, having to take care of elderly parents and children. There are also times when some employees wake up feeling unwell and need “a couple of hours to get themselves oriented”.

“So I said to them: ‘Don’t worry, come in late, and you can pay back the time later,’” he says. “We formalised the policy in 2013 after realising that staff appreciated it, as it allows them to be less stressed about rushing to work.” 

Today, staggered working hours have enabled Polar to extend its office hours from 7.30am to 7pm, compared with the previous 8.30am to 6pm. 

According to survey data compiled by research firm Statista in partnership with The Straits Times, Polar is ranked among Singapore’s top 20 firms in 2022 in terms of working conditions.