Digital transformation is not only about technology, it is about bringing together the power of technology with a culture that embraces the change and demands placed on the organizations by its customers. It enables the organization to continually transform and innovate to simultaneously drive and respond to the shifting demands of the market. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, a new wave of smart technologies is changing how we approach everyday activities from finance to transportation to healthcare to purchasing goods and communicating to name a few. Companies face a myriad of complexities in various stages of change and an increasing pressure towards sustainability of every facet of their operations. Simply put, smart living is the future.

In this session at the 2020 Singapore Fintech Festival, the Asia Pacific Employment & Compensation Group provided an overview of its approach to dealing with digital transformation, focusing the discussion on modern workforce — including identifying the risks and challenges in establishing a virtual and flexible workforce and providing guidance as to how these challenges can be met. In particular, the team draws out from the recent experiences of employers in conducting business with their workforce in isolation.

The session introduced the Firm’s SMART Framework covering five pillars: (1) Smart Technology, (2) Modern Workforce, (3) Aggregated Data, (4) Regulators and Regulations and; (5) Transactions. The discussion focused on the Modern Workforce – ensuring flexibility in work arrangements, building a virtual workforce, and preparing employers for existing and future challenges. Some of the topline findings from the session are:

  • Companies are either embracing or are compelled to adopt remote working practices for certain sections of their workforce. Clients are starting to reimagine their working practices, human resources, and talent management activities.
  • There are a number of key considerations: (1) Whether a remote working option will be offered to all employees or just to certain employees. In making this decision, employers should employ an objective criteria that does not discriminate on unlawful grounds, and standards should be applied consistently. (2) Employers should consider if the arrangement is temporary or permanent. (3) Employers should enforce limitations on where work can be performed.
  • Employees should also properly document arrangements and discussions in a written agreement. Employers should also train managers on how to manage employees working remotely.
  • It is important to stay connected with remote workers so communication is certainly key to maintaining professional internal relationships. It is important to provide structures and boundaries in the working arrangement. Trainings are also encouraged in order to provide managers and employees the necessary skills and support system to help them in their work. Remote working requires trust and dependable infrastructure.

Companies should focus on encouraging a professional, safe, and conducive working environment while also protecting the company from legal and regulatory issues. Ensuring that both the employers and the employees are protected would require investment, but these are necessary in the long-run. Implementing the necessary checks and monitoring processes within the enterprise would guarantee that companies are able to manage the current challenges of the pandemic and prepare for the future.

Stephanie Magnus

Stephanie Magnus is the head of Baker McKenzie's Financial Services & Regulatory practice in Singapore. She has significant experience in compliance, and she focuses on regulatory issues, particularly in the financial services, insurance and commodities sectors.


Celeste Ang's practice encompasses corporate dispute resolution, compliance and investigations. She has significant experience acting for global clients in cross-border disputes and advising clients on compliance and regulatory issues in the context of cross-border investigations. She also has a specialist focus on a wide range of employment and employment-related issues, specialising on contentious or potentially contentious issues including termination of employment, dismissal, retrenchment, breach of fiduciary duties and enforcement of restrictive covenants and confidentiality obligations. Celeste has represented employers on employment and employment-related disputes in the Singapore courts as well as in arbitrations and mediations.


Michael Michalandos has more than 15 years' experience as an employment law and industrial relations lawyer, acting for clients in a range of industries, including banking and finance, insurance, health and pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, real estate, media and entertainment, information technology and professional services. He has developed and published compliance programs and best practice policies locally and within Asia Pacific. He is the author and a developer of CCH’s Employment Contracts Manager, a software package that builds and tailors smart employment contracts. He has also authored a large number of chapters in every edition of CCH’s Australian Master Human Resources Guide.


Sonia Wong is a Special Counsel in the Employment team in Baker McKenzie Hong Kong. She is known for her knowledge of employment and labour related laws. She has advised numerous clients across multiple industries such as consumer goods & retail, information technology, pharmaceutical, insurance, and banking and finance, on various employment issues.