As more Singaporeans are allowed to resume work at their workplaces, companies are taking precautions to safeguard employees from exposure to the virus both within and outside the workplace.
Commuting remains one of the biggest risks for employees who have to return to work physically. To protect employees from contact with crowds on public transport, some companies have started arranging for private transport. Other firms such as Citi and Prudential are providing reimbursements for employees' transport expenses and parking fees. 
With the increasing number of people returning to work at their workplaces in Phases 2 and 3, what transport options do employees have to make their commutes, and which is the safest for them? How can we do more to reduce contact and ensure safety for our employees?
Here is a breakdown of the main transport options commuters have, and the relevant information required to assess each of them.
Public transport is the staple option for most commuters, and ridership is expected to increase along as more people go back to work. To cope with the demand, the frequency of trains and buses are maintained to avoid overcrowding, though operating hours may be reduced with the last train timings brought forward to lower cost in the future.  However, the safe distancing stickers on board have been removed. Instead of safe distancing, the guidance now is to practice safe management by making mask-wearing compulsory and urging commuters to refrain from talking and maintain good personal hygiene. 
How public transport operators are mitigating transmissions 
Concerns regarding public transport
At the start of June, about a third of the workforce is allowed to return to work, and safe distancing on board has already been deemed almost impossible.  Due to Singapore's high population density, despite our best efforts, public transport will likely remain an uncontrollable point of transmission. Furthermore, the scanning of SafeEntry to help with contact tracing is not mandatory at places like MRT stations. 
Public transport operators are still trying to find the balance for sustainable provision of service. In April, when only the essential services workers were commuting, a reduction to train frequencies as a response to the fall in demand quickly resulted in overcrowded trains.  Transport operators are incurring huge losses due to running full services with low ridership. According to Associate Professor Theseira, who leads the master of urban transport programme at the Singapore University of Social Science, these transport costs could potentially be borne by companies that benefit the most from public transport connectivity, through a selective tax on the companies located near train stations. 
Since April, private-hire car (PHC) drivers can no longer make private arrangements to offer rides outside the ride-hailing applications. 
The ridesharing services on platforms such as Grab have been terminated since the start of the circuit breaker. Although, making a booking through these apps helps with contact tracing. 
Taxi passengers are encouraged to log in and out of cabs by scanning the SafeEntry QR code. Taxi drivers have the power to refuse to accept the trip if passengers do not scan the code. However, the feedback from drivers and passengers is that it is very difficult to enforce the scanning of the QR codes. 
As of 2 June, employers that provide transportation for employees have to ensure a 25% reduction of the Maximum Passenger Capacity (MPC) for each vehicle. More detailed information can be found here.
What are companies doing now?
As mentioned earlier, some firms are starting to arrange transport for their employees. Companies that are currently providing employee transport have been requesting more buses from their bus operators to comply with the capacity restrictions.
For firms implementing split shifts and teams, typically an HR or transport manager would work with the transport operator to assign the employees to the vehicles and schedule the transport manually based on the employees rotating rosters.
Businesses are encouraged by the government to leverage technology to assist in the implementation of safe management measures for their employees.
How can you leverage technology?
SG Tech and IMDA have curated a list of technology solutions for businesses to cope with COVID-19. Specifically for safe employee transportation, SWAT Mobility’s SWATBiz Staff Transport is a technology solution that allows companies to enforce safe distancing, enable contact tracing on their employee transport and digitally manage transport for split teams.
SWATBiz Staff Transport is a demand-responsive commuter transport for employees. Employees book their rides onto the company transport using a mobile app. SWAT’s technology generates efficient routes to give pick-up and drop-off locations that are close to employees’ houses, based on the ride bookings.
The algorithm takes into account the Maximum Vehicle Capacity of all your vehicles and very quickly calculates the most optimal combination of vehicles to fulfil the demand that also satisfies the constraints from the mandated safety measures. It minimises the number of required vehicles while maximising the occupancy rate of each vehicle.
SWAT’s system automatically assigns the vehicles to drivers and allocates seats to commuters based on safe distancing measures.
Contact tracing is enabled through ride bookings that are automatically tracked and recorded.
The transport service timings are pegged to your company’s shift timings. After the end of a shift, staff ending at the same time and living in the same areas are pooled together in one vehicle. SWAT’s system generates dynamic (non-fixed) routes that are customised to whoever booked rides for a particular shift timing.
Firms have a huge role to play in ensuring the safety of their employees going to work.
For companies that have been providing transport for employees, the cost of upgrading the current transport to a digital solution could potentially outweigh the penalties if an employee’s safety is compromised. Technology solutions can make your transport more cost-effective as you can save costs when your resources are more optimised, and you get additional benefits such as safety and convenience offered to your employees.
Firms that are not currently providing transport can consider doing so if grants and subsidies are applicable, and to remove the possibility of being taxed to cover public transport costs in the future. It may be less costly in the long run than reimbursing employees' transport expenses and parking fees.
Ultimately, it is in everybody’s best interest to safeguard the working population.
Find out more about how SWAT Mobility’s technology can help you with providing safe transport for your employees.