Let a robot go to the office for you

Let a robot go to the office for you
Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo observing a trial of the Double Robotics interface. Photo: Angela Teng/TODAY
Published: 10:15 PM, November 28, 2016
Updated: 1:27 PM, November 29, 2016

SINGAPORE — Ms Roxanne Lu may be away from her office but she can still move around her workplace, talk to her colleagues and take part in meetings at the business services firm where she works through a robotic interface.

The 30-year-old mother of two works at 3E Accounting, which has tapped on the interface called Double Robotics to create flexibility in the workplace.

“When we first started out with the robot, I was a bit uncertain, but then I realized that it is easy to manoeuvre. When I can’t come in, I can also move around the office with the robot and I feel as if I am here. It is also easier to see and talk to everyone,” said Ms Lu, who is on maternity leave, but gave the interview via the robot.

Mr Lawrence Chai, the managing director of 3E Accounting, bought the robot in April after he learned that an accounting firm in Australia had invested in the technology to improve work-life balance for its employees. Part of the S$7,000 purchase price for the robot and an iPad that came with it was funded under the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) scheme.

“We felt that it is affordable. If the investment is useful, it is worth it. The robot is part of our strategy for a flexible work arrangement for our staff and our approach to constantly keep innovating ourselves,” said Mr Chai, 31.

Investing in flexible work arrangements has paid off well for 3E Accounting, which Mr Chai and his wife set up in 2011 with a family-friendly focus from Day 1. Mr Chai said it has enjoyed high staff retention rates, improvements in productivity, as well as an increase in revenue. Average revenue per head rose to S$135,076 last year from S$92,037 a year earlier, and productivity improved to 46.76 per cent from 41.96 per cent.

It is important to focus on retaining talent as training new staff costs a lot of time and money. “Losing talent incurs costs. It is easier to invest in technology and provide a good work culture to retain the staff,” Mr Chai said.