Top 3 Toughest Aspects of Payroll in Singapore

Assuming Payroll

Often times, companies generate payroll and pay out an entire month’s wages to an employee before the month has ended. We call this assuming payroll. This is how it works: If payroll is generated an the 25th and paid out on the 27th, the manager pays the full month’s wages, up till the 31st, assuming that the employee will make it to work on the last few days. If he doesn’t, the manager Optimizing Work Productivity with Happinessneeds to deduct his wage in the next month

Assuming payroll is an inefficient and inaccurate way of paying employees. We’ve come across many business owners who do it in Singapore. Most of the time, it’s because they have been doing it for years and have never thought about changing the rule. We help our clients transition from assuming payroll to regular payroll which saves clients money and time. Here is a blog post on exactly how to transition from assuming to regular payroll.

Irregular Clock-in Timings

When an employee clocks in at 8.57am instead of 9.00am, the biometric device records it to the exact minute. Your HR manager needs to manually correct the irregularity because coming in 3 minutes early does not mean that the employee will get paid for those extra three minutes.

The PayrollHero app has a threshold feature that solves this problem. An HR manager can set a threshold: if an employee clocks in between 8.55am and 9.05am, their clock-in time resets to 9.00am, automatically correcting the irregularity that your HR manager would have had to deal with otherwise.

Disparate Systems for Time, Attendance, Scheduling and Payroll

payrollhero-benefits-featuresBusiness owners have multiple systems that deal with different HR problems; a biometric device to measure clock ins, a separate Excel sheet that imports data from the biometric device and generates payroll, another Excel sheet that needs to be updated every week with schedules for each employee and a whole other system that employees use to apply for leave. With so many systems to deal with, no wonder an HR manager barely has any time to engage with employees or find innovative ways to overcome Singapore’s labor crunch.

An end-to-end solution that removes any need for multiple devices is exactly what an HR manager needs. PayrollHero allows employees to click selfies on their phone or an iPad in the work site when they clock in. This data is stored in the Cloud and used when payroll is generate by the system. The same app is used when applying for leave or checking schedules for the week. An HR manager can use the app on his laptop, phone or any device with internet connection anywhere in the world and have full control over what is going on at his work site.

While these problems are seen as some of HR managers’ biggest in Singapore, they are faced by managers in the Philippines and pretty much any other place too. Some of the other problems HR managers need to deal with are changing tax laws, a labor crunch and laws against foreign workers in the country.

We hope that this post serves as a solution to some of your biggest HR problems. Do let us know your biggest HR problem and how you are currently dealing with it.


The New Employee PayrollHero Happiness Report

Optimizing Work Productivity with HappinessWe recently announced that PayrollHero can generate employee happiness reports for our clients. What does that really mean?

PayrollHero takes in data in the form of selfies that employees have clicked on the app. The selfies are used to evaluate employee happiness by looking for certain metrics and correlating them to other selfies. For example, smiling for photos results in a different set of facial expressions than a serious face.

We know what you’re thinking. What if an employee smiles but isn’t really happy. Faking a smile is not hard and the metrics used to evaluate a real smile are the same as those used to evaluate a fake one. An employee could easily fool the app into thinking that the employee is happy when she really isn’t. Well, faking a smile has its own merits.

A Harvard study showed that a smile – whether fake or real – can be uplifting for one’s emotional well being. Granted, a momentary smile for a selfie certainly does not equate to happiness in life because a smile can be fake; but the act of smiling itself is a positive way to cope with sadness. Our preconceived notion that happiness causes us to smile is not always true. In fact, the reverse of that can work as well. A fake smile may be a better path towards happiness than others. It signals a willingness to stay positive in difficult times instead of suppressing ill feelings.

How does this relate to happiness reports? Well, from a high level, the happiness reports suggest a correlation between smiling and happiness and therefore suggest which employee or work site is the happiest. But with deeper inspection, the reports find a correlation between smiling and employees’ positive attitude. As a manager, you should consider the happiness report as a way of measuring positive sentiments in your workforce.

Finally, PayrollHero can use this data against employee records to find a trend in employee behavior. We can provide insight into whether happier employees are generally more punctual; whether unhappy employees experience a longer commute to work everyday; whether the happiest worksite equals highest earnings. This information is unique to PayrollHero’s data. Companies can leverage on it to make more informed decisions on what it takes to improve their bottom line.

Want to learn more? Contact us to chat further.


What Does It Take To Make Remote Work Work?


As a business owner, you are bound to look towards expanding your business at some point. In which case, you will have multiple offices at different locations. While you are in one worksite, you will want to stay in touch with employees in your other store locations. Staying connected is essential when your employees are spread out over the map. It’s even more important if your employees work remotely and do not often physically meet you or other employees on a regular basis.


At PayrollHero, we use a number of apps to facilitate remote work. These apps tie our employees together. We use the apps for face-to face interactions and for quick chats instead of spamming employees’ inboxes. The following apps might be useful for your company too:

SlackThis is the center of all our communication through different departments and offices. Slack allows you to create chat rooms and invite people to them. We use this feature to separate different functions of the team: engineering, business development, etc. Slack is also our metaphorical grapevine. We have chat rooms for random news, general musings and articles or books that anyone wants to share with the team. Slack also allows for private chats, thereby removing the need for emails to coordinate work. Slack is flexible in the sense that it has a number of integrations: Twitter, Mailchimp,, Skype, Google HangoutsTeams can’t function without face-to-face meetings. Bosses benefit from meeting their employees face-to-face in order to gauge their emotional state and general well-being. The app features and video quality differ but essentially they help you conduct online meetings.

Asana, TrelloTo ensure that all tasks are tracked and accountable to the relevant employees, we use Asana. These apps are built to suit remote work. Asana allows you to assign tasks in a checklist format whereas Trello breaks down work in the form of projects in which tasks are outlined using cards. Both apps can be accessed online. So you or your employee can work from anywhere in the world and still stay on top of things.

Google Drive, Dropbox for BusinessKeeping track of all the documents and sheets created by multiple departments across different worksites is essential. These apps are tailored towards businesses’ storage needs. With a subscription fee, you have access to unlimited storage, data analytics (for Google) and more. Both apps allow you to track who is editing files and what kind of access you want your employees to have for each file or folder.

It’s More Than Just Apps

Making remote work successful is more than having a suite of apps at your disposal. It requires a shift in the way you and your employees think about work. It requires trust in your employees to work even if you’re not monitoring them at the office. We have inculcated some practices that help maintain discipline and structure even when employees work at different locations across the work. Here are some that have helped us:

Morning catch ups: Every morning, at a time suitable to your employees in their respective time zones, each employee summarizes their work in 60 seconds. The format is: what they accomplished yesterday, what they couldn’t complete, what they will do today and roadblocks to completing their work. From the head of the team down to the entry-level employee must be able to summarize their work in under a minute. The meeting is helpful in understanding where the team is going and what can be done to remove roadblocks.

Handbooks: For new employees, or employees that have changed departments, it is hard to catch up to how things are done when the entire department works remotely. Writing down the steps to each task in a handbook and storing it in Google Drive/Dropbox cuts down on confusion and time wasted in connecting with the employee who knows how to do the required task. Handbooks remove any misunderstandings or errors. It is a fool-proof way of ensuring that the business continues in case someone is not available to lend a helping hand.

Slack-logoUsing Slack to integrate the team: While Slack can be used to create chat rooms and do work, it is often a great tool to include everyone on the team and talk about common interests. Our chat-rooms like #random and #general are great spaces for employees to share ideas and talk about things outside of work. It is a place to plan outings over the weekend or share movie reviews. These conversations pull the team together and allow for cross-departmental interaction; something that could be missing while everyone is focusing on work.

Finally, making remote work possible is about using apps to their maximum capacity and reviewing if they work or not. Managers need to be more mindful of their employees. Employees in turn need to make a conscious effort to stay on top of their work because remote work often results in the blurring of personal and professional life. Altogether, making remote work work is hugely beneficial to employees. All it takes is a little tweaking of the way things are usually done.

The End of a Legendary Internship

My ten-week internship with PayrollHero reached its end last week. As a fitting closure to my first post on hiring interns in Singapore, I thought it would be a good idea to write about my experience here. I’ve had an amazing summer at PayrollHero and learned more than I thought I would. Ten weeks flew by and it took a few days to organize my thoughts. Here is what I learned from my internship at a startup in Singapore.

PayrollHero Pragya Last DayLesson 1: Learning is built in to PayrollHero’s DNA

The company doesn’t just declare its “Ridiculously Client Focused” psyche on the website, it lives and breathes the idea. To achieve that end, everyone is always learning new things through whichever means that they can. But it doesn’t end at just learning something by yourself, it’s all about sharing it with everyone else. When I joined the communication channel, Slack, the most interesting channel to me was the reading-list. A mandatory channel for all members, the reading-list includes articles that are relevant to the team from all kinds of sources. Anyone can share something that they have read, and anyone can comment on it.

One of the first things I did at PayrollHero was to broaden my reading base. As an economics student, the obvious reading material I blindly follow are opinion blogs by economists, or economics journals, and of course, the newspaper. But within two weeks, I had apps on my phone that gave me news about startups, tech blogs and more. It was awesome to see that everyone was invested in improving themselves and the team. It was also interesting to see what everyone was reading. Rarely does a college kid get the chance to find out what seasoned entrepreneurs are reading. And here I was, discussing the very articles with the founders of PayrollHero.

Lesson 2: You’re an intern, and you’re still taken seriously

Trust me, this one was huge. While I was interning at PayrollHero, I had friends interning at big accounting firms, consultancies and banks. I would often hear stories about their internships where all they did was photocopy documents for their bosses. This was not the case across the board, but I heard it often enough to realize that my internship was unique.

During the ten weeks, I never once had the impression that I was just an intern slaving away at something inconsequential. If it ever seemed like I was not doing enough, I could speak up about it and get more work to do. The great thing about working in a small place is that there is always something to do and the little that you contribute has a visible impact on the company. Furthermore, Steve ensured that the communication lines were open and that an intern in the Business Development team was equally important (and accountable) as any other member on the BD team. The feeling of being a relevant member of a team is definitely something that I will take with me from this internship.

Lesson 3: Diversity

When I read about PayrollHero before sending in my resume, I loved the idea of Adventure Engineering and knew that PayrollHero was based in the Philippines, Singapore and Canada. To me, that seemed to reflect diversity well enough until I met the team. If you hang out with the Singapore team, you will find yourself in a room with around 10 people representing at least 7 different nations. That is incredible and speaks volumes to the success of PayrollHero’s drive to attract talent, no matter where it comes from.

There are many studies that show how diversity improves results in a company. Diversity was a crucial aspect in my experience. Despite being an international student studying in a foreign country, I had never seen so many nationalities from across the world working together before I showed up at PayrollHero. Imagine this, a Canadian, Ukrainian, Polish, Indian and Filipino sitting in a hawker center, eating a plate of prata and talking about the latest episode of Game of Thrones. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s just another regular day at PayrollHero. You can’t help but appreciate how easily PayrollHero has embodied the concept of diversity in a company.

Lesson 4: Hanging out with the team over beers

If I look back over the ten weeks I was at PayrollHero, some of the most memorable interactions with the team was not during work, but outside it, when everyone hung out with some beers after a long day of work. I learned the most about the people who make up PayrollHero during this time. Whether it was about their professional lives or just a casual conversation about what everyone’s “ah-ha!” moment was during the DDD workshop, these interactions helped me understand people in a world I had little or no idea about.

I think this is especially invaluable to interns because a large part of interning is to try and figure out what to do with our lives professionally. While colleges make an effort to conduct networking sessions with professionals from every field, it does not come anywhere close to actually spending time with the same people day in and day out.

Finally, all these elements together made for an internship that immensely broadened my perspective. When I first walked into PayrollHero, I wondered if an unstructured internship would teach me anything new or if the work would be rewarding. But the truth is, the very fact that it was an unstructured program made me want to push myself to do new things and be open to ideas that I wasn’t exposed to before. At the end of it, I came away having met inspiring people from all over the world, learning about the startup culture and learning more about myself through it all. I hope the little work I did at PayrollHero was useful to the company. I also greatly appreciate the time invested by Steve and Mike and everyone else to make my internship worth it. At the risk of sounding super cheesy right now: good luck, PayrollHero, and may the force be with you!

Editors Note: Thanks Pragya!! While Pragya is off on her next adventure you will still see her posting on the PayrollHero blog a few times a month.  

Creative Destruction in the F&B Industry

Creative Destruction in the F&B IndustryCreative destruction, a term coined by the economist Joseph Schumpeter in 1942, is the concept of “incessant product and process innovation mechanism by which new production units replace outdated ones.” Schumpeter says that disruption is an important part of capitalism because it increases productivity.

As the term suggests, creative destruction isn’t a particularly comfortable concept, especially for those who are on the wrong side of it. The invention of the steam engine led to the creative destruction of travel by horses. The invention of automobiles led to the creative destruction of travel by steam engines. It’s an inevitable result of innovation which can make complete industries obsolete, and take thousands of jobs along with it. The positive outcome is that it creates new industries and redefines jobs within them.

So where is all of this going? McDonald’s recently announced its plan to install self ordering kiosks, thereby reducing manpower in their outlets. It’s not the only company to make a move towards automation. Chili’s Grill and Bar has made a move towards self ordering tablets. Restaurants in the US find automation a way to improve productivity.

There already exists a machine that creates 360 gourmet hamburgers in an hour. The entire machine could replace any human making burgers in the kitchen. According to this report, McDonald’s could fund the development of a burger making machine and see a one year return on investment. There are many reasons why companies are moving towards automating their processes.

In the United States, a big reason for this is the growing cost of labour. Currently, the minimum wage in the US is $7.25 per hour. For a few years now, workers in the F&B industry have protested that this number is far too low for it to be sustainable. They say that the reasonable wage floor should be at $15 per hour. LA recently passed legislation for $15 per hour.

The result of this is that fast food franchises are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the labour costs. The alternative is to automate. Mundane and repetitive tasks can be done by smart machines. Jobs where human interaction is required, like serving food, can be taken up by people. Another reason why automation makes sense is that it’s more efficient and faster. Queues are shorter, human errors are less common, if not completely erased.

You can see parallels in the F&B industry between the US and countries like Japan and Singapore. On the one hand, labour costs are increasing in the US, forcing companies to automate. On the other hand, Japan and Singapore are facing a labour crunch often due to unwillingness of the countries’ citizens to participate in this industry, leading these countries to automate as well. The story is the same, where labour as a factor of production is being replaced by machines that can do the same work and produce better results. And this is where creative destruction fits in.

What does this mean for the F&B industry? Restaurant technology will develop and will facilitate automation. The hamburger machine by Momentum Machines, Inc is just the beginning in the back-end of a restaurant. POS systems, self ordering kiosks, cloud based scheduling applications and online reservation websites are taking over the work of regular staff in a restaurant. An entire ecosystem of automation surrounding retail and F&B already exists but what will trigger the momentum of creative destruction is the lack of a sustainable solution to the problem of increasing costs: in this case, the cost of labour.

SME Business Conference: 19th and 20th of August

Singapore Chinese Chamber of CommerceThe Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry is organizing a 3 day bilingual SME Business Conference on the 19th and 20th of August in the Exhibition Halls of Suntec Singapore. The event is co-organized by iDA Singapore and Lianhe Zaobao. The theme of the event is “Think Creatively, Act Innovatively”.

The SME community in Singapore gathers every year to share ideas about how to boost productivity, cut down costs and more. This year, the conference caters towards transforming businesses in Singapore through innovations in productivity.

With that theme in mind, the event will feature speakers from all facets of the business world, from startups to large corporations. They will speak about why businesses need to be agile in order to keep up with ever-changing global trends. One of the interesting sessions is on integrating technology like cloud computing, business analytics, social media and customer relationship management so that small businesses can scale smartly.

Singapore SME Conference AugustNow here is the awesome part. In an event like this, you can’t expect PayrollHero to be left behind, can you? Steve Jagger from PayrollHero will be speaking in a forum on “Innovation and Value Creation from Buzzwords to Actions for Business”. Steve will be joined by a panel comprising Dr Christopher Holmes, managing director of IDC Insights Asia Pacific, Ms Jenny Jang, manager of Jiransoft, Mr Law Chee Keong, director of Asia Pacific Partner Sales in Apigee. The discussion will focus on how Singapore businesses can transform their business plan into a reality by adopting technology.

The forum will be between 2.15pm to 5pm. in Hall 404. Mr Stephen Lim, CEO of SQL View will be moderating the discussion. Mr. Lim has a wealth of experience behind him: he is a member of the board of SPRING Singapore and NTUC Fairprice. He has 25 years of experience in the IT industry and is the perfect person to host this forum.

We’re excited about the event and hope to see many business personalities participating and networking over the two days of the programme. It will be interesting to see academics, notable members of the government and business people discuss the way forward for small and medium enterprises in Singapore. We look forward to the event and wish the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry good luck for hosting the conference!

How to Deal with the Labour Crunch in Singapore


As you know, the F&B sector in Singapore has been facing a labour crunch for years now. Currently, for every foreign worker, the F&B sector needs to hire 6 local workers which is an impossible ratio for companies to handle. To attract more local workers, restaurants have had to raise costs without any increase in quality of service. Restaurants that were unable to do this resorted to leaving tables empty.

The Restaurant Association of Singapore proposed some solutions, including relaxing the foreign workers’ levy. While this measure is up to the government’s discretion, there are ways that restaurants can cope with the labour crunch.

Increasing Productivity through Technology

There are many front-end and back-end processes that can be streamlined by automating. In terms of adopting new technology, the restaurant industry has traditionally lagged behind the rest. However, the need to automate is clearer now than ever before. There are many examples in Singapore where restaurants have installed POS systems, set up digital menus or moved the practice of making reservations online.

Sakae Sushi in Singapore is a great example of automated processes. They have a conveyor belt that serves sushi. The belt is an island that is surrounded by tables so that customers can pick whichever dish they like. The restaurant also has iPads on every table to allow customers to order using the menu on the iPad.

McDonald’s Singapore is just catching up to the reality of increasing costs. Four out of approximately 120 outlets in Singapore have kiosks from which customers can order. 20% of their customers use kiosks. The systems reduce manpower required to take orders. It also makes the ordering process fool-proof, thereby saving time and money by preventing errors due to miscommunication between the customer and employee. In addition to reducing errors, McDonald’s employees can focus on back-end tasks and speed up service.

Balancing out costs: The result of automating is that there are shorter queues and more customers walking in through the door. The self ordering payment systems that Ananda Bhavan, a restaurant chain in Singapore uses, cost around $40,000. But in the long run, the investment pays off because of more orders and higher revenue.

To see a more tangible improvement in processes, Aptsys – a self-ordering POS system – released statistics on their website on how their product benefits restaurants. By their estimates, ordering speed increased by 70%, repeat orders increased by 30% and human errors decreased by 80%.

Tax credits: The government of Singapore has come up with incentives for companies to adopt newer technology. This includes training the staff with the new technology as well. The Productivity and Innovation Credit Scheme gives companies a 400% tax deductions or 60% cash payout as long as the improvements in technology come under the six qualifying activities.

Singaporean restaurants are increasingly seeing a fall in revenue because of empty tables and increasing labour costs. The only way for the industry to cope with falling margins is to adopt technology that can reduce manpower. We have previously suggested ways to upgrade and adopt new technology in areas of reservations, POS systems and food delivery. Over the next few years, it remains to be seen whether foreign worker quotas will be relaxed in order to release the pressure that these industries are under. Currently, the way to move forward is by using the tax credits that the government is offering to upgrade restaurant technology.

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New Feature on the PayrollHero App!

We have a new feature on the PayrollHero app!

Our Devs (developers) are constantly working towards improving functionality of the app. To that end, we have a new feature to enhance a human resource manager’s tools. It’s a simple addition to the app that allows the HR manager or payroll administrator to:

  1. check the GPS coordinates of employees who are clocking in.
  2. record which device they are clocking in from

The feature sits in the Employees tab and under the Rollcall Days section. You can see the list of days that the employee has clocked in, their IP address, GPS coordinates linking to Google maps and the device that they used: TeamClock or #MyClock. If there are any issues with clocking in with a particular device, the HR admin can point out what specific device the problem arose from. This information can also be used as Business Intelligence to make decision on staffing and installing the best devices in your outlets.



The feature is already live for all PayrollHero users!

PayrollHero’s First Twitter Contest!

As you know, we have been creating some handy guides for opening restaurants in Singapore and the Philippines. We call them the PayrollHero Knowledge Kits.

Since we’re so excited about them and want to share them with the world, we’re hosting our first ever Twitter contest! From now until July 17th (Hari Raya Puasa), all you need to do, is retweet the link below to as many people as you can on your network.

If you can reach out to the most number of restaurants, businesses or people, we will feature you on our own blog! 

Why is this a good idea for you? Well, we have been featuring famous actors and basketball players on our blog: celebrities like Rocco Nacino, Shawn Weinstein and Sean Anthony have shared their favorite restaurants with us. How awesome would it be to get in on the action! You know you’re thinking to yourself, “this would be a great PR opportunity…”

Make sure you’re following @PayrollHero so you’re in the loop because in the coming weeks, we will be coming up with some great opportunities like this for you.

So what are you waiting for? Get tweeting! Your 15 minutes of PayrollHero fame awaits.

Below, you can see an example of a Twitter post that retweets the Knowledge Kits:


Food Hygiene Regulations in Singapore


In Singapore, food hygiene is monitored by the National Environment Agency (NEA). All food retail businesses must be registered to the NEA and regulated by the organization to prove that any food sold or produced by the food retail businesses is safe for consumption (retail businesses include restaurants, cafes, and more but excludes hawker centres).

Grading System

The NEA grades food service establishments based on personal and food hygiene and housekeeping of the premises. The grade must be displayed somewhere within the premises where it can be visible to the public. This is a method for the NEA to encourage establishments to improve their grade by adopting better practices. The assessment of the premises by the NEA results in the following grades:

  • A – a score of 85% or higher
  • B – a score of 70% to 84%
  • C – a score of 50% to 69%
  • D – a score of 40% to 49%

In order to help food service establishments to improve their cleanliness, the NEA has published the Food Handler’s Handbook and other practices and guiding materials.

Points Demerit System (PDS)

The PDS system is used in order to establish precedence for revoking licenses. Offences are categorized as minor, major and serious. Offences lead to demerit points. If an establishment collects 12 demerit points within 12 months, the establishment can be suspended for 2 to 4 weeks or its license can be revoked based on previous records. However this is a general guideline. The punishment differs for the type of establishment. For example, coffeeshops, food courts and canteens that accumulate 12 points over 12 months will be suspended for three days. Here is a detailed list of offences and the demerit points that they cost.

Food Handlers

The term food handlers refers to any person who is directly involved with food preparation: like the chefs, sous chefs, kitchen assistants, staff that handles beverages. Food handlers need to be registered by the NEA. As the owner of the establishment, you need to register all food handlers by filling up this form and submitting it to the nearest Regional Office. To find your nearest Regional Office, you must call 1800-2255 632 (1800-CALL NEA). In order to qualify as a food handler, a basic food hygiene course must be completed. The Food & Beverage Workforce Skills Qualification (WSQ) takes 6 hours of course work and 1.5 hours of assessment. Upon completion of assessment, the food handles will be given a Statement of Attainment. There are 2 subsequent refresher training sessions after 5 years and 10 years. The details on refresher training are on this page.

Food Safety Management System (FSMS)

The FSMS is used to ensure that manufacture, distribution and storage of food is safe for consumption. Every food service establishment must have an FSMS plan. The components of the plan are the following:

1. FSMS Plan 

a.    Flow diagram: with Critical Control Points identified

b.    Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points: charts for Critical Control Points (CCPs)

2. “WSQ Apply Food Safety Management System for Food Service Establishments Certificate (Statement of Attainment)

For more information on the FSMS and the requirements for your FSMS plan, click here. The link also gives information on different rules for new caterers and caterers that need to renew their license.

Finally, the NEA along with Spring Singapore has created a Singapore Standard for food service establishments so that they can make their FSMS plans by referring to the guideline. The guideline is $42 and can be purchased here. The process of creating the FSMS plan involves a workshop which includes 14 hours of course work and 5 hours of assessment.

That sums up the brief introduction to food hygiene regulations in Singapore. Hope that helps!