SUPPLY chain analyst Ann Yong, 36, used to be stuck in peak-hour traffic during her morning bus rides to work.

But this year, she started waking up at 6.15am, about 45 minutes earlier than usual, to beat the congestion on her one-hour ride from her Tampines home to her Ang Mo Kio office. With the earlier start, her journey takes 15 minutes less.

More people may be joining her, now that an inter-ministerial work group has been set up to encourage companies to introduce flexible work arrangements, including staggered start times, to ease congestion on the public transport system.

Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew announced the new work group in Parliament on Wednesday during the debate on his ministry's budget.

Mr Phillip Overmyer, chief executive of the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, which counts large companies as members, was enthusiastic about the new initiative.

He said: 'If workers are getting angry and frustrated on their way to work, they will probably be angry and frustrated at work. So if avoiding the congestion can make for happier employees, I think companies with the flexibility and structure to do this would look upon this idea very favourably.'

Mr Tham Chenn Munn, director of a mobility consultancy, said it was good the Government was taking the lead in encouraging flexible work hours.

'Even if only 10 to 20 per cent of companies decide to implement new start hours, it would greatly reduce the traffic,' he said.

However, smaller enterprises were more cautious about implementing staggered work hours.

Mr Alvin Yapp, managing director of outdoor-advertisement production firm BusAds, said that although there was no harm in trying staggered hours, 'the bottom line is that employers need to assess if this would benefit their staff'.

He suggested that ministries take the lead and revise their working hours, such as operating from 7am to 7pm, so that companies can then have more time to deal with government agencies.

Mr Kurt Wee, a vice-president at the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said implementing flexible hours was 'easier said than done', adding: 'It's a tough call, especially for F&B and retail businesses as they are sensitive to daylight hours.'

Ms Yong said she does not mind even if she has to wake up earlier than she does now. 'I think this is a good idea to reduce travelling time as employees who start earlier can also leave earlier.'