The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the work landscape as we know it. The traditional Monday-to-Friday, in-person work schedule was replaced by the work-from-home set-up especially at the start of the pandemic.
The WFH set-up has brought about changes, adjustments and challenges to both employers and employees. It has become the norm and is largely facilitated by information and communications technology applications and interventions adopted by businesses.
With all the health protocols as well as the greater vaccine availability, the number of COVID-19 cases in general has declined. This development has allowed the return to IPW arrangements. However, a lot of companies either maintained the full WFH set-up or resorted to a combination of WFH and IPW.
WFH is also called remote work or telecommuting. One source defines it as “a type of flexible working arrangement that allows an employee to work from remote location outside of corporate offices.”
For employees who can complete work offsite, this arrangement can help them ensure work-life balance, access career opportunities and reduce transportation costs. The benefits to the company may include increased employee satisfaction and retention, increased productivity and cost savings in physical resources. Remote work arrangements can be temporary or permanent, part-time or full-time, and occasional or frequent, and requires policies governing equipment use, network security and performance expectations, the same source added.
But a WFH set-up also has its downsides. A particular source mentioned that monitoring performance can be a challenge. A WFH set-up may also decrease teamwork and a sense of community as well as make employees feel increasingly isolated. It may decrease productivity and increase distractions caused by home-based concerns. Notwithstanding the downsides, there have been arguments from sources of more benefits in doing WFH.
In July 2018, the Philippine Congress passed the Republic Act No. 11165, also known as the Telecommuting Act. Section 4 of the Act, entitled Telecommuting Program, states:
An employer in private sector may offer a telecommuting program to its employees on a voluntary bases, and upon such terms and conditions as they may mutually agree upon: Provided, That such terms and conditions shall not be less than the minimum labor standards set by law, and shall include compensable work hours, minimum number of work hours, overtime, rest days and entitlement to leave benefits. In all cases, the employer shall provide the telecommuting employee with relevant written information in order to adequately apprise the individual of the terms and conditions of the telecommuting program, and the responsibilities of employee.
It was not foreknowledge of the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns that caused Congress to pass the Act. Rather, the Act was meant to encourage employers to: 1) let employees work from home to reduce congestion in metropolitan areas; and 2) use emerging ICT to facilitate the WFH set-up. Nevertheless, the Act provides the legal basis for business and industry to adopt WFH even after the pandemic and lockdown environment.
Because of the lowered alert levels nationwide, a lot of employees are back at their workplaces. But as mentioned, some companies have latched on to the WFH set-up because they have realized that it offers them flexibility in conducting business for specific segments of their workforce where regular face-to-face engagement is not critical. Of course, certain positions require F2F engagement, and businesses now have the opportunity to rethink, reorganize and set up to accommodate hybrid WFH and IPW arrangements.
The traditional work and the work set-up and processes as we know them have certainly been challenged. ICT has greatly enabled the application of WFH set-up. We can look forward to how business and industry will create adaptations to make WFH an integral part of doing business.
Dr. Berino is an associate professorial lecturer in the RVR-College of Business. He may be emailed at [email protected].
The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty and its administrators.