Why remote working has become vital

It can bring good outcomes, from increased productivity and more meaningful roles for employees 


THE pandemic has propelled the working force into experimenting with employees working remotely instead of in the office. 

While this manner of working has gained greater acceptance, Mercer’s Talent Strategy Lead for Malaysia Natasha Yusof said not all segments of the workforce enjoyed the same access to this flexibility. 

“For flexible work arrangements to work in Malaysia, insights from our recent webinar show that there is a greater need for a mindset change. Some employers still insist on scrutinising and keeping track of employees who are working remotely, either through monitoring software or demanding their employees turn their web cameras on. 

“This results in employees feeling penalised for working remotely and they are demotivated by the lack of professionalism and trust,” she told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview recently. 

Mercer’s 2021 Global Talent Trends reported that flexible working policies has become one of the key priorities for organisations across South-East Asia this year. 

Natasha said when remote working becomes more feasible as a permanent option in Malaysia, it will increase organisational resilience to workplace disruptions beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Workplace flexibility has become an expectation instead of a luxury and is unlikely to change anytime soon. 

“While remote work for some roles and companies need to offer the flexibility to discuss work, how they work they do,” she said. might not industries, employees when they and what 

Natasha opined that if coordinated well enough, this new trend can bring about good outcomes, from increased productivity and more meaningful roles for employees to greater access to diverse talent pools for employers. 

She said without the right policies in place, serious issues such as employee fatigue and deteriorating mental health can have a significant impact on businesses. 

“Workforce exhaustion often leads to more human errors, lower productivity levels and high employee turnover. 

“Fatigued employees are also less likely to embrace reskilling or organisational changes, and their perception of the competitiveness of their pay or career perspectives may be skewed,” she added. 

This is where support from organisations is crucial as both parties work together to mitigate this issue 

“To prevent this, employers can consider digital solutions that build skills in areas such as resilience and mindfulness or launch educational campaigns on behavioural health topics. 

“Greater access, treatment and coverage can be considered new Employee Assistance Programmes or health plan networks that address psychological needs of their employees,” Natasha said. 

She suggested that employers should adopt trust-based working time arrangements to mitigate this issue. 

“It involves a shift from monitoring employee inputs which is Facetime in the office and perceived concentration on work, to employee outputs referring to quantity and quality of deliverables. 

“Employers should also prioritise employees with clear needs for remote working, not just ‘high-value’ employees, in planning flexible work arrangements. This will give employees peace of mind as they do not need to worry about facing career penalties for choosing to work remotely,” she said. 

Natasha added that there has been more success with remote working in multinational corporations compared to small and medium enterprises (SMEs). 

“Many SMEs are still struggling to transition to remote working because of the increased pressure on cost containment to keep their businesses afloat. 

“For instance, flexible working arrangements involve having the right infrastructure in place as well as ensuring that employees have the right tools like laptops and Internet access to support remote working. 

“SMEs simply do not have the luxury of time and the resources to come up with long-term plans and answers before they have had a chance to try things out to see what works,” Natasha said.