Striking a balance between WFH, productivity

by AZALEA AZUAR & FAYYADH JAFFAR / pic by BLOOMBERG

THE work-from-home (WFH) trend is here to stay, despite Malaysia heading towards recovery as many economies have reopened.

Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar has urged businesses to resume their WFH arrangements to control the spread of Covid-19 virus.

While many companies have embraced WFH and even hybrid models, questions arise on employees’ productivity, in light of reports on Covid test abuse by employees to get leave or working outside of the office.

Centre for Market Education CEO Dr Carmelo Ferlito said the misuse of the RTK Antigen test is part of human nature and employers must take the initiative to prevent such abuses.

“Employers can easily monitor this as one employee is unlikely to get infected more than once.

“In the case of close contact, employers may ask for a higher level of proof than the snapshot of the RTK,” he said.

He also suggested employers to sponsor the polymerase chain reaction tests to confirm the presence of the virus and make the results more reliable.

“We should stop isolating healthy people. It goes without saying that if employers are the first to believe in the equation Covid equals death, we are a long way from resolving the problem,” he said.

For Jobstore.com founder and CEO Anson Wang, his company practices hybrid work arrangements where half of his staff WFH while the other work in the office. However, it also depends on the situation itself.

“Also did some studies that most of the companies, especially on the operation team, sales team, they all work in the office. Then for example, support and some IT positions, marketing, they are still working from home,” he spoke to The Malaysian Reserve.

With WFH here to stay, this would change the ways how companies would operate as big companies would downsize into smaller office spaces to save rental costs.

“It saves money although you as a company don’t need a very big office.

“Quite a number of companies are already doing it (relocating their offices into smaller spaces),” Wang added.

Remote working may have its benefits but it does pose a few challenges such as overworking, distractions, loneliness and communication problems.

One of the suggestions on how to overcome this issue is by implementing the operational performance indicator.

“Previously, the traditional version that companies use are key performance indicators to trace employee results.

“So right now, we are more focused on objective results so we don’t care whether they’re at home or somewhere else,” he said.

Countries such as Belgium have implemented the four-day work week and Iceland is set to jump on the bandwagon soon.

According to a study conducted by Milieu Insight, Malaysians are less receptive towards a reduced four-day work week. Only 48% of Malaysians are favourable to this idea.

“Our survey found that working five days a week is typical in most South-East Asian countries except Indonesia and Vietnam, where six days work weeks are more common.

“Receptiveness towards compressed four-day work weeks is rather positive, with at least seven in 10 in South-East Asia indicating at least an eight from a zero to 10 scale when asked how much they would like this arrangement to be implemented at their workplaces — this includes Vietnam (78%) and Indonesia which is slightly below the average at 69%,” it said in a statement.

Moreover, the respondents do not feel like it makes sense to adjust their salaries to this policy.

“This is most strongly felt in Singapore and Thailand, where 73% and 61% chose this option.

“Interestingly, only 24% in Vietnam chose this option, and responses are more spread out across the range of pay cuts, with 19% being able to tolerate a 20% pay cut even.” said Milieu.

Although the respondents want a work-life balance, they too are worried if their pay is reduced.