Back to a WFH setup
Just when many of us thought 2022 would be the start of normal life in the Philippines, the Omicron variant of the virus causing COVID-19 emerged and, as a result, the government was obliged to tighten quarantine measures once again.
To minimize the infection rate, the Department of Health has urged businesses to adopt work-from-home (WFH) arrangements or similar schemes that would reduce personal contact among employees.
Looking back to the early days of 2020 when the government ordered a crippling lockdown (aka enhanced community quarantine) to arrest the spread of the virus, WFH was resorted to by many businesses to sustain their operation to the extent possible.
For businesses that required the physical presence of their personnel or clientele to survive, WFH was not a viable option. As a result, employees were laid off or business operations terminated.
As in any economic downturn, some businesses, e.g., delivery services, online sales, telecommunication and health care, not only managed to remain afloat, but even thrived.
They filled the needs brought about by a medical crisis that caught health experts and the government by surprise. In what may be considered a case of serendipity, they were in the right business at the right time.
Initially, WFH was a pain in the neck for some employees. They had to look for a place in their house where internet connection was strong and had the least disturbance from household activities.
But eventually they were able to adjust to the new work norm and made the most of it. And why not? WFH minimized contamination, spared them the trouble of dressing up for work, allowed them to work at their own pace and, most importantly, avoided the inconvenience of commuting to and from their workplace.
After two years, the WFH scheme seem to have gained a level of acceptance in some sectors of the country’s workforce as a suitable work standard even if COVID-19 becomes an ordinary ailment.
A survey conducted recently by headhunting agency Robert Walter Philippines on Filipino employees qualified for middle- to senior-level management positions showed that the majority would likely not accept jobs that would require them to report on a daily basis to their office.
According to the survey, the hassle of going through Metro Manila’s horrendous road traffic is the strongest disincentive to returning to prepandemic work arrangements.
This finding is surprising considering that the survey was conducted last year when 3.5 million Filipinos were out of work, which represents 7.4 percent of the country’s working-age labor force.
The “picky” attitude by this class of employees who, based on current corporate employment demographics, would probably be in their late 30s or early 40s, is indicative of their belief and confidence that they have the gravitas to choose the companies they want to work with and how.
After all, they have the education, training and expertise that businesses with strategic vision in the highly competitive Philippine business climate would want to employ.
When interviewed about the effect of the lockdown on their lives, some business executives said their forced home confinement gave them the quiet (or introspective) moments they did not have before the pandemic.
It also enabled them to spend quality time and bond with their children without guilt feelings that their colleagues were slaving elsewhere at work while they were spending enjoyable moments with their family.
According to some executives I talked to, news about their friends and former classmates or coemployees succumbing to COVID-19 in spite of strict compliance with medical protocols made them realize that life is short and so they should enjoy it to the fullest while they can.
The respondents to the survey who expressed preference for WFH employment arrangements or something close to it probably think that there is more to life than grinding office work or professional career. INQ
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