Why flexible work works | Inquirer Business
MAPping the Future

Why flexible work works

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In a press release by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Philippines on June 6, 2022, the agency approved to institutionalize flexible work arrangements in the public sector as part of the nationwide effort to transition from a public health and economic crisis to the new normal setting. While this is good news, the CSC emphasized that the decision to adopt such policy will still depend on the heads of the government agencies.

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As we know, the Philippines has experienced one of the longest quarantine periods in the world, and that the new normal has greatly affected the concept of how people work. This is a welcome development in the public sector, which now recognizes that flexible work is a viable option. This calls for government agencies to consider the long-term positive effects of flexible work, among others, as a cost-saving mechanism with the advent of rising oil prices and worsening traffic conditions, and as an approach for better workforce retention.

The positive effects of flexible work

In an article entitled, “Flexible work is gender-neutral,” which I wrote at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I said that the world is seeing the largest experiment on flexible work anywhere and at any time as an imperative and compelling business solution. Flexible work serves as a great approach in boosting work productivity, which is a great value proposition for both companies and employees, most especially for mothers and homemakers.

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Citing the 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey conducted by Ernst & Young (EY), nine in 10 employees located in Southeast Asia said that they prefer flexible work than the traditional office setup. A hybrid arrangement, which is a mix of in-office and remote work and a type of flexible work, is more favorable for the majority. This setup plays an opportunity for change and ensures business sustainability.

Contrary to the belief that flexible work leads to less work productivity, many companies have reported otherwise, according to another survey by the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE) and Investing in Women, an initiative of the Australian government. Specifically, the productivity levels are equal or even higher compared with prepandemic levels.

Related to this, an organization should also build a trust-based flexible work environment where leaders believe that the employees will do the right and smart thing. Trust is at the core of a flexible work environment, measured by the output and outcome of team members and not by the hours they spend inside the office. Furthermore, it is also crucial for interactions to take place, whether on a physical or virtual setting. Collaboration and relationships are most effective when the management and its workforce are well aligned in terms of processes and priorities.

In addition, flexible work, or remote work to be specific, has resulted in reduced travel hours, property rental and maintenance costs, even in utility costs and paper usage for many companies. Time spent doing work is better managed without the inconvenience of traveling to and from the workplace. A study by Cisco reported that nine out of 10 or 89 percent of Filipinos said that their savings reached almost P340,000 in the last two years of hybrid work implementation. Good financial standing comes with positive effects on work-life balance.

Interestingly, Concentrix, the largest BPO (business process outsourcing) company in the country and the successor firm of Convergys, a founding member of PBCWE, has decided to forego its tax incentives to enable the company to continue with the hybrid work setup for its employees. It appears then that for this company, the benefits of flexible work far outweigh the loss of tax benefits as a registered enterprise.

What more can be done?

Frankly, the rapid shift stirred by the pandemic caused massive confusion and doubt about how effective flexible work is in different industries. With the positive effects of flexible work in place, there are still some challenges to deal with.

Each industry has its own cycle. Implementing flexible work is not a “one-size-fits-all” and it can be a difficult and complicated undertaking. An organization can start by understanding the needs of its employees and the required resources to implement such arrangement. With regulations in place, such as the Telecommuting Law and the recent CSC pronouncement, there is an assurance that flexible work is now viewed as a long-term approach to ensure the efficient delivery of public sector services.

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Aside from written policies, organizations must also invest in necessary technology and equipment. Employees’ individual needs are unique and diverse. For example, reasonable and sufficient arrangements must be provided for persons with disabilities, pregnant women, senior citizens, among others. Inclusive spaces are the future of workplaces.

There are ways different sectors can learn from each other’s best practices. In this case, the public sector can look to private organizations, which have adopted this approach successfully and determine what can work well for their organizations. I am confident that through this new development, we can achieve a “win-win” situation for all. Indeed, flexible work is here to stay. INQ

This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and not the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. She is member of the MAP ESG and Diversity & Inclusion committees. She is founding chair and president of Philippine Women’s Economic Network and co-chair of PBCWE. She is also president of Mageo Consulting Inc. Feedback at [email protected] and [email protected]t.

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