SME employees prefer hybrid working post pandemic

Some 80% of the persons polled preferred a work from home (WFH) choice for three out of five working days per week, said Santosh Thayaparan, GKK Consultants’ head of marketing.

A survey of employees across departments in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) shows that a large majority prefer a hybrid working model combining work from home and being physically present in offices post-pandemic.

Some 80% of the persons polled preferred a work from home (WFH) choice for three out of five working days per week, said Santosh Thayaparan, GKK Consultants’ head of marketing.

They found WFH more flexible and cost-efficient, in terms of travelling time and food expenses, he said in a statement this week. They were able to focus on finishing core tasks at hand, while the remaining days in the office could cover communication and collaboration efforts.

However, 20% cited difficulties in focusing and staying awake during working hours due to the level of comfort at home.

“In a nutshell, they were able to enjoy the best of both worlds,” which means that the hybrid working model was definitely the right choice post-Covid-19 pandemic, he said, based on the latest data polled amongst SMEs and in different departments comprising GKK Consultants’ clients and related companies.

Nevertheless, he said team collaboration and physical communication were hindered due to the nature of virtual platforms such as Zoom and WhatsApp.

A few of them in the survey also expressed the blurred lines between work and life balance. A majority said working from the office allowed them to detach themselves from all things work-related when the time comes to knock off from the office.

Conversely, the bad side was that while at home, meetings tend to go beyond schedule and that it was rather difficult to remind the senior management to stop, he said.

Gajendra Balasingham, GKK Consultants’ chief executive officer, said many of his clients and friends in senior positions were in a quandary on whether to bring all their staff back to the office or to stagger the teams and observe a shift-rotation basis.

Work from homeWork from home

With almost the whole country returning to near normalcy, he said the question senior management grapple with was whether to return to the pre-Covid-19 office week work routine or to opt for the new normal of a hybrid working week.

Indeed, it is a decision not many human resources consultants would want to make in haste as the Covid-19 pandemic was still within the community, and will never be rid of, said Gajendra.

Their concern is justified given global fears on the spread of new variants of concern including the Delta virus and reports of a new Omicron virus that has taken root in several African countries.

He said employees have gotten used to the numerous WFH benefits, even though it was a forced decision during the initial lockdown period.

The Malaysian working environment was caught divided on this crucial decision as the choice might affect employee commitment, interaction, productivity, timeliness, team effort and even finances.

Isolating everyone at their own corners could work out for some time but there could be a negative effect on the physical, emotional-cum-social margins over the long run.

“Although almost everyone has been double-dosed vaccinated, the risk of contracting the virus is still evident especially with new variants cropping up,” he said.

Certain multinational organisations such as Apple, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Goldman Sachs and Barclays have stressed that remote work could not be sustained. It was also unhealthy for work culture, spontaneous critical thinking and especially for those who love and thrive in the fast-paced work environment.

Meanwhile, organisations such as Twitter, Atlassian, Dropbox and Spotify are among others that have embraced remote work, citing increased productivity as they alter their focus toward outcome-oriented measures instead of working hours.

Santosh said whether productivity would boom or crash depends on many other factors, like organisational structure and management model. — Bernama

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