Working from home a matter of mindset

WFH. It is not an offensive slang.

In recent weeks, the acronym for Work/Working From Home has been the buzzword in chat messaging groups and on social media around the world.

It’s true what they say about humans — adaptability is one of our defining characteristics. And we have adapted.

Over a month ago, the idea of working remotely or telecommuting must have been unimaginable for many Malaysian employers and their employees.

When news of an impending restriction order was circulated on chat messaging groups, many of us ignored them and just went about our daily routines, despite nightly news broadcast of lockdowns in countries around the world.

And yet, here we are today. In the midst of a pandemic that knows no boundaries.

Since the implementation of the movement control order (MCO) on March 18, Malaysians (those of us in non-essential services, at least) have been working remotely.

And surprise, surprise, work gets done and life goes on.

The extroverted among us are now busy posting images and

videos of themselves on social media surviving the MCO.

We see working mums and dads juggle household chores with looking after their children while attending to office duties from makeshift workspaces.

The Star has even devoted pages to Work From Home fashion guides!

Is this the new normal? Well, it looks likely, even as the conditional MCO kicks off today and most sectors (with a few exclusions) are allowed to resume operations.

But WFH memes aside, this Work From Home arrangement seems like a good gig. And I am not just saying that because I no longer have to wake up at the crack of dawn, shower in my sleep, brush my hair, plaster on make-up and commute two hours to work.

While detractors of working remotely may disagree, studies have shown that working from home increases productivity and job satisfaction.

In fact, working remotely is neither an alien nor novel concept in developed nations.

Here in Malaysia, some multinationals and several home-grown corporations have, in recent years, acknowledged the benefits of keeping their employees happy and fulfilled with increased flexibility.

With all the tools available to us today — applications for video conferencing and real-time work-sharing as well as a whole range of other tech aids — working from home is a no-brainer, especially for knowledge workers (individuals whose work mainly consists of idea generation such as writers, programmers and designers).

The benefits also extend to employers pleased to see the end of water cooler chats and frequent smoke and coffee breaks.

But seriously, with economists predicting an impending recession, every sen saved, counts.

Some employers have already had to let staff go, slash salaries and cut costs to stay afloat.

Think about the overheads that can be saved: rent and utilities, among them. The ongoing telecommuting set-up prompted by Covid-19, though not the best of circumstances, gives organisations the opportunity to gauge productivity and employee satisfaction.

Sadly, I could not find a recent Malaysian survey on telecommuting. So I decided to check on the state of things with our neighbour down south.

While Singaporean employers are still behind their counterparts in the US and UK, Singapore’s ministry of community development and sports, in a guidebook entitled Successful Flexible Work Arrangements – An Employer’s Guide, acknowledges that “flexible work arrangements are fast becoming a competitive necessity”.

The ministry’s guidebook offers insight into successful telecommuting.

Now, I would love to see our Human Resources Ministry take similar measures.

A change of mindset is necessary.

It is 2020, after all.

We may not have a flying car in sight, but it is time for us to do away with obsolete work practices and step into the future.

Oh, and work on those 5G speeds too. #WFH.

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