NO one would have imagined that the year 2020, would really change their lives, personally and professionally.
The Covid-19 pandemic which has wreaked havoc all over the world, has also changed life and the way we live significantly.
The outbreak which started in Wuhan, China this January has forced almost all countries in the world to impose a lockdown or stay at home mode.
The outbreak has caused offices, schools, universities and businesses to shut down and people have to work from home.
For many institutions and organisations, work has to be done online and businesses also have to adapt and shift to online if they want to continue their operations.
Malaysia has implemented the movement control order (MCO) on March 18,2020 where only critical and essential services were allowed to operate and employees were able to go to work under strict standard operating procedure (SOP).
Following the MCO, all offices, schools, universities and businesses nationwide were ordered to temporarily closed.
Staff involved with the temporary closure were asked to work from home (WFH) and for university lecturers and students, all classes have to be conducted online.
Most tertiary institutions made adjustments to their academic calendar taking into account that students’ learning and academic activities are not disrupted.
Responding to the MCO, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) has come up with policy and guidelines to assist staff deal with the new way of doing things; that is to WFH which started on March 18, the first day of the MCO.
All head of departments were required to provide a clear guidelines with regards to working from home.
A survey to gauge the implementation of WFH among staff was conducted after two weeks of its implementation by the Office of Corporate Affairs.
The survey was done via the staff email with some 1,040 staff responded and the results showed 73% of them preferred working in the office as opposed to working from home.
This is probably because they were still trying to adapt themselves with the new arrangement.
One of the main reasons cited was that respondents found it difficult to focus on work since all their children were at home.
It was even more challenging for female staff having babies and old folks to look after while trying to work from home.
Support extended by the university
Since WFH is not a norm before Covid-19 pandemic, UTM as a responsible employer, has identified a few initiatives that need to be addressed in order to make WFH a success.
Among the initiatives taken are:
1. Online teaching and learning training – Most academic staff requested for more training sessions to be conducted on handling and managing online classes and giving assessment online. This call for assistance had resulted in an increased number of online training sessions conducted this April by UTMLead, the Centre for Teaching and Learning.
2. Training to handle online meeting and viva – staff handling the viva and proposal defence also require familiarisation of the task at hand when two sessions are shifted online. Staff were briefed of the online process and a detailed workflow has been drawn up and it is available at the designated website.
3. Internet data assistance – For the administrative and support staff, UTM has extended assistance in the form of internet data subscription so that staff can work productively from home managing online meetings and training sessions. Faculty has also taken initiative of offering assistance to students who fulfil their requirements.
4. Technical improvement and monitoring – online management system for all office related matters has been upgraded and improved so that work process is supported.
5. Work From Home (WFH) Guideline – a detailed guideline was also prepared and updated from time to time and staff would be referring to this guideline when working from home.
Moving forward, UTM has put in place a system that is working at the moment such as all classes are conducted online (synchronous or asynchronous or a combination of both) according to students’ internet accessibility, and all academic administrative matters can be addressed online. Students and staff who are eligible are also assisted with internet data plan. This would enable UTM to sustain its momentum if the conditional movement control order (CMCO) is extended beyond the stipulated time.
Benefits of WFH
On the requirement to WFH, the survey concluded that there are at least four major benefits of WFH, as reported by UTM staff. These are:
1. Save money and energy – time is not spent on commuting and eating out during lunch break.
2. More family time – WFH allows parents to keep an eye on their children while working in the same house. This is a way let the children see their parents are working and they need to respect that working time.
3. Relaxed environment –staff preferred WFH mostly because they did not have to dress up to go to the office and can wear comfortable clothes at home and still work. Working in a relaxed environment reduces stress.
4. More productive – WFH was preferred by academic staff because the time can be spent more productively and they can focus more on writing articles since there was no need to move between physical offices to attend meetings.
UTM has practised special means to conduct its main activities like distance and online learning classes for students, conducting crucial academic and management meeting online through online platform and providing extra internet quota for staff. Besides, its Talent Development Department has also conducted staff development courses online.
For more information, visit https://www.utm.my/
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