Workers laud working from home as the way forward

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor (left). - Filepic

WORKERS from both the public and private sector believe the work from home (WFH) option would benefit them in the long run.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor says WFH is a good way moving forward and should make things easier for everyone as long as it doesn’t affect operations like manufacturing.

But should the WFH practice be adopted post-pandemic, our laws must be clear about how it should be implemented.

“For example, the Employment Act defines work hours to be eight hours a day, and not more than 10 hours without overtime.

“As such, this should also be followed if employees are to work from home and included in the law.

“Workers may also clock in for work by switching on their laptop or device’s camera.

“They can later be deemed to have finished work when they sign off from their computers at home, ” Abdul Halim suggests, adding that MTUC will make such proposals to the government.

He says employees must keep communications open at all times during work hours if they are working from home.

The Employees’ Social Security Act 1969 should also be amended, he says, as the coverage should be extended to work-related accidents if the employee works from home.

“Any accident during working hours, if the worker is at home and even working from his bed, should be protected by social security, ” he says.

Abdul Halim says such a framework could attract many qualified professionals – including mothers who had left the workforce to start a family – back to work.

“Developed countries encourage WFH because it saves overhead costs for office space and energy usage.

“WFH must be based on mutual commitment, trust and sincerity. Once you work from home, you must ensure you put in the necessary working hours, ” he says.

The Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) fully supports the move to make WFH a long term measure by the Public Service Department.

“Such an option has saved us a lot of time and energy, including allowing employees to care for young children if no babysitters are available, ” says Cuepacs secretary-general Abdul Rahman Mohd Nordin.

He adds that civil servants, including himself, are able to prove that they do not abuse the practice of WFH by clocking into work through an online system on their handphones and marking their location at home.

“Technology has made WFH possible and effective, while at the same time ensuring it is fair to employers, ” he says.

However, Abdul Rahman notes that WFH is not for all roles, as some workers, like technicians, for example, are required to physically be on site.

In June last year, it was reported that most workers prefer to keep the WFH option after the MCO is lifted, based on a survey by KPMG Malaysia, an audit, tax and advisory services firm.

The survey found that 69% agreed that WFH should continue post-MCO as part of the new normal, while 56% of business owners supported it.

However, 64% of respondents faced challenges while WFH, mainly network issues (61%), communication barriers (14%), and lack of technology readiness (10%).

Some employees feel it is best to continue WFH because it saves time and effort which can be channelled into work.

A company executive who wishes to be known only as Sonia, 31, says WFH saves her an hour that would otherwise be spent stuck in traffic on her way to her office in Kuala Lumpur.

“Our boss is allowing us to WFH during the current conditional MCO phase as long as we deliver our work on time and do not abuse the practice, ” she says.

Sonia says while her company has not given any indication that WFH will continue, she hopes that it will.

“I have gotten used to this way of working and it’s beneficial as I can settle some household chores when I have downtime at work, ” she says.

For some, a balance between WFH and going to the office is best.

Marcelo Wong, 33, a supply chain manager at a multinational company, says the ideal situation is to switch between two options.

“For my company, WFH will definitely continue even after the pandemic.

“WFH was implemented years ago even before Covid-19, but made official in 2018 through an online booking system where staff are allotted one day a week to work from home, ” he says.

In 2019, the allotment was increased to two days, Wong says, and now WFH is purely voluntary.

His company has also recently relocated to a smaller space after considering that WFH will be a permanent option.

Even before Covid-19, the office was designed based on an activity- based style of working instead of each worker being desk-bound. This meant only about 50% of physical space is allocated for staff.

“From a survey, most staff said they would rather work from home or remotely in cafés or co-working spaces a few days a week.

“This was taken into account for the new office design, ” Wong explains.

He says the company has placed some level of trust in employees.

“But if any employee is found to have abused their freedom, their annual leave will be deducted, ” he says.

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