Concept is a challenge for certain sectors

PETALING JAYA: Working from home (WFH) has proven to be a challenge for some sectors, particularly the manufacturing industry.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Soh Thian Lai said the manufacturing sector still largely depended on the physical presence of workers.

“Manufacturing often involves complex, technical processes and materials which results in a dependency on collaborative processes, in which different teams especially involving the management and supervisory staff would need to work in-sync and in real-time, ” he said.

Soh said FMM had submitted an appeal to the government to lift the 30% limit on the number of management and supervisory staff allowed to be physically present in offices or factories.

“We have urged the government to recognise private sector’s business continuity plans (BCP) to organise company personnel including those to WFH, without the restriction of the maximum 30% allowed.

“The industry is of the view that the decision to adopt and continue with a WFH culture, including the category and number of personnel involved, will vary from company to company and is best left to the individual companies to decide.”

He noted that management and supervisory staff only made up a small number of the total workforce in the manufacturing sector and were also more vigilant in observing Covid-19 standard operating procedure.

“Hence allowing all of them to work in the office or factory would not increase the risk of infection in the workplace, ” said Soh.

He added that businesses should be allowed to develop their own customised WFH models to suit their business and production.

This, he said, would assist companies to ensure continuity in production and service delivery during the conditional MCO with minimal business disruption.

“In the meantime, the industry is cognisant of the fact that all efforts must be taken to flatten the curve of Covid-19 infection, in order for the recovery MCO to be declared in all states.

“The industry will continue to strictly observe the Covid-19 precautionary measures and be diligent in adhering to the SOP, as breaking this chain of infections needs the concerted effort of everyone, ” he said.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Datuk Shamsuddin Bardan said the challenges of WFH needed to be addressed so it would not negatively impact the well-being of both employees and employers.

“The WFH arrangements were implemented due to Covid-19 and is temporary in nature.

“Employees will be obliged to resume normal working arrangements when the situation permits and as directed by employers, ” said Shamsuddin.

He added that bosses might want to assess the benefits and challenges of WFH during the pandemic and would decide on a case-by-case basis and in consultation with workers or unions, if any, on the feasibility of implementing regular WFH arrangements.

Quoting a “MEF Fringe Benefit Survey, 2020 – chapter on terms of employment – WFH”, Shamsuddin said there were several advantages and disadvantages of WFH.

Among the advantages include less traffic congestion, stress and absenteeism due to sick leave, attract and retain top talents, higher productivity, cost saving, lower turnover rate and increased employee loyalty.

The disadvantages include abuse of WFH flexibility by some workers, lack of teamwork, low reliability and not all employees could WFH, said Shamsuddin.

He said there were also concerns and challenges faced by bosses with the WFH concept.

This includes lack of equipment and technology, dealing with trust issues, identifying potential employees who can WFH, dealing with issues in data security and confidentiality, among others.

He said based on the findings, it was up to individual bosses to examine the pros and cons of WFH based on their own experience and data, before eventually deciding if they want to continue with WFH or otherwise post-Covid-19.

“Obviously, it is important for challenges and concerns to be addressed and resolved first before companies can confidently continue with WFH, ” he said.

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