The Senate is discussing a bill on telecommuting, an arrangement that allows an employee to work outside the traditional workplace, often from home or any suitable location close to home such as a coffee shop, library, mall or park.
Rather than suffer through the commute to and from the workplace, the employee “travels” via telecommunication links such as the telephone, email, Viber, Skype and social media to keep in touch with the boss and co-workers.
The employee still goes to the workplace and attends meetings as well as touch base with the boss, co-workers and clients, although these could be done through teleconferencing to minimize the need to go to the workplace.
In the recent “Forum on Business Cases on Workplace Issues: New Work Arrangements,” Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines Deputy Director General Jose Roland Moya presented a survey of companies from the service and manufacturing sectors, whether small, medium or large. The respondents were top management, middle management, frontline management and rank-and-file employees.
The rationale behind the survey was culled from “Workplace Flexibility 2010” of Georgetown University. By definition, work arrangements are any one of a spectrum of work structures that alters the time and/or place in which work gets done on a regular basis. A flexible work arrangement may include the following:
• flexibility in the scheduling of hours worked and arrangements regarding shift and break schedules;
• flexibility in the amount of hours worked; and
• flexibility in the place of work.
The survey aimed to:
• determine what initiatives are being taken by companies to address the ever-changing needs of business and employees;
• identify popular flexible work arrangements being used by companies to improve productivity; and
• establish best business practices among companies and incorporate these in future trainings.
The survey revealed that:
• Among flexible working arrangements being implemented in companies are compressed workweeks, sliding/flexible working times, flexi-holiday schedules, rotation of workers, forced leaves, broken time scheduling, and flexplace/telecommuting.
• Benefits derived from flexible working arrangements are reduced absenteeism and tardiness, an effective response to inevitable circumstances (such as calamities, traffic woes, etc.), enhanced employee productivity, accounted-for higher employee retention rate, and a better image of the company as an employer of choice.
• On contracting and outsourcing: respondents affirmed that their companies contract or outsource specific jobs, work, or services to ensure focus on core functions. It allowed management flexibility, helped minimize the impact of business fluctuations, and cut down on business costs.
• The following technologies were cited as essential for the business operations of the respondents: mobile applications, a human resources information system, online payments and transactions, online supply-chain management, data protection software/cloud solutions and automated production services.
• When asked if their respective businesses still need to upgrade their technology, 83 percent said yes and 17 percent said no.
• When asked what they considered barriers to technology acquisition or upgrading, the following were mentioned: high fixed capital costs, licensing costs, lack of knowledge, and lack of skilled staff who can operate technology not available in the country.
• The following were cited as disruptive events covered by the respondents’ business continuity plans: power outages, major machinery or network loss, sabotage, cyber attacks, natural calamities, and mobility problems.
Meralco and SGS have shared stories on their successful implementation of the telecommuting work arrangement. We’ll discuss these in the next column.