The office of the past was a literal box of cubicles and desks, meeting rooms and common spaces. In the office of the future, we’ll be thinking and working outside it. One of the modern workspace designs and work strategies is telecommuting. Its benefits range from creating a work-life balance for individual employees, increasing firm’s optimal performance to even improving traffic in the metro.
About time to adopt telecommuting
Telecommuting, sometimes referred to as telework, or work from home, is working at home or at another alternative location using information technology to communicate with supervisors, peers and customers. It seems, however, telecommuting in the Philippines is not yet fully utilized. Businesses still adhere to the old employer-employee set up where there is close supervision to ensure optimal team performance. Is it about time for the local firms to adopt this new corporate work set up?
A study revealed that communication behaviors and relationship duration between an employee and his supervisor affect the participation in a work-from-home program. I believe that to effectively initiate a work-from-home program, the supervisor and his subordinate must have known each other well. With this strong relationship, trust and confidence in achieving optimal performance is already well built and minimal supervision is expected to be incorporated in it.
Telecommuting is mutually beneficial for both employees and employers. Some of the perceived benefits for telecommuters are higher job satisfaction and autonomy perceptions, better work-family balance, lower stress and reduced motivation to leave their firm.
As I see it, many entry-level workers in the Philippine corporate arena are millennials and the aforementioned benefits of this program could certainly attract them. Millennial workers want autonomy, the freedom to do the task on their own and how they want to do it, not discounting the fact that they are tech-savvy and can search manuals and demos in the internet quickly.
On the other hand, many organizations could benefit from it as one of its business continuity strategies where critical processes continue to run even during unpredictable and extreme weather conditions and other uncertain events like earthquakes, fire and terrorism. The firm can also create a competitive advantage by being able to keep valuable talents through this flexible program as they foster loyalty and commitment from employees in the long-run.
Another study found that telecommuting is most commonly found in smaller firms, when there is higher percentage of international employees and conducive to be adopted in firms with continent reward leadership style or rewards based on results, and it is also associated with outcome-based control system in which variable compensation is a key component of pay strategy.
BPOs strong potential
I observed that the Philippines is now a haven for business process outsourcing companies or the contact center industry wherein local firms offer technical skills services in finance, IT and marketing. As a former employee of a multinational bank’s BPO arm, I know these firms adopt a different time or work shifts providing these services to off-shore clients whether they are United States-based for night shifters, United Kingdom-based and Europe, Middle East and Africa-based for middle day shifters and Asia-Pacific based for early day shifters.
These firms hire many expatriates and offer additional bonuses to employees who reach or have exceeded their service level agreements, which is considered a variable pay strategy. Adopting a work-from-home program for these firms is highly probable as the measures to control optimal performance is based on results.
Means to ease traffic
As I see it, perhaps a properly implemented telecommuting or work-from-home program may also contribute to easing traffic in the metro. Employees of these firms which offers whole-day shifts contribute to the daily traffic experience in the country’s central business districts. Aside from the proposed House Bill No. 5068 which seeks to “increase the normal hours per day under the compressed work-week scheme”—in which at the option of employers they may allow their employees to render maximum six-day work at 8-hours per day or four-day work at 12-hours per day—local firms might also want to consider telecommuting as an alternative. Telecommuting reduces traffic volume and congestion during peak times by removing commuters from the road. By working in a home office during the most congested parts of the day, WFH workers reduce the overall demand on the local road and public transportation system.
If more people work from home, savings in commute time, energy used, improved productivity and reduced costs (office space, electricity, etc.), may make the challenge of changing work and compensations systems well worth the effort!
The author is a Doctor of Business Administration student at the Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. This essay is part of a journal he kept in fulfillment of the requirements of the course, Strategic Human Resources Management.
The views expressed here are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of DLSU, its faculty, and its administrators.
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