Perspectives of Working From Home During The COVID-19 Outbreak

The outbreak of a global pandemic, COVID-19 has remotely affected the world and changed our life to a ‘new normal’. Earlier this March, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic as the scale and pace for this virus to rapidly spread from just one place, originated from Wuhan, China to the nearly the entire world within just 6 months. To break the transmission chain, people around the world have been asked to stay at home and most of the countries in the world are on lockdown, be it fully or partially.

We believe that this action taken by the government was a quick yet tough decision to ensure that the transmission chain of the virus is broken and eventually saving lives. With all the advice of ‘social distancing’, the closure of nearly all businesses, and schools, the life as we knew it, has changed.

The adaptation of doing everything at home including working and studying has become a ‘new normal’ since the announcement made by the Prime Minister of Malaysia. For Malaysia, the Movement Control Order (MCO) was announced through multiple stages, starting from the 18th of March 2020 for four weeks, and then added by another two weeks until the 28th of April 2020.

Based on McKinsey’s study, the pandemic situation for every country is different due to the different phases and populations of the country affected. Thus, the type of approaches for governments to handle this COVID-19 crisis will be different as well. For example, the period of lockdown and the monetary incentives given to the public to support them over this pandemic may differ from one country to another.

With this being said, what was unthinkable previously – working from home (WFH), is now becoming more practical as businesses are forced to operate even though their workers are not allowed to go to offices.

According to Forbes, the battle for working remotely continues, as employees and managers do not have the choice and flexibility to work at their offices anymore for the sake of their health and also to protect their loved ones from being affected by the COVID-19 virus.

To be able to implement an effective WFH, business leaders can use office applications such as Airtable for project management and progress updates and Zoom or Skype for conferences and meetings. Furthermore, multinational companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and KPMG have adapted with WFH for these past years. For sure it will be easier for them to accommodate this ‘enforced’ culture of WFH. Unlike some other companies, be it SMEs, and Government-Linked Companies (GLCs), which do not usually practice WFH, they may find it difficult to adapt.

With every advantage, there must be disadvantages and so does the practice of working from home. For example, Seow, from The Straits Time claimed that one of the disadvantages of WFH is the difficulty of the employee to connect with each other whenever it involves projects that need to be done collaboratively within a period of time. The concerns here are on employee’s productivity as a study conducted in China by professor Nicholas Bloom from Stanford University found that 20% of the participants felt less productive when working from home. However, the advantages of working from home is the future-proof ability to adapt to the Industrial Revolution 4.0. By being connected virtually, it will be easier for the employees to complete their work anytime and anywhere.

In conclusion, at PUTRA, we hope that this ‘new normal’ can be adapted by everyone and the government should support in making this successful. By providing access to the Internet to everyone, this ensures that this ‘new normal’ works effectively for both employers and employees. Overall, even though there are many hurdles that we should face in this hard time, we should be together and make sure that we win over this Novel Coronavirus.

Again, thank you to all the frontliners who work tirelessly for us.

With the spirit of I stay at home for you, you stay at work for me, we shall prevail.

#KitaJagaKita.


This piece is written by Nur Dinie Mohd Fadil, Partner (People & Change) at PUTRA.


References:

Craven, M. et.al. (2020) COVID-19: Implications for business. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/risk/our-insights/covid-19-implications-for-business [Accessed on 19th April 2020]

Mulcahy, D. (2020) Remote Work Is The New Norm. Will It Last?. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianemulcahy/2020/03/30/remote-work-is-the-new-norm-will-it-last/#10cda0c23dd7 [Accessed on 19th April 2020]

PMO Malaysia. (2020) The Prime Minister’s Special Message on COVID-19 – 16 March 2020. Available at:https://www.pmo.gov.my/2020/03/perutusan-khas-yab-perdana-menteri-mengenai-covid-19-16-mac-2020/ [Accessed on 19th April 2020]

Seow, J. (2020) Working from home: Productivity, staff engagement likely to be hit. Available at: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/manpower/working-from-home-productivity-staff-engagement-likely-to-be-hit [Accessed on 19th April 2020]

WHO. (2020) WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 11 March 2020 – Pandemic Announcement. Available at: https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—11-march-2020 [Accessed on 19th April 2020]

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