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THE outbreak of Covid-19 has forced a large segment of the workforce around the world to work-from-home (WFH) on a scale never seen before.
The theme continues to hog headlines but as the time comes closer to when high vaccination rates and herd immunity are achieved, many companies are grappling with what strategy to embark on post-pandemic.
On the one hand, most employees are still shuddering at the prospect of returning to their office on the fear of contracting the coronavirus, which still rages on. But is it tenable for WFH to continue and how will it impact productivity and the competitiveness of companies going forward?
In Malaysia, one of the first large companies to address the issue publicly is Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank), which recently said that it is aiming for a hybrid or blended arrangement, which is a mix of in-office and remote working.
In fact, the hybrid model is one that seems to be the choice of the day, but is it easier said than done to execute that?'Work from home' at a Japanese house. - Filepic
Founder and CEO of digital consulting firm Garage Analytics Sdn Bhd Datuk Tharuma Rajah says a couple of things are nudging the hybrid work model as the way forward.
One is that people have realised that they don’t need to commute daily to work and the time saved can be reinvested to raise productivity. And as far as organisations are concerned, the WFH experiment did not entirely disrupt the work culture - essentially values, expectations and practices that guide the action of employees.
“One other positive that has emerged is that there is more trust and empowerment in employees in getting the job done. The downside is many are working longer hours due to the blurring of boundaries, which can create considerable challenges for work-life balance, “ he tells StarBizWeek.
To be sure, the flexi work arrangement is not altogether new in Malaysia with some leeway having been given in the past to expectant mothers or those taking care of kids.
Hot-desking, or non-permanent workspaces for employees who only needed to come to the office periodically, has also been practised by some multinationals and professional firms.
That said, in Asia, including Malaysia, the business culture has generally been traditional, says Tharuma, where a great deal of time goes towards developing rapport with associates and clients such as over a teh tarik or a round of golf and the formality of a handshake to seal a deal.
But as companies and employees continue to adapt to remote working following Covid-19, more companies are now considering the option of making it permanent, according to KPMG.