Work from Home: An Option or The Only Option?
As at today 18th March 2020, the world is finding its ways to fight the spread of COVID-19. Italy led the way by imposing a lockdown on its country to contain this minuscule enemy from spreading and killing many more citizens. Spain followed straight after and the latest in Europe is France. President Emmanuel Macron imposes a 15-day lockdown on 16 of March 2020 preventing its citizens to walk out of the house. In Asia, similar decisions are made by several countries including Malaysia. And this decision has made Work from Home accelerates from a concept that the business community dilly-dally on to something inevitable going forward.
The concept of Work from Home (WFH) or formerly known as Work at Home (WAH) was explored more or less 10 years ago by many international companies like Amazon and Dell. Communication advancement helps the acceleration of Work from Home adoption in companies as people can get tasks done efficiently even though they are not in the same premise with each other. Work from Home is where employees can carry out their job at home with flexible working hours to bring work-life balance, and in the end, will improve health, reduce stress and save money for the employees involved. In return, employer benefits by having employees who have greater loyalty to and better engagement with the company.
The idea of Work from Home has been better received in more advanced countries and in selected industries. However, for developing countries, companies are still reluctant to put this into action. Many have applied caution and the progress of its deployment has remained stagnant due to the need for the management to control and monitor its labour force. Out of sight could lead to low motivation and discipline, hence, less contribution and depleting productivity.
All that changes when the world is hit by the unsuspected Covid-19. Today, as I’m writing this piece, I’m sitting on my sofa in my cosy living room with my Mac on my lap and tired fingers for having to type non-stop since this early morning addressing various departments on how to Work from Home. On the 17th of March, the Malaysian government issued a Restricted Movement Order that requires all private companies to shut operations from today until 31st March 2020, leaving us no choice but to Work from Home on a big scale. In one day, we have to allow our company from only selected RnD staff to WFH to a 100% staff permit to Work from Home.
How do you monitor the progress of the employees? How do we assign tasks, check on deliverables, communicate with the team, coordinate with other teams and maintain operations from afar? Thanks to technologies like Skype, WhatsApp, Google Drive, communication poses no challenge whatsoever. We are communicating with each other like a champ, and Google Drive is a great collaboration tool for Work from Home, hands down.
Another matter is, how do we know the whereabouts of the staff at all times? Fortunately for us, TimeTec TA saves the day. Through smartphones, the staff can clock their attendance data using the GPS feature that records their exact location, and managers can view their times through the Audit List feature in the web version of the software. Impose multiple clocking times, and we got that covered. How about leave management? TimeTec Leave App, the perfect leave application is available on every employee’s smartphone to make leave application and approval fast and efficient. Accruals and leave balance are automated and taken care of by the system.
Despite technology can resolve a lot of challenges by employing Work from Home, it cannot quite resolve family matters. One of the staff members is going crazy because the children keep fighting in the house. Another finds it hard to manage food preparation for the family within an hour of time during lunch after meeting with the team. Children and spouses have been screaming for attention, not realizing that work is still required to be carried out during the usual working hours even with this Work from Home concept.
Approximately two more weeks for us to brace this Restricted Movement Order, and I’m sure that we will get out of this intact. Thankfully our company is actually semi-prepared for this. Our employees understand the ecosystem of cloud solutions, and their advantages. Thus, when events like this occur, we remain calm because we know what to do.
For the rest of the world, Work from Home is no longer an option that you can ignore. As we move forward, Work from Home perhaps is the only option for us. Who knows.