In these unprecedented times, the threat of Covid-19 has forced most of the world into varying degrees of movement restriction, imposed strict travel restrictions, and made self-quarantine part of the new normal. In most countries, organisations and employees have had to immediately shift to new remote working or work from home (WFH) practices to stay aligned with nationwide restrictions on movement. A steep learning curve has left employees struggling to maintain a semblance of work-life balance while employers look into new and innovative ways to support the WFH scenario.
Remote working or WFH is not a new concept in the world of work. Since the 1980s, individuals have been able to carry out work activities from the comfort of their own homes with the introduction of teleworking. Developments in telecommunications technology and the increased accessibility of the Internet have made it easier for individuals in a variety of job roles to successfully complete work tasks and activities away from the office.
The advantages of flexibility
Both employees and employers stand to gain benefits from the flexibility afford by WFH practices. A study by Felstead and Henseke in 2017, found that WFH employees tended to hold more positive attitudes toward their employers and had higher organizational commitment1. They also reported higher levels of job enthusiasm and job satisfaction. These findings were corroborated by anecdotal evidence from scientists and academics working remotely who found that they had greater work-life balance due to the flexibility of WFH2.
Maintaining the right balance
However, others struggle with maintaining a proper work-life balance as they face difficulty in being able to stop working and to relax at the end of the work day3. A survey study among young people in Poland also found that WFH made it difficult to separate work affairs from one’s home life in addition to creating a sense of social isolation from colleagues and requiring more discipline in order to stay organised3. In addition, remote workers tend to work more intensely than when working in an office environment and often work beyond formal working hours4.
"...it is critical that companies keep a pulse on employees’ needs in this difficult time"
Towards a new normal
Despite some of these drawbacks, WFH may truly become the new normal in the months to come. Recent data shows that most Singaporean employees wish to continue WFH in some capacity4. Several major employers in the United States, such as Mondelez, Barclays, and Nationwide, are already considering a permanent shift to WFH, citing that it is more cost efficient and enables the company to brace for the global economic slump5. Locally, the largest fund management company in Malaysia, Permodalan Nasional Berhad, announced that it would make WFH a permanent option despite the easing of movement control orders on 8th May 20206.
As it stands, it is critical that companies keep a pulse on employees’ needs in this difficult time. The immediate forced implementation of WFH practices within a short period of time has created unique stressors faced by employees and employers alike.
Participate in the EPITOME work-from-home survey
EPITOME has put together a short survey which aims to assess the opinions of both employees and employers on WFH, as well as identify any gaps between employees’ needs and the support provided by employers.
- Felstead, A. & Henseke, G. (2017). Assessing the growth of remote working and its consequences for effort, well-being and work-life balance. New Technology, Work and Employment, 32(3), 195-212.
- Klopotek, M. (2017). The advantages and disadvantages of remote working from the perspective of young employees. Organization & Management Scientific Quarterly, 4(40), 39-49.
- Hunter, P. (2018). Remote working in research. EMBO Reports, 20(e47435). doi: 10.15252/embr.201847435.
- The Star. (2020, April 30). Survey: Most employees in Singapore keen to continue working from home after Covid-19. The Star, Retrieved from: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2020/04/30/survey-most-employees-in-singapore-keen-to-continue-working-from-home-after-covid-19
- Akala, A. (2020, May 3). More big employers are talking about permanent work-from-home positions. CNBC, Retrieved from: https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/05/01/major-companies-talking-about-permanent-work-from-home-positions.html
- Bernama. (2020, May 10). PNB: Work-from-home now permanent option. The Edge Markets, Retrieved from: https://www.theedgemarkets.com/article/pnb-workfromhome-now-permanent-option