Return To Work Guidelines: What Filipino Employers Have To Say
Over the years, we have seen offices evolve from rigid cubicle-filled spaces into more flexible workplaces. But just as some companies were learning the ropes of the fact, COVID-19 has forced most to shift to a completely different direction—remote work.
In the process, the change succeeded in highlighting the benefits of working outside the office. Above all, it brought out a number of things that needed addressing–both on the employer and employee side.
Amid industries restarting during the pandemic, human resource leaders—who play a valuable role in a company—are facing the same dilemma: Should they mandate employees to go back to the office? Or, should they continue to work from home until their safety is fully guaranteed? Below, they share their return to work guidelines critical to their decision-making.
Return to work guidelines in the Philippines: Top factors to consider
Safety and peace of mind for staff Certainly, no one knows when the country can return to or at least have a semblance of the old normal. However, working outside the office has shown ways to help employees manage these feelings of unease while providing them and their loved ones safety. If your company is planning a return-to-office, you should offer the same reassurance.
“Some of our employees are working on-site already,” TAPServices, Inc.’s Lilli Anne Mae Aricheta shares. “The management is also looking to meet with regards to the plans for a return to work but they are very unsure of our current situation. They want to make sure that it is safe for all employees.”
Rachelle Ann Tiongson-Peckson from Workcentric Solutions Consulting Inc. raised a similar concern. According to her, working from home made their company less “anxious about being exposed to people with COVID.” Because of this, only 10% of their manpower reports to the office. This covers messengers and members of the accounting team, to name a few.
Employers must likewise look into the personal needs of their employees. Aricheta, for example, is concerned that going back to the office could put her parents’ health at risk. The same applies to those living with persons with comorbidities. Encourage a safe space for employees to openly discuss their situation, so you can better assess their individual concerns and how these can inform the finer details of your return-to-office plans.
Eventual expenses you will need to cover Common among earlier calls to end work-from-home was the lack of structure, hence the cost shouldered by employees. Your company may have succeeded in reducing its logistics costs without your usual manpower going to the office every day. But ask yourself this: What can you do to compensate them for said costs?
Consuelo Zobel Alger Foundation’s Rhyan Rosanes shares what it has been like for his company. “In terms of operations, the cost of utilities—such as electricity, water, and internet—has substantially decreased. This then offsets the cost of additional incentives to employees during the pandemic,” Rosanes says. Through this arrangement, the quality of work done by their staff has not been compromised.
By contrast, there are companies that don’t offer the same benefits. In such cases, the employees not only cover utility costs, but they also don’t receive proper resources and support.
Under the Telecommuting Act, employers must make sure that employees working remotely are given the same treatment as those working on-site. This includes benefits, fair pay (including overtime), equivalent workload and performance standards, and access to training, among others.
While the act does not prescribe employers to cover the costs of a work-from-home set-up, the terms and conditions of the company’s telecommuting program should abide by minimum labor standards set by the law and / or Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The CBA is a contract between employer and employee that sets forth the terms for wages, work hours, and other terms and conditions.
Budget limitations in mind, you may consider creating a Remote Work / Telecommuting Work Agreement that includes details on WFH costs, like this sample by Dela Salle University.
Should companies fully return to the office, they may also take into account the costs of providing a safer safe for their staff. Currently, this is being done by Trion Trade, Inc. “There are 30 employees and the company was able to provide separate rooms for them. Each room has around 3 to 5 employees, with enough space and ventilation,” shares Joan Gonzales.
Are you fostering work and life balance? Among the challenges of working from home, balancing one’s work and personal life proved to be one of the more strenuous. Needless to say, some companies struggled to stay afloat while keeping the performance and the sanctity of employees in stellar shape. Others took much less time to adjust.
“In terms of workload, it is not difficult as we are still doing the same tasks while working from home,” Tiongson-Peckson adds. Rosanes mentions that it is the same for his company. “Employees now have more time for rest, their family, and areas of interest. Most introverted employees appear to have happier and healthier work-life with this setup.”
For some, though, this was not the case. A report by JobStreet, for example, revealed that a majority of key personnel in these companies have experienced burnout due to heavier workload amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Senior-level employees working in medium-sized corporations were the most affected. In special conditions, the same challenge has led some members of a company to resign or consider resigning. Psychologist Anthony Klotz calls this the “Great Resignation.”
As a decision-maker, you have the power to prevent this by checking up on your staff’s work and well-being. Remember: health matters in any work situation, whether you intend to continue doing remote or plan to transition to hybrid.
Hybrid work setups might work, too At this point, there is no question that being flexible is key to enduring work amid the pandemic. But more than adjusting to its demands at hand, some companies are already trying out long-term solutions. That is, hybrid work setups.
In this setup, employees work both from home and the office. It debunks age-old myths that only either one or the other is effective. Among the local companies practicing this is SteelAsia Manufacturing Corporation. “As of the moment, we only allow 30% to work on-site and when needed,” shares talent manager Jeffrey Hernandez. “The company is looking at allowing 50% to work on-site but employees can still have the option to work from home.”
The hybrid setup has also been helping Transcomos Asia Philippines Inc., says Archie De Las Alas. “From time to time, we go to the office for important events and meetings. That’s how we will currently be managing it.” The same goes for Jaka Investments Corporation. According to Charisma Soriano, the company is operating on a rotational basis. “We are still deciding if we are ready to accommodate 100% employees on-site.”
Moreover, many of these companies require their workers to schedule their physical reporting ahead. These include Texicon Agri Ventures. “Given that restrictions are a bit more relaxed, we will still adapt to this just to help the business continue its operation while maintaining productivity at work and ensuring the safety of all our employees,” Hanika Ronquillo says.
Filipino employees themselves have shown interest in a flexible set-up. In JobStreet’s 2nd Decoding Global Talent Report, it was revealed that 48% of workers prefer a mix of remote and on-site work if they were given a choice. Only ahead by 1% are those who want completely remote work, whereas 4% choose to work completely on-site.
Should your company return to the workplace now?
Two years into the lockdown, some companies have well adjusted to the demands of working outside the office. Needless to say, others still haven’t. Before you implement return to office plans, take the time to assess how you responded to them. Along with the above-stated factors, consider the following:
Have you provided your employees the appropriate resources to work remotely?
Were there improvements in your productivity and that of your employees?
What incentives have you been offering your workers this whole time?
Will it make any difference now if you continue to prioritize safety?
Are there other modes of work that you feel might suit your industry better?
For a more detailed return to office checklist, click here. In the end, return-to-office plans and sentiments vary from employer to employer. Everything boils down to what your priorities are at this time and how you see your company moving forward. Nonetheless, these factors are something you should look into. In doing so, you can ensure that whatever decision you make will benefit not just you as the employer, but your employees as well.