WFH trend expected to continue after MCO

KUALA LUMPUR (May 6): When speaking about the new normal that is being embraced by Malaysians since enforcement of the Movement Control Order (MCO) last March 18, the conversation will certainly touch on working from home (WFH).

In fact, WFH is not something new as it has been introduced by the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development about seven years ago, since 2013, but the initiative received cool response with workers finding it more convenient to work in the office.

Now, everything changes with the implementation of the MCO.

A data analyst who was ‘stranded’ in her hometown in Sungai Petani, Kedah, since the first phase of the MCO, Nur Haniza Kamal Bahrin, 30, said the WFH trend could become a culture because it is practical and not only suitable during the MCO.

“In the beginning, it was not easy because the internet connection in my village was  quite poor. But when I finally got used to it, everything turns fine. Moreover, now it’s Ramadan, we don’t have to rush back home from office to prepare dishes for the breaking-of-fast.

“Although WFH, I communicate often with my boss and office colleagues. What is important is to get the task given completed on time,” she said.

A draughtsman, Affan Yassin, 27, said he was becoming comfortable after a month of adapting to WFH and had created a small office to help him work on the tasks given with more ease.

“My children used to disturb me at first, but they have come to understand that I have to work from home. Now, when I sit in front of the computer they don’t disturb me anymore. 

“Although at times I have to go to the office, WFH is practical and can be considered after the MCO has been lifted,” he said.

Based on these situations, Associate Professor Dr Rohaiza Rokis, from the Sociology and Antropology Department, International Islamic University Malaysia, said WFH is an ideal concept of living.

She said the workers are given the freedom, not only physically but also psychosocially, as they don’t have to adhere to the many normal standard operating procedures and work manual, such as daily attendance and working in a face-to-face management hierarchy.

“It is important to highlight that the given tasks should be completed within the allocated time frame. In many aspects, this can help protect the workers’ psyche,” she explained.

While accepting that the medium may become a top choice, especially among working mothers, Rohaiza stressed that the field of jobs will determined the suitability for WFH.

"The consequences of female workers choosing to WFH are quite impactful and may disrupt other working chain. For example, many nurseries will be affected,” she said.

Rohaiza said WFH also served as a way to reduce traffic congestion and cost of living, as well as protecting the nature, but at the same time the community must ensure that the medium would not bring negative domino effect to the country’s economy.

Meanwhile, Centre of Technical Excellence Sarawak (Centexs) general manager Shahren Yusri opined that the new normal would continue even after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit some people were still not used to applying technology in their work.

“Whether we want it or not, we have to apply technology in our lives. It has been there for a long time but people are so used to the manual process. For example, attending face-to-face meetings,” he added.

Shahren explained that while some may feel awkward in using technology, they will eventually get better and people would realise that it was actually easy and effective.

On employers’ acceptance, Shahren said WFH could be considered by most sectors especially those who fully operate from the office.

“There may be times when employees need to come to the office, but not as frequent. Meetings with third parties can also be held without having to sit down together.

“However, we need some time to blend all these in our daily working routine. Employers have to manage this wisely so that those working from home can be productive and meet their KPIs (key performance indicators),” he explained.

Asked on the best way to monitor employees working from home, Shahren said there were many methods that can be used, including setting up KPIs, time-based reporting and using credit hours.

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