Jamaica lagging behind on flexi-work

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Jamaica lagging behind on flexi-work

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 16, 2020

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IN 2014 the island's legislators passed a law to allow for flexible work arrangements, but six years later it has not taken root within the general employment sector.

According to Yaneek Page, programme lead for Market Entry USA, Jamaica is lagging behind where implementation of this law across sectors is concerned.

“We are way behind… the future of work is independent, it is remote, it is digital and it is everything that has to do with people spending less time driving to a physical work place and actually spending more time creating a workspace that works for them. What the data is also showing is that the quality of life is better for people when they actually do have remote flexi-work. They are more productive. In fact, people are less productive when spending more time in the office,” Page reasoned.

The law, formally known as the Employment (Flexible Work Arrangements) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2014, was developed to change the set nature of work hours to a more flexible work system that would see a return of an increase in productivity and employment opportunities. Under the Act, the hours in the workday would increase from eight or 10 and be capped at 12. Also, employees would be given the chance to organise their work hours to strike a healthy work/life balance.

Instead, what still obtains is a stickler approach from workplaces regarding employees being in office for at least eight hours each day, with heavy surveillance of their every move as a measure of productivity. Interestingly, during the tabling phases of the Bill, much support was received from the public, trade unionists and private sector companies who all said this was the new way of work being beneficial to all.

Page quantified the benefits of a flexible work arrangement as opposed to standard work hours.

“For every 20 minutes you spend in traffic a day, by the end of a year you would have used up the equivalent of two 40-hour work weeks. That's just 20 minutes a day in traffic. When people are spending an hour a day for example, in traffic and they are spending time to get ready for work it is an absolute drain on every resource you can imagine. You are talking about human capital, time wasted in traffic with gas, you are talking about health risks,” she said.

“When you think about diseases the less you have people commuting and actually gathering at workplaces, it is safer. People become less sick, they are more energised, it is more productive, and it improves the quality of life. In the end, you actually find that companies are able to retain, especially millennials and Gen V. For me, it is a huge concern.”

So what is causing the delay? Page suggests there is not enough exposure and good leadership qualities.

“A lot of it is lack of exposure [and] because of that lack of exposure, they have not sat down and quantified what the savings would be to the company. Remember now, companies are using less electricity, because you have less people in the office. It is less risk for you because you have less people in the office.”

According to Page, another barrier to the implementation is fear of the unknown.

“Flexi-work or what is known as remote work, requires a new way of doing things. It's a new way of supervision, it's a new way of leadership, and for some people that means a lot of control, a lot of power and they become nervous about that. They kind of question, 'Well, am I as relevant?' and the truth is, you will realise that some jobs and some of the ways we supervise will have to change,” she explained.

However, if implemented, she said there are a number of pros involved.

“It forces you to be a better manager and a better leader because you are managing people's key performance indicators, for example. You are not watching time, you are watching what are the measures of performance,” she said.

Will we ever get there?

Page is of the view that if we don't do so willingly, the global landscape will force the change.

“Some industries they will be forced to do that because of digitisation and the digital economy. That switch to digital is very real. We are operating in a globalised world. We have no choice in some sectors but to aggressively compete with other sectors in other parts of the world,” she said.


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