AN end to work-from-home (WFH) arrangements has been delayed for some employees in light of fears of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus disease, but experts say they want to see the measure continue as part of a new digital society.
Following Government orders to end a previous WFH order that was in place for the public sector on January 3, anecdotal evidence suggests that many public and private sector workers are yet to return to the office in light of the latest wave of the virus which has again effected sharp rises in the number of positive cases, hospitalisations and even deaths.
As a result many companies, both within the public and private sectors, have reported high levels of absenteeism among staff, as workers fall sick or those fearful apply to continue their work remotely.
In the US, it is reported that large companies such as Goldman Sachs, Uber and Google have also had to push back their previously announced return to work dates until conditions improve, this as disease experts predict a peak in cases from this latest wave by the end of this month with hopes for the virus to drastically diminish by March.
While some companies have become increasingly positive on having their staff work remotely as the effects of the pandemic lingers, some have not yet adapted their systems to match the most radical shift in work arrangements seen in centuries.
Wayne Chen, businessman and president of the Caribbean Employers Federation, weighing in on the matter, called for a change in the mindset of some managers.
“The opportunity from this crisis is for us (employers) to focus our thinking and stop measuring hours just spent at a desk and start quantifying key performance indicators and how we can allow our employees to achieve these indicators at their own convenience and from their own locations. The employees will be happier and will become more productive when they have more control over their output and compensation,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Chen said that while his support for WFH policies were more geared towards pushing the digital transformation agenda than as a response to the pandemic, there was a greater need for more trust in the workplace. “If employers were to trust their employees more and put in place structures to measure output, than eyeballing people to see if they are working hard, they would be getting a lot more done.”
He said that while not all jobs allow people to engage in WFH, those who can benefit from such an arrangement should be allowed to do so as remote working carries its own set of benefits, which could also help the country to quantum leap into a new world of opportunities.
“The organisation, which has put in place measures to weigh output than time spent at a desk, have seen remarkable improvements, because people working from home don't lose the time commuting, they are also happier and can work at their own convenience,” he stated
“Those employers still stuck in a nine to five, Monday-Friday regime are going to find themselves obsolete very quickly as the rest of the world leaves them behind,” he further warned.
Echoing similar sentiments, David Wan, president of the Jamaica Employers Federation (JEF), agrees that WFH should be allowed where possible, especially in instances where productivity is not affected. He, however, said that while some employers may prefer to have workers on site for quality monitoring purposes, there was no one-size-fits-all model as situations vary across different companies with the discretion being held by the employer.
Wan, in noting the findings of an internal research which indicated that some 65-70 per cent of the current workforce is unable to engage in WFH due to the nature of the jobs, said it was now time for the country to retrofit its labour force to match the future world of work.
“The opportunity we have from this crisis, which will have to be driven by government, is to retool and retrain out workers for the changing world of work that's coming up in the next five to ten years,” he said to the Sunday Finance.