WFH: A new norm that should be continued

KUALA LUMPUR – The Work From Home (WFH) or remote working, which has been widely practiced since the Movement Control Order (PKP) was implemented more than a year ago, is gaining acceptance although many find it awkward initially.

The reopening of the service sector and the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine in the country to curb the spread of the deadly disease have raised questions on whether it is appropriate to continue with the new norm of working from home when the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

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A senior lecturer at the Department of Educational Psychology and Counselling, Faculty of Education, Universiti Malaya (UM), Dr Harris Shah Abd Hamid opined that the WFH approach should be continued due to the positive effects, not only on employees but also in many other aspects.

“WFH should be continued, but the employees’ needs and option should be given priority so that WFH is not seen as a forced solution, especially for employees with high social needs, as it can deprive them of a channel for social interaction when working from home,” he told Bernama here.

He said the WFH concept should be implemented by looking at the person-job fit or compatibility between individuals and the job or tasks that they perform at work to ensure they can perform their jobs more productively at home.

Studies conducted by several quarters on WFH showed many positive effects, especially in terms of productivity and task delivery.

He said the government’s move to consider expanding work -from -home facilities for the public and private sectors to enable employees to take care of their family members who are sick or ill, and for new fathers to take care of their wife and newborn, is a commendable move.

“This is capable of reducing the stress that arises from the conflict of work and family demands. I am confident that many of those who are taking care of their family members will benefit from the WFH option.

“In this context, the option to work from home can be described as a stress prevention measure, especially in the primary category,” he added.

Take care of the ill and sick

Last Monday, in conjunction with the 2021 Women’s Day, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that the government was looking into extending the WFH arrangement for both the public and private sector staff and giving full pay to enable workers to care of ailing family member, or in the case of men, to help their wives look after their newborn child.

The prime minister said the government was also looking into extending the WFH arrangement to workers whose spouses have just died, as matters related to the loss of loved ones normally took time to be settled.

Meanwhile, National Union of Petroleum and Chemical Industry Workers (NUPCIW) secretary-general Datuk Abdul Halim Mansor, who is also former Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) president, described the move to expand the WFH arrangement as apt in adapting to the new norms in the society.

To make the concept a success, he said, employers need to change their conservative thinking, in always wanting employees to be in the office to complete their respective tasks.

“Don’t make the culture of working from home only during the COVID-19 pandemic. it should be continued professionally,” he added.

However, he said, there are still a number of employers with out-dated thinking who want employees to be before their eyes as proof that they are working.

“In this age of technology, there is no need to be present in the office, including journalists, because they can fully use the gadget to send news reports from anywhere, including from home,” he added.

He said apart from getting full salary, employees working from home also needed to be given security guarantees, such as to contribute to the Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) insurance.

“If employees are involved in an accident while at work, they can claim for insurance from Socso, but what happens if accident occurs when they are working from home, is there any protection for them.

“This matter needs to be looked into by making the necessary amendments so that there is a guarantee for those who work from home because accidents can also happen at home,” he added.

He said apart from trust between employers and employees, the WFH approach should also create a win-win situation for both parties.

“When employees work from home, employers may be able to reduce the cost of renting office space or electricity and at the same time they (employers) need also provide facilities such as laptops so that the employees can perform their duties more effectively,” he added.