‘Please don’t come in’: Covid-19 shows perks of working from home

Those working from home amid the Covid-19 outbreak say it saves them a lot of travel time.

PETALING JAYA: For the past week, Siti (not her real name) was forced to work from home after her company ordered its employees to do so when one of her colleagues tested positive for Covid-19.

Now, the mother-of-four hopes she can continue to work from home even after the Covid-19 outbreak is no longer a threat.

“It’s so much better. I don’t have to face traffic jams and I can get more work done,” she said, adding that with the exception of attending weekly meetings, she did not see the need to be in the office.

“With the internet, laptops, mobile phones, we can still get work done. Many companies are already doing this and I hope mine will too as the flexibility means less stress and time wasted in traffic.”

Siti is one of thousands across the country who are currently working from home amid increasing reports of Covid-19 cases each day.

Some companies are taking a more cautious approach, even if none of their staff has tested positive, urging those who are not feeling well to work from home.

For the country’s largest bosses’ group, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), the Covid-19 outbreak offers companies the opportunity to assess if working from home is a doable option for them.

“We still have issues with internet connectivity – it’s still a big issue for employers, and this is not conducive to work,” MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan told FMT.

“Once broadband becomes more affordable and stable, I am sure many employers will see working from home as a viable option.”

He said this would mean substantial savings for companies, up to 15% in lower utilities bills, smaller office spaces and fittings, as well as travel and parking costs which are paid either in the form of allowances or higher salaries.

Employers could then renegotiate pay packages with employees who want to work from home, ensuring a “win-win” situation where both parties benefit.

He said MEF believed this was the way forward but the government, as the largest employer in the country, would have to lead the way by allowing civil servants who don’t need to be in the office to work from home.

But the Malaysian Trades Union Congress said if not for Covid-19, it would discourage working from home for fear that it would mean reduced benefits or remuneration for workers.

Its secretary-general J Solomon said if unions and employers want to continue working from home after the Covid-19 threat is gone, there has to be a consensus on what this entails.

“If the unions are comfortable, that’s okay. The problem is that in companies with no unions, such arrangements could be abused to the detriment of the workers.”

He said the National Labour Advisory Council, the tripartite labour consultative mechanism comprising the government, employer and employee groups, should develop national guidelines on working from home to protect the interests of all parties.