Embracing telecommuting
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2019 - 12:00am

If there is one thing going for the cause of telecommuting in the Philippines, it is the long hours of travel going to work and going home. Blame it on traffic, an inefficient public transport system, and the high real estate prices in urban centers that push most workers to live in the suburbs.

For a middle manager who lives in Alabang, for example, travel to Makati and back home can eat up as much as three to five hours a day. If the commute is with a private vehicle, add fuel expenses, the cost of tollway charges and parking fees, and telecommuting becomes a very desirable option.

Yet, inasmuch as a law has just been recently passed allowing employees to work outside of the office from anywhere else using computers or their equivalent and an internet connection, it would be too much to think that employers and employees will grab the opportunity.

Many barriers still exist, and most of them deal with how people regard telecommuting despite the inconveniences of traffic jams and longer travel distances and all the studies that point to productivity benefits.

Why telecommuting pays

Remote.co, which promotes telecommuting, gives three reasons why remote working should be given more importance by more employers.

It first cites that an estimated 86 percent of employees admit they have become more productive when telecommuting. In the Philippines, this could be so true given the fact that so much time is lost in non-work related chit-chat, or even deciding on what the pooled merienda meal in the afternoon should be.

In the office too, social etiquette requires employees to entertain visitors before getting directly to business. Going to meetings and waiting for everyone – and the boss – to arrive also eat up a sizeable amount of productive time.

Second, two-thirds of managers surveyed agree that employees on telecommuting get more work done. This could be true because workers who choose to telecommute often work in areas where there are less distractions.

Third, 82 percent of telecommuters have less stress, are able to focus better, and therefore deliver much improved performance. Working out of office most often also contributes to a healthier employee.

This could be tied to the fact that a telecommuter virtually reduces his travel time to zilch, saving precious hours for rest. Otherwise, the morning rush to work would have stressed him to high heavens even before entering the office building.

Protection for telecommuters

The Telecommuting Act of 2019, however, is not something that all employers will embrace. It is optional, and depends on a mutual agreement between employer and employee.

It does set a more reasonable guideline for a working relationship within the bounds of Philippine labor laws. Telecommuters are assured of the same or better working standards for their position, including overtime pay, leave benefits, and bonuses.

Of course, there’s no assurance that a telecommuter will eventually be given the same opportunity for promotion or advancement that a colleague who personally “interacts” with the boss everyday would have, and this is one reason why some employees are afraid of even suggesting a telecommuting work arrangement.

Truth be told, many managers are still reluctant about having a subordinate telecommuter that they are able to monitor only through a computer. Despite the studies showing how telecommuters are able to deliver more work, imagining a telecommuter slacking off during working hours gives managers a feeling of not being able to “manage” their subordinates effectively.

Telecommuting as a way of working, though, continues to gain acceptance in big global companies and even key government offices. It is seen as one of those changes that will increasingly happen in the near future.

Easing in

Offices that adopt telecommuting as an acceptable mode of work must be prepared to institute changes and interventions that would allow their organizations to take advantage of the benefits of their staff working away from the office.

Interested companies may start with having telecommuters work part of the week in the office, and the rest of the week outside. To this end, shared desks and office spaces become the norm, as with scheduling face-to-face meeting with supervisors.

Or one can do like what AT&T did in 1994 when 32,000 employees – from the CEO to telephone operators – stayed home to see how far it could transform the workplace by bringing the work to the worker instead of the worker to work.

For AT&T, this paved the way to where it is now: a venerable pioneer in the alternative workplace concept that has inspired a new way of thinking about work not only in America, but other countries, including of late, the Philippines.

There are multiple other ways for companies to ease into telecommuting, which for some may involve as many of 80 percent of their work force. Especially for areas where work space cost is high, a big part of operating costs can be saved from encouraging telecommuting.


Know, though, that there are downsides to this, and keeping a secure communications line as well as databank should be first on the list. Managers and telecommunication employees must continue to keep up a certain level of interpersonal relationship.

Some telecommuters have difficulties coping with the absence of office camaraderie, or become more engrossed in work that they even check their emails or chat boards when going to the toilet after waking up in the middle of the night.

But all these have remedies, and if done correctly, telecommuting can indeed be something good for both employees and employer.

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Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

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