Remote work, shopping here to stay
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2020 - 12:00am

With the pandemic still very much a threat to health safety in the work environment, work from home (WFH) continues for millions of people around the world. Many are realizing over the course of almost eight months now that productivity need not suffer especially if network connectivity is not a big problem.

Still, even before the coronavirus forced quarantines and lockdowns, quite a number of companies had already started adopting remote work policies, although on a hybrid format that allowed enrolled employees to work outside the office for a set number of days in a week. When employees physically reported to the office, they took a desk similarly reserved for others who do flex work.

Most of those who did remote work during the pre-pandemic days were sales or field people who needed to chase customers or supervise business partners. Going to the office meant drilling down reports to the boss in face-to-face meetings or participating in monthly reviews or goal-setting session.

The pandemic, however, has simply fast-tracked ways through improved remote working systems. It is paving a rethink of how the workplace of the future will be. With new tools available for companies, there is now a growing consensus that the traditional eight-hour work schedule for many desk-bound jobs is no longer a necessity.

Pros and cons

Office workers are learning to adapt to home or remote work through a variety of tools that companies have heavily invested in during recent months to avoid business discontinuity. Productivity measurements are driving how an office worker completes tasks, and are even making job evaluations transparent and in real time.

Most office workers appreciate the freed time from traveling to and from home, although there is also a growing fear that work targets imposed by supervisors are increasingly getting tougher, and therefore ending up consuming more of their time.

The line between personal and work life hours has been obliterated with remote work, which opens the floor to abuses that endanger office workers’ mental and physical health. This could easily lead to the new “sweat shop” of the digital age.

Just how far will companies support remote work will depend on interventions that will address some of the traditional concerns like building teamwork and cohesiveness, cultivating company values and aspirations, and continuing innovative creativity.

Such management fears will be tested in the coming months as companies continue with remote work, and measure the result of how well employees respond to the new ways of working, such as Zoom meetings, virtual happy hours, enhanced productivity measurements and assessments, and many others.

Rise of digital banking

Banks are a good example of how more of their staff are able to work remotely but still keep banking accessible to its exploding list of clients. The emergence of fintechs and digital-only banking has opened up new possibilities that challenge traditional banking norms.

Last year, Union Bank of the Philippines CEO Edwin Bautista talked about the future of banking where there will be fewer new brick-and-mortar branches as more people move into digital banking. The bank had been preparing for this shift since six years ago by investing heavily in digitization.

When the lockdowns were declared last March, the Aboitiz family-owned bank was already remotely running about 90 percent of its operations. This made it possible for the bank, through its online platform, to process a surge of new account openings with ease.

For months now, many branches of the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) have been open only on alternate weeks, with bank employees working from home (or wherever) during the weeks when the branch is physically closed.

Should the virus threat extend for much longer, BPI may have to seriously consider at how this new normal operations will affect their utilization of banking offices going into the future. Having more branches may no longer dictate dominance in the industry.

Online Christmas shopping

The banking sector is not alone in revisiting its use of commercial space. Fashion retailers, department stores, home depots, and many other heavy users of retail outlets are looking at how to maximize merchandising via leased space and online channels.

The coming Christmas season will spell out which brands and department stores will be able to take advantage of the growing preference of consumers for online shopping. People have already started finger browsing for their gifts, and will likely click the “buy” button early to avoid delivery problems.

The big online sale events have already started, and e-commerce sites like Zalora, Shopee, and Lazada are fiercely drumbeating to capture customer attention.

If you’re bored with so much time on your hands locked up at home, it can be entertaining to browse what the new offerings are being put up on sale for the coming gift-giving season – and this can take up much of your spare time. The only limitation will be your spending budget, which has likely been constrained by the continuing business downturn.

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We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

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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