Biz groups, companies encourage workers to return to office

Biz groups, companies encourage workers to return to office
This August 19, 2020 photo shows the "mega contact-tracing center" in Valenzuela City.
The STAR / Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — Business and industry groups, along with the country’s biggest property firms, are encouraging employees from the “major segments of the Philippine economy” to return to their physical workspaces

The appeal to workers to return to office comes at a time of rising fuel costs and amid calls to implement a four-day workweek setup for employees to manage expenses.

READ: Gov’t says no extension of work-from-home setup for call centers

In a statement released on Monday, the group said returning back to the office is “a significant step towards the country’s journey to post-pandemic normalcy.”

“We now look forward to heightened business activity, which will benefit the entire nation and spur its return to economic wellness,” the statement read.

The statement was signed by business and industry groups, including: 

  • Philippine Chamber of Commerce
  • Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc.
  • Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines
  • Go Negosyo
  • Management Association of the Philippines
  • Philippine Constructors Association
  • Philippine Retailers Association
  • Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations, Inc.
  • Resto PH

Executives of listed property companies signed the document, including Ayala Land, Inc. President Bernard Vincent Dy, Megaworld Corp. Chief Strategy Officer Kevin Andrew Tan, Robinsons Land Corp. President Frederick Go, and SM Prime Holdings, Inc. President Jeffrey Lim. 

Major business hubs and offices were shuttered after the government imposed a community quarantine in March 2020, in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Property firms, in particular, faced a drop in occupancies across their hotel, mall, and office portfolios as companies and organizations implemented a work from home strategy.

In 2021, Leechiu Property Consultants noted that demand for office spaces already increased 40% to 540,000 square meters. 

In the same statement, the groups cited studies showing that in 2020, the pandemic negatively affected 423,075 construction workers, 464,841 accommodation and food service workers, 492,067 transportation and storage workers. 

And two years since the government-mandated lockdown, the group noted that the work from home setup is not for everyone. Pointing to what happened with Typhoon Odette last year, the group said it showed that such arrangements “are not for all and were meant to be temporary."

“Without backup systems, in the workplace needed for uninterrupted operations, many companies in Cebu and along the path of Typhoon Odette reported significant losses due to power and water outages,” it said.

The group highlighted that the country’s vaccination rate stands at 57.1%, while the rate in Metro Manila stood at 70.4% amid lower COVID-19 cases. It expressed optimism after the country began logging lower COVID-19 cases nationwide,

It added that the government has also lowered its quarantine status in Metro Manila. 

“The path to recovery, we aver, begins with the presence in the business and commercial centers of our country’s workers,” the group said. 

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