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Work-from-home is every worker’s right

The Philippine Star
Work-from-home is every workerâs right
Olive Lumasac has pretty much the same ordeal in terms of the daily commute. Her company, a multinational firm in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, has an existing telecommuting policy where employees can take up to two days in work-from-home arrangement.

(Editor’s note: The article is composed of excerpts from Sen. Joel Villanueva’s sponsorship speech delivered on March 7, 2017).

MANILA, Philippines — From his house in Quezon City, Aries Vincent Gonzales, 39, powers through a four-hour daily commute to get to his office in Taguig City and back home. But on a certain day every work week, he saves time by working from home, an arrangement he has with his manager.

Olive Lumasac has pretty much the same ordeal in terms of the daily commute. Her company, a multinational firm in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, has an existing telecommuting policy where employees can take up to two days in work-from-home arrangement.

She looks forward to Thursdays and Fridays when she does not need to get out of the house to work. She feels more productive with her company’s telecommuting policy as it enables her to get her work done and deal with her personal needs as well.

Aries and Olive represent a portion of the country’s labor force enjoying telecommuting arrangement with companies who have adopted internal arrangements with their employees on working from home.

In pursuing the legislation on telecommuting, we saw the need to adapt to the changing times. When we asked around among college students and fresh graduates about their ideal work schedule, most of them responded that they disliked the idea of having fixed 8-to-5 jobs.

Instead, the overall sentiment of the younger generation of workers regarding the ideal work schedule should be “anytime of the day” and “at the most convenient time and place.”

Signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018, Republic Act No. 11058 or the Telecommuting Law encourages employers in the private sector to adopt telecommuting - a work arrangement that allows an employee to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and other relevant technology.

It deviates from the conventional set-up of work, which is usually within the confines of office cubicles or central workstations. It is “working from anywhere other than a company’s office or workplace” or more popularly known as “working remotely” or “working-from-home.”

Traveling to work

Because telecommuting is triggered by internet-based communication system and mobile-oriented mindset, it makes commuting or travelling to a central place of work irrelevant or unnecessary.

Mobility in highly-urban areas such as Metro Manila has become a challenge by itself for commuters. Traffic situation has been deteriorating to the point that its economic impact is staggering to say the least.

Based on a study conducted by the Japan International Coordination Agency (JICA), the worsening traffic in Metro Manila costs P3.5 billion in lost opportunities per day in 2017, and is estimated to rise to P5.4 billion by 2035 if no interventions are made. On the other hand, the economic impact of traffic in Metro Cebu amounts to P1.1 billion daily in 2018, the same JICA study showed.

Increased productivity

Telecommuting arrangements are also the subject of several studies that seek to discover its benefits and its relation to employee productivity. A University of Stanford study showed that call center employees actually increased their productivity by 13 percent when allowed to work from home. Another study from the University of Texas at Austin showed that telecommuters worked five to seven hours more than their in-office counterparts.

The law opens the doors for companies to consider the benefits of telecommuting with regard to reducing overhead costs, which includes scaling back rentals of office space and reducing operational costs such as electricity and water.

According to one study we read as part of the research, IBM achieved a 40- to 60-percent decrease in real estate costs per site after the company began a telecommuting program in the 1990s. The move translated into $35 million in savings in a year.

In fact, some companies here in the Philippines have adopted telecommuting arrangements within their firms.

Employers’ prerogative

The Senate Labor Committee looked into the best practices in telecommuting to ensure that more employers will be able to adopt telecommuting in the workplace:

Telecommuting is employer’s prerogative. It will be at the employer’s discretion to offer telecommuting program to its workers based on a mutual agreement.

Telecommuting is voluntary. We considered several factors why companies opt to telecommute, but we cannot make this mandatory because enterprises are differently situated. However, the bill guarantees that any telecommuting program should NOT be less than the minimum labor standards set by law.

Telecommuting treats employees fairly. The Committee would like to emphasize that employers should ensure that its telecommuting employees are given the same treatment as that of comparable employees working at the employer’s premises.

Telecommuters are not isolated. Employers must ensure that measures are taken to prevent the telecommuting employee from being isolated from the rest of the working community in the company.

Telecommuters are protected. The employer will be responsible for taking the appropriate measures to ensure the protection of data used and processed by the telecommuting employee for professional purposes. The law contains provisions of the Data Privacy Act of 2013 to have suppletory effect.

Social protection benefits

Our law also provides protection for workers who will decide to work from home. They will receive the same compensation and social protection benefits as other workers who would like to report or work in the office. The law encourages the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to study and identify jobs that can have telecommuting arrangements. It also mandates the department to create policies to strengthen telecommuting arrangements across different industries.

We crafted the law to be dynamic, recognizing the continuous evolution of technology.

Today’s available technology might be rendered obsolete in the coming years. It lays the groundwork for workers of the future to adapt to modern technologies and prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with the assurance that the rights and terms of their employment should not be lower than the minimum standards set by law.

Our workers have the right to a work-life balance. They have the right to a flexible work arrangement. They have the right to be allowed to work-from-home. - Senator Joel Villanueva

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Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resource Development, is the principal author of Republic Act 11165 or Telecommuting Act, a law that institutionalizes “telecommuting as an alternative work arrangement for employees in the private sector.”

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