By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
With the passage of the Telecommuting Act or Republic Act No. 11165, local companies are encouraged to consider the pros and cons of the arrangement and appropriately plan for it.
“For a start, it may be good for them to begin with a small group of employees, measure productivity, and then roll out on a larger scale when ready,” said Maria Victoria Espano, chairperson and CEO of P&A Grant Thornton.
Espano noted that while telecommuting has been practiced by businesses in the Philippines, it is mostly adopted by multinational companies and, thus, employees are hopeful that local businesses will follow suit.
Telecommuting refers to working from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunications and/or computer technologies. Many workers welcome this development as it eliminates travel time and costs, which has significantly increased due to the worsening traffic conditions in major cities in the country. The law however, provides that telecommuting is subject to the discretion of the employer.
“An employer in the private sector may offer a telecommuting program to its employees on a voluntary basis and upon such terms and conditions as they may mutually agree upon,” said Espano.
She cited some reasons that could have a positive impact on Philippines businesses and the Filipino workforce.
For one, Espano said telecommuting arrangement/s is one way employers can attract and retain premier talent, reduce overhead expenses, and increase productivity.
For many individuals, the travel time between the work place and home is becoming a major consideration whether to apply for employment with a company.
“I have increasingly heard comments from some executives that they have actually crossed out job opportunities that will require more than an hour’s commute. By offering a work from home arrangement, employers may be able to entice good potential candidates to join them. On the other hand, for existing employees, eliminating the daily commute will keep them happy enough to stay with an employer for the long term. It allows workers greater control over their work hours and work location,” she said.
Telecommuting can also boost productivity. Working from home can also be more productive, as employees do not have the distractions or hectic pace of an office environment.
It will also result in savings. Telecommuting saves employers money in office expenses, such as office supplies, furniture, equipment, coffee, and janitorial services. On the other hand, for employees, telecommuting allows people to save on expenses such as fuel, parking fees, vehicle maintenance, public transport fare, dining out, and clothing purchases.
Given these benefits, Espano said an employer must first assess whether a telecommuting arrangement is suitable for its operations.
For instance, if the company deals with numerous customers who require face-to-face interaction, telecommuting may not work, unless it has a good number of client-facing employees which will allow rotation of assignments.
The essence of telecommuting is that the work can be performed by the employee even if he is not in the office premises. Thus, the assumption is that he has access to the same resources that he would have if he was in the office. For example, companies invest in stable, high-speed internet to ensure seamless operations. Employees at home offices may not have the resources for that and, thus, a discussion on who will bear the cost of these resources must take place.