Covid-19’s silver lining: Getting employers to embrace working from home | Opinion

MARCH 11 — It’s been unnerving doing my errands lately; malls are quieter and people are wearing masks everywhere.

Stepping into pharmacies or the nearest Daiso I hear people asking for masks or sanitisers and it reminds of that heavy, tense feeling before a storm.

The fear is strong. I’ve had to WhatsApp my own mother pre-emptively just so she won’t need to worry. 

My friend in Singapore had a Covid-19 case in her building and has been asked to work from home.

I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be nice if that was an option for everyone?

While I know some professions still need more frequent face-to-face dealings, most office jobs could benefit from more flexible policies.

It’s 2020. The old model of everyone needing to be physically in the office, suffering through traffic jams and rush hours is antiquated.

We have faster, more affordable internet now. Why can’t we have meetings via Skype?

According to Owl Labs, 44 per cent of companies around the world do not allow remote work but telecommuting has grown by 115 per cent in the last decade, according to a US Employee Workforce report.

Allowing employees the flexibility to work from home  as needed is the kind of benefit that would appeal to many — it saves in transportation costs, as well as little things such as food and wardrobe.

With working from home becoming a necessity for some firms in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak perhaps it will be a good demonstration that life, and work can go on without people needing to be in the office 24/7.

Even working from home just once a week would, on paper, save the average employee a decent amount of money and unless said employee is the kind who cannot work without supervision, there should be no reason for a drop in productivity.

The rise in xenophobia has been a depressing reaction but perhaps there might still be a silver lining to be found, especially where employee welfare is concerned.

It is also time that employees not be guilted into work when ill. I knew someone who was diagnosed with SARS and still insisted on coming to the office, not caring about the risk of spreading the disease, insisting their deadline was far more important.

Unfortunately masks just aren’t enough protection against selfishness and stupidity.

In the meantime, I also hope you are all washing your hands, getting enough sleep and not sharing ridiculous fake news on WhatsApp.

May the epidemic blow over soon and that the lessons in hygiene our Health Ministry has been tirelessly articulating almost daily sink in.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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