It is hot off the press!

In a press release by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Philippines on June 6, 2022, the agency approved to institutionalize flexible work arrangements in the public sector as part of the nationwide effort to transition from a public health and economic crises to the new normal setting. The decision to adopt such policy will still be made by the heads of the government agencies, according to the CSC.

The Philippines has experienced one of the longest periods of isolation in the world, and the new normal has greatly affected the concept of how people work. The public sector now recognizes that flexible work is a viable option. Government agencies should consider the long-term positive effects of flexible work as a cost-saving mechanism with the advent of rising oil prices and worsening traffic conditions, and as an approach for better workforce retention.

The positive effects of flexible work

The world is seeing the largest experiment on flexible work anywhere and at any time as an imperative and compelling business solution, according to an article I wrote at the height of the COVID-19 epidemic. Flexible work is a great approach in boosting work productivity, which is a great value proposition for both companies and employees, most especially for mothers and homemakers.

Nine in 10 employees in Southeast Asia prefer flexible work over the traditional office setup according to a survey conducted by ey. A hybrid arrangement that combines in-office and remote work is more favorable for the majority. The setup plays an opportunity for change and keeps the business sustainable.

According to a survey by the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE) and Investing in Women, many companies have reported that flexible work doesn’t lead to less work productivity. Compared to prepandemic levels, the productivity levels are equal or even higher.

A trust-based flexible work environment where leaders believe that the employees will do the right and smart thing should be built by an organization. A flexible work environment is measured by the output and outcome of team members, not the hours they spend in the office. It is important for interactions to take place in both physical and virtual settings. The management and its workforce should be well aligned in terms of processes and priorities.

Flexible work, or remote work to be specific, has resulted in reduced travel hours, property rental and maintenance costs, even in utility costs and paper usage for many companies Without the hassle of traveling to and from the workplace, time spent doing work is better managed. Nine out of 10 Filipinos said that their savings reached over P340,000 in the last two years of hybrid work implementation, according to a study by Cisco. Positive effects on work-life balance are associated with good financial standing.

Concentrix, the largest business process outsourcing company in the country and the successor firm of Convergys, a founding member of the PBCWE, decided to give up its tax incentives in order to continue with the hybrid work setup for its employees. It appears that the benefits of flexible work far outweigh the loss of tax benefits for this company.

What more can be done?

The rapid shift caused huge confusion about how effective flexible work is in different industries. There are still challenges to deal with with the positive effects of flexible work.

Every industry has a cycle. It can be difficult to implement flexible work because it is not a one-size-fits-all. Understanding the needs of its employees is what an organization can start by. Flexible work is now seen as a long-term approach to ensure the efficient delivery of public sector services because of the regulations in place.

Organizations have to invest in technology and equipment as well. Employees’ individual needs are not the same. For example, reasonable and sufficient arrangements must be provided for people with disabilities. Inclusive spaces will be the future of work.

Different sectors can learn from each other’s best practices. Private organizations that have adopted this approach successfully can be used by the public sector to determine what works well for their organization. We can achieve a “win-win” situation through this new development. Flexible work is not going to change. I’m not sure.

The official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines is not reflected in the article. She is on the Diversity & Inclusion committee. She is the founding chair of the Philippine Women’s Economic Network. She is also the president of a consulting firm.

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