By Siti Noormi Alias
The implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) as a Malaysian preventive measure to COVID-19 has brought an immediate change to the current work environment. According to a media statement issued by National Security Council on 18 March 2020, only listed essentials and non-essential services are allowed to operate as usual during MCO period, subject to some restrictions, including the minimum work operation or by working from home.
This immediate change requires most of the Malaysian workforce to work from home, which means they have to work and live at home at the same time, leading to another challenge for them, which is immediate adaptations on how to balance between work and family matters.
The author has conducted a short survey, with 55 employees from various sectors and organizations participating, to get their opinion regarding the role of experience in flexible working hours implemented by their organizations previously towards adaptation to “work from home” during the MCO.
The results in Figure 1 above indicate that 76.4 percent of employees already enjoy flexible work hours pre-MCO. Flexible working hours are one of the initiatives to promote work-life balance among Malaysian workforce.
Other examples of flexible work arrangements offered by Asian employers include home or remote working, informal flexible working, part-time employment, job sharing, compressed hours, term-time working hours and phased retirement. Among all these, flexi-time working hours and home or remote working are the most popular practices among Asian employers.
Based on result reported in Figure 2, a majority of respondents (76.4 percent) agreed that they have an advantage in better work adaptation during the MCO. Out of the participants, 18.2 percent perceived that the experience “maybe” helps them in adapting to the changes.
Meanwhile, only 5.5 percent of respondents are totally against the potential contributions of flexible working hours experience towards better adjustment during MCO. The reason is perhaps due to having no experience on flexible working hours at their workplace, leaves them with no idea about it.
During the crisis that we are going through right now, organizations need to have good strategies to ensure their survivability for another six months, at least. Those organizations that already implemented flexible working at their organizations are in advantage in this current situation, because the business can operate as usual, even with minimum movement or by work from home, because their employees used to it. They have existing policies, perhaps needing just minor amendments to suit the current situation.
It has been confirmed by 75 percent of business people that flexible working does indeed improve productivity. With flexible working arrangements, employees are encourages to have a greater sense of responsibility and time management, in which these two keys are believed to bring about a more productive workforce and effective remote management. Therefore, from this current challenging situation, there is a “take home” note to be learnt by business organizations.
Siti Noormi Alias is Senior Lecturer, Department of Professional Development and Continuing Education, Faculty of Educational Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia