The lockdown and containment measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic was the “tipping point” for companies, small enterprises or conglomerates, to integrate flexible work arrangements (FWA), whether fully or partially, in their day-to-day operations. We can confidently say that the world is seeing the largest experiment on flexible work anywhere and at any time as an imperative and compelling business solution.
While we are still experiencing the vicious effects of the pandemic, it has influenced and changed our perception that work-from-home, a variation of flexible work, is in fact gender-neutral and gender-agnostic.
FROM FEMALES WORKING REMOTELY TO FLEXIBLE WORK FOR ALL
The 2018 Labor Force Survey (LFS) reveals that opportunities for women and men to participate in economic activities remain unequal because of the disproportionate share of unpaid care work — mostly carried by women. The emerging trend of flexible work has been largely associated with women who wanted to become economically and financially empowered while fulfilling their duties as mothers, wives, and homemakers.
However, research has shown that FWA offers great value propositions for both employers and employees of all genders. Flexible work is one of the main foundations for achieving diverse and inclusive workplaces. It also serves as a great approach in boosting work morale, increasing retention, and retaining the best talent.
In 2018, the McKinsey Global Institute said that increasing flexible work options for all workers provides a good baseline in promoting and harnessing women’s contributions in business. Thus, flexible work enables women to balance family and career, and helps people meet their priorities.
CHALLENGES TURNED OPPORTUNITIES
On June 5, the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE) and the Philippine Women’s Economic Network (PhilWEN), with the support of Investing in Women (IW), an initiative of the Australian Government, conducted a webinar entitled “#FlexForward: Moving Towards the New Ways of Work.” Let me share with you why flexible work is the future of work and is here to stay.
Admittedly, the merit of “presenteeism” still stirs debates and reactions from companies who favor “face time.” As organizations continue and adapt better policies, it is safe to say that “face time” is not a vital ingredient for business success and employee productivity, especially at the present. The common misconception is that work-from-home is the only type of flexible work option available. In fact, there are other variations of FWA that companies can consider, like telecommuting, reduced or part-time work, compressed work week schedule, and job sharing. To know more about these options, PBCWE is pilot offering the Flexible Working Arrangement Toolkit that can help you determine the right and effective FWA for your company.
Furthermore, flexible work is a practice that enables employees, their colleagues and leaders to proactively design ways of working that combine time (when the work outcomes are achieved), place (where work can be done), and technique (how outcomes will be shared) for high performance.
In the Philippines, the Department of Labor and Employment has set out policies and practices to guide companies in implementing Republic Act 11165, otherwise known as the Telecommuting Act of 2019.
In carefully choosing the type of flexible work, organizations should also consider looking in detail at the human interaction requirements and system readiness factors that apply to different roles.
When considering time and technique, factors, such as client demand, ability to remain in contact with colleagues, availability of technology, and service level agreements, will influence what flexible work options are fit for a certain industry. The crisis has become a springboard for business leaders to rise above the challenge.
THE FUTURE OF WORK IS HERE
Flexible work is about embracing the “new normal” of technological change. Emphasizing the benefits of flexible work is just one way; investing heavily on it enables organizations to maximize their talent pipeline by keeping a happy, healthy, and productive workforce.
In this time and age, running a successful business requires more than achieving profitability and generating revenue. The outdated approach of traditional work no longer fits the narrative in today’s corporate setting which now recognizes the value and benefits of gender equality and women empowerment.
Leaders, especially HR practitioners, should make the “people first” battle cry as the topmost priority to protect lives and maintain safe workplaces. Thus, articulating and putting in place written and documented policies on flexible work arrangements enables employees to access this option.
Let us flip the default. Flexible work is here to stay. It is the future of work.
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Ma. Aurora “Boots” D. Geotina-Garcia is a member of the MAP Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She is the President of Mageo Consulting Inc., Chair of PhilWEN and Co-Chair of PBCWE.