Managing the Hybrid Workforce – BusinessWorld Online

First of two parts

For many organizations trying to get back on their feet after the pandemic, it can be quite a paradigm shift to make decisions about adopting hybrid work models, especially as health alert levels continue to be lowered as a means of stimulating economic activity. Therefore, as part of the new normal, business leaders will face new challenges and questions in managing hybrid teams.

There can be great reluctance on the part of organizations to accept the need for a flexible workforce after the pandemic. While opinions vary on the actual productivity remote work has brought over the past two years compared to pre-pandemic operations, flexible work arrangements have offered many organizations the ability to stay operational despite the lockdown. There is also anecdotal evidence to support how various organizations have remained productive through telecommuting. However, each organization will need to assess its productivity given the scale and nature of its operations.

An examination of worker sentiment indicates a general preference for an arrangement that involves flexibility in when and where employees perform their duties. The recent EY Future Consumer Index shows that employees are “losing interest in pre-pandemic work patterns”, a finding that reinforces those made in the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey which showed that the majority of employees surveyed in Southeast Asia preferred not to return to pre-pandemic. COVID working methods.

In the case of the business process outsourcing industry, which employs around 1.4 million workers, there has been an overwhelming talent preference for a balanced and hybrid work regime. This has prompted industry leaders to propose that the government reconsider its order for outsourcing companies to prepare for a return to full office operations, lest they lose their tax benefits which depend on the complete on-site operations.

Over the past two years, hybrid teams have garnered a lot of attention. Employees generally prefer the ability to distance themselves from the workplace, both geographically and emotionally. Filipinos working in the National Capital Region and in key cities known for traffic congestion have been greatly relieved from the hassle of commuting. In the field of human resources, today’s conversations among experts often revolve around the paths that organizations plan to take after the pandemic.

The idea that hybrid work models are at the forefront of conversations in human resources did not arise by accident, even with the bottlenecks that have prompted organizations to stay nimble and quickly find ways to maintain operations despite mobility restrictions, especially in the first months of community quarantine. If you look at the hybrid work model legislation, telecommuting was a concept that was already in our bills before the health authorities detected the first case of COVID-19 in the Philippines.

REMOTE WORK POLICY
Republic Act 11165 or the Telecommuting Act was signed in December 2018 or more than a year before the pandemic. The law formalizes the possibility for employees to work from home and declares telecommuting as an alternative work scheme that employers and employees can implement by mutual agreement. The law also sets out the rights and duties of employers and employees and promotes employee welfare.

Telework and other alternative work models have since become an important topic for legislation and policy-making.

A look at the evolution of our policy regime on flexible working models recalls the Department of Labor and Employment’s Labor Advisory Series No. 09 of 2020, which aims to help and guide employers and employees in implementing “various flexible working arrangements as an alternative coping mechanism”. and corrective measures” during the pandemic. However, this may not bolster the hybrid teams narrative, as his use of the term “flexible work arrangements” may actually cause employees concern; The “arrangements” mentioned in the policy are the reduction of hours or days of work, the rotation of workers and forced furloughs – supposedly “better alternatives than the outright termination of employee services or the total closure of establishments. “.

Employers’ responsibilities to their employees are likely to change as well if hybrid work models were indeed to become the norm.

The experience of working from home during the pandemic has, in fact, drawn the attention of lawmakers to the issue of hours of rest, as employers’ control over employees now extends beyond working hours thanks to the use of telephone, email and messaging applications. With technology and the ease of communication it brings, it’s easy to blur the lines between work and home. Employees can easily fall into the trap of intentionally keeping communication lines open and devices on during off-hours, even if their superiors don’t require it.

Senate Bill 2475 or the Workers’ Rest Act proposes penalties for employers who infringe on workers’ rest hours to prevent work from robbing employees of their personal time.

COMPRESSED WORK WEEK
Government economic managers have also considered a proposed four-day working week to help businesses cut costs. There are still no clear signs as to whether this proposal will lead to a new law or a ministerial order, as the government is likely to present this as a management prerogative rather than a mandate for companies to follow. .

Two years of working from home has also raised a host of concerns from employees who have a responsibility to remain available for tasks and meetings during working hours. While working remotely saves them the cost and hassle of commuting, they in turn bear the burden of logistics, internet, and utility expenses. Senate Bill 1706 aims to ease that burden by providing tax relief equivalent to a 25P reduction in taxable income for every hour worked from home.

Some companies have chosen to extend financial assistance to specific teams within the organization, whose continued productivity outweighs the cost of any Internet connectivity subsidy.

OFFICE SPACE
Other practical considerations that many companies choosing the hybrid team path will need to address include the use of leased office space. Some have faced the inability to negotiate deep discounts on office leases despite prolonged shutdowns in the Philippines that have left most office positions unoccupied. The decision to pursue a hybrid work model after the pandemic will mean reconsidering an organization’s need for space before the pandemic.

As organizations explore options to adjust their use of space and optimize every square meter, some have looked at the concept of hospitality (teleworkers reserve a workstation or desk for their days at the office) or shared office (an employee finds and works at any free seat when in the office). Hospitality is seen as a way to reduce an organization’s office space needs and costs while ensuring that social distancing can be managed if employees physically enter the workplace. This can offset investments in equipment and technology that may be required to support a hybrid team and maintain member collaboration as well as responsiveness to customer needs.

There may be many other challenges along the way, as most organizations go down this path, and leadership responses may vary from company to company. While organizations design their own mix of working arrangements to suit their business models, this focus cannot be seen as a partial return to the old “normal”. Instead, it charts a new path forward that recognizes changes in workforce needs and the opportunity for leaders to reinvent the future of work.

In the second part of this article, we’ll talk about the challenges of keeping employee wellbeing front and center in the hybrid work environment.

This article is provided for general information only and does not replace professional advice when the facts and circumstances warrant it. The views and opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Czarina R. Miranda is the Head of People Advisory Services at SGV & Co.

Michael A. Bynum