The Senate recently approved Senate Bill No. 1363 or the Telecommuting Act of 2017, authored by Senators Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar, with the aim of encouraging companies to establish “work-from-home” programs to allay traffic congestion in Metro Manila and other urban areas. It defines telecommuting as the partial or total substitution of computers or telecommunication technologies for the commute to work by employees.
Telecommuting in the Philippines is nothing new. In fact, Senator Villanueva cited a report from the Employers Confederation of the Philippines that showed the growing acceptance of telecommuting in major companies like Meralco and Aboitiz Equity Ventures. He also cited a separate 2016 report by the Department of Labor and Employment that 261 companies in the country had adopted voluntary flexible arrangements for employees.
Villanueva said further, “employers must ensure that measures are taken to prevent the telecommuting employees from being isolated from the rest of the working community in the company.” Moreover, they should provide home-based employees with the software necessary to protect their data and work files.
The state of the modern workplace is indeed evolving, probably more rapidly than ever. Increasing need for work-life integration and diversity among employees, coupled with the scalability and flexibility that technology can provide — all lead to a more exciting work environment for employees while posing a challenge to employers.
So, what is the modern workplace? It is essentially a digital workplace – one which paves the way to a new way of working by providing the ability for working professionals to work from anywhere through the use mobile devices and access to cloud applications.
In addition, with a growing Philippine economy and increasing investments in the country from multinationals, more people are working across virtual teams than ever before. The reality, however, is that organizations are falling behind on addressing the needs of a digitally enabled workforce and this needs to change.
But what are these gaps?
A recent Microsoft Asia Workplace 2020 Study, involving 312 working professionals from the Philippines, shows that employees’ work style is changing. It reveals that close to eight out of 10 of them spend at least one workday outside of the office, and 84 of the respondents value work-life integration.
To ensure that telecommuting and mobile workers remain productive, employers need to enable digital skills among the workforce – a key enabler of digital transformation. This is supported by another study, Microsoft Asia’s Digital Transformation Study, which reveals that empowering employees with digital skills is the number two priority for business leaders. However, the study also shows that employers have some catching up to do.
For one, 53 percent of business leaders agree that their organization is committed to close the digital skills gaps within the workforce; while 64 percent are empowered by their organizations to embrace flexi-work; and 67 percent of the respondents feel that their organization is equipped for the digital workplace.
With the passing of the Telecommuting Act of 2017, we can expect a surge in the awareness among business leaders in the Philippines on the value of the modern workplace. There are three enablers and skills that business leaders need to lend to their employees.
First is to make collaboration easy across various devices, may it be a tablet, PC, or phone. The tools should enable the workers to get the job done on- and offline via their preferred devices; employees should be able to contribute to team meetings while on the go, with voice and video calling capabilities.
Second is that employees should have the freedom to use and work with any device seamlessly on their Windows, iOS or Android devices. But the devices should also be enabled for a single sign-on, and to access all applications and all familiar tools with the same familiar experience.
Lastly, there should be great security and remote control. With the attendant risk of giving employees access to company internal systems, there is a need for business leaders to keep control of company data and prevent misuse of company information.
The modern workplace is already here and a reality. Business leaders should equip their employees with the right digital skills to ensure highly productive work while maintaining data security.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX.The author may be emailed at email@example.com. The author is a senior executive in an information and communications technology firm. He is the chairman of the ICT Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX). He teaches strategic management under the MBA Program of De La Salle University. He is also an adjunct faculty at the Asian Institute of Management.