The COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for companies, large and small, to integrate flexible work arrangements (FWAs) into their day-to-day operations. From March to December 2020 alone, 2.3 million workers had used at least one of the different types of FWAs available. In response to the sudden demand for flexible work policies and best practices, the Philippine Business Coalition for Women Empowerment (PBCWE) created the Flexible Working Arrangement Toolkit to help Philippine-based companies design and implement FWAs responsive to the needs of the business and their personnel.
PBCWE has also been conducting a series of webinars to promote women’s economic empowerment—including improving the understanding of flexible work. The fifth installment of PBCWE’s #WEECanDoIT webinar series, “#ForwardThinkingFlex: Making Flexible Work, Work,” brought experts from both the private and public sectors together with Human Resource (HR) practitioners and other managers to discuss practical tips on how to make flexible work—well, work.
PBCWE is supported by Investing in Women, (IW) an initiative of the Australian Government. The webinar’s panel of speakers included Angelo Lacanlale, Organisational Development/Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Investing in Women and Floramel Villanueva, Workplace Gender Equality Assessment and Development Manager at Investing in Women.
Other speakers were Luisa Hebron, HR Senior Manager for Strategic Talent Consulting and Total Rewards at SyCip, Gorres, Velayo & Co., and Dominique Tutay, Assistant Secretary of the Employment and General Administration Cluster of the Department of Labor and Employment, who provided the private and public sector perspectives on the topic, respectively.
Panel reactors, meanwhile, included Atty. Emerico de Guzman, Chair of Management and Human Capital Development Committee at the Management Association of the Philippines, and Jose Roland Moya, Director-General of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines. Both panelists and panel reactors entertained questions from the audience.
Here are some of the key insights taken from the discussion:
- There is a business case for remote work, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on a survey conducted by PBCWE and Investing in Women, remote work has resulted in savings, particularly in terms of property rental and travel costs. (Eco-friendly outcomes reported outside of the PBCWE/IW survey included savings in utility costs, and reductions not just in printer but also paper usage.)
- Many companies reported higher productivity in their employees due to flexible work; a majority (70%) of PBCWE/IW survey respondents indicated they felt “equally or even more productive” while working from home. Given that survey respondents also noted that work-life balance is important to them, flexible work could result in increased retention (decreased attrition) while being an “engagement-driver” for employees.
- Flexible work is not “one-size-fits-all” and encompasses several types of arrangements (e.g., compressed work week, working from home or from a different location, job rotation/shift swapping, assigning employees to other functions in the same or other branch or outlet, reduced work days/hours, etc.). In order for organisations to receive the full benefits of flexible work, they must ensure that the FWA is suited to the needs of the employees and the requirements of the business and its clients. Moreover, flexible work should be mainstreamed via a policy applicable to all: that is, flexible work is something that everybody in the organisation is doing everyday, regardless of individual work type or role.
- Every organisation needs to asses the human interaction requirements of the organisation and whether they have the systems/technology readiness to accommodate flexibility in work (e.g., remote-working tools can be provided to facilitate collaboration and mitigate risks, including data security risks). The focus should be on creating a trust-based flexible work environment where stakeholders—the management, employees, and clients—are aligned in terms of priorities, processes, and expected outcomes.
- FWAs have played an important role not only in ensuring business sustainability but also in promoting gender equality as well as diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Flexibility offers an opportunity for cultural change by redefining the traditional Filipino family dynamics of breadwinner and house-bound partner, and allowing alternative ways to balance responsibilities at work and at home.
- During the pandemic, some organisations also provided employees with stress management and/or mental health interventions (particularly for remote workers, working in isolation), and access to childcare. Such provisions are highly valued and impactful especially to women—in the survey, more female than male respondents reported feeling anxiety and stress, and also cited increased household work as well as care responsibilities as reasons for decreased productivity.
Work from home is here to stay. Learn how to build a culture of flexibility within the parameters provided by law, design a custom-fitted flexible work policy, and help your employees stay connected and committed. Be sure to follow PBCWE on YouTube for this and other recorded webinars, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and their website to get updates on other online events.