COVID-19 has caused untold economic damage to countries across the globe. Countless businesses have been closed down and even more jobs have been lost. However, the businesses that remained have proven themselves to be both resourceful and adaptable. One of the reasons why a few of these companies survived can be credited to their ability to shift towards remote working as a measure to counter the spread of COVID-19.

The coronavirus infection saw the world take on the largest work-from-home experiment the world has ever seen. Now that the coronavirus has been more or less contained to an acceptable level, businesses are recalling their workers back to the office, albeit with certain precautionary restrictions in place.

Most firms are resorting to flexible work schedules so that at least half the staff can continue working from home, while the rest can return to the office. The goal is to avoid densely packed work spaces that facilitate viral spread. However, it is very likely that all staff will return to the office once the pandemic eases.

While a massive shift to working from home has helped firms stay afloat and sparked a rethinking of the way offices can be run, the general consensus is that not everyone can pivot to a home-run office and remain efficient.

A survey by a Nikkei unit showed that while as many as 88 percent of Japan’s large corporations have adopted telework, only 46 percent of small and medium-sized firms had done so by mid-April.

A South Korean study found that only 40 percent of firms were willing to let staff work from home.

Most of these workers have returned to the workplace by now. However, companies still allow some workers to work from home if said workers are unable to return to the office, or if there is not enough space at the workplace to implement social distancing measures.

The infrastructure in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines simply cannot support a wholesale shift to working from home given sketchy and insufficient phone signals and often unreliable Internet.

Work culture among Asians also leans towards in-person connections, so most feel a greater urge to leave home to work in the office in the presence of colleagues.

In China, most seem to have already abandoned the “great work-from-home experiment” and are back in the office, though some companies like ride-hailing firm DiDi have allowed more flexible arrangements such as telecommuting for part of the work week.

Despite all this, workplace experts still agree that working from home has proven an effective arrangement that helps companies weather the storm when something unprecedented or cataclysmic occurs in the business world.

While it may not suit everyone, those who can figure out how to “virtualise” every part of work will have an insurance against any kind of global disruption.

Large US companies such as Accenture have reported a 4.4 percent increase in productivity as their staff worked remotely. Despite a state of emergency, multiple Japanese companies such as Fujitsu, Hitachi, and Ricoh have kept in place telework arrangements amid the “new normal”, even after restrictions were recently lifted. Telecommuting has emerged as a trend in South Korea, while about 40 percent of the workforce in the Philippines and Malaysia has been working from home since restrictions were imposed.


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