When the Philippine government imposed a community lockdown in Metro Manila and the nearby provinces, we were anxious and excited at what this could possibly mean to the work that some of us do. I initially thought that the community quarantines would only last for a few weeks up to a month, but another quarter had passed, then another. We are now in our eighth month, and for people like me who had been mostly working from home, many adjustments had to be made. After working in an office for over a decade, I had to adjust to this new working environment.
Like some of you, I have already established routines, which incorporate activities that I have been longing to do. Activities that because of my three to four hours commute everyday are being deprioritized. Pre-pandemic, I leave the house at half past five in the morning and get back in the house by nine in the evening. Nowadays, I can wake up at 6:30 a.m., do a 10- to 15-minute exercise with whoever is already awake in the house, eat breakfast with the family, do my daily Bible reading, and help one of my daughters to her homework. I am now able to do these before starting work at 8:30 a.m. At night, just before my kids end their day, we are doing our family Bible devotion, which I could not do before because I usually arrive home well past their bedtime. On weekends, our entire family is just at home, spending time together. There are no extracurricular activities to attend to. Our social calendars have been bare as well. A couple of Saturdays ago, we were able to attend an online seventh birthday party of one of our friend’s kid. My take-away from that party was that it was very efficient since there was no need to travel. My wife and I began to wonder, will these (e.g., online parties, work from home) activities continue even post-pandemic? What if they do not?
Like us, organizations will have to find new ways of doing things. As the economy starts to open, organizations would also start transitioning to how they plan to do things in the next months and years. Because of the significant uncertainties surrounding our current environment, there seems to be no one-size-fits-all way of doing things. Certain organizations might start requiring more people to report to the office, while there can be others who will no longer renew their expiring lease contracts because they plan to have most of their workforce work from home. Others might opt to have multiple locations across the Metro. How about how we currently hold our meetings, trainings and conferences? Will there be changes in the organization’s policies when it comes to how those will be conducted? Will we go back to having face-to-face trainings? Until when will those reporting in the office be required to wear mask? Will the office layout be changed? Will the office serve more as a collaboration hub rather than individual workstations?
At this point, both employers and employees already had a lot of time to adjust and re-adjust on their new ways of working. There are those like me who have already found their comfort zone while working from home. After seven months, people may already have a good grasp of what suits them and what they are looking for in a working environment.
Given this scenario, it should be expected that misalignments between what an organization intends to do moving forward versus the preference of its people on how and where to work may appear. This can therefore result in a higher than usual turnover as organizations and its employees revisit their fitness test with one another.
Organizations need to include in their assessments on how this pandemic had changed the manner in which their people now prefers to work; not so much to relent to the preferences of its people but more as a means to ensure that the leadership will not be blindsided by how its people would react and what type of individuals they should be looking for moving forward.
The race for talent had already been very competitive pre-pandemic. During these times, and surely in the years to come, as more individuals are experiencing working in a more flexible working environment, the race for talent will surely become more competitive.
Anton Ng is a partner of the Audit and Assurance Division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines with 24 partners and more than 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @GrantThorntonPH, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For more information, visit our website: www.grantthornton.com.ph
As published in The Manila Times, dated 21 October 2020