News: Working in extreme heat: Is working from home the answer?

Life @ Work

Working in extreme heat: Is working from home the answer?

With temperatures continuing to rise, should employers turn to flexible work options?
Working in extreme heat: Is working from home the answer?

MANILA – The Philippine Occupational Safety and Health Centre (OSHC) reminded employers to create safe and conducive working conditions for their employers as they shift to work-from-home (WFH) arrangements due to extreme heat.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency, OSHC Executive Director Engr. Jose Maria S. Batino outlined several key points that employers need to prioritise if they are planning to adopt remote work for their staff.

“I think we need to create a balance on this (WFH scheme),” Batino said. “We also need to look into the home or the housing conditions of workers that we would want to assign on a work-from-home basis.”

Employers should determine whether their employees’ homes are conducive to work or not, according to Batino. There are several questions that must be answered. Are their staff better off working from home even though they do not have air conditioning? Would it be better for them to come to the office instead?

“It is so easy to develop policies that we will implement work from home,” the OSHC Executive Director said. “We need to look deeper into this and include in the discussion or the criteria the condition of the homes of the employees.”

Evaluating the performance of WFH employees

While there are many benefits to adopting WFH arrangements, it also comes with its fair share of challenges. One of the biggest issues is monitoring the performance of employees who are assigned to remote work.

For Batino, companies and agencies can adopt innovative solutions to keep an eye on their workers’ progress.

“In some companies that I came across, one of the things that they do is that they have an online application,” he said. “So, you log in, the employee would log in in the morning, then before, after eight hours of work or even a little bit more, before this particular employee can log out, he would have to submit his or her accomplishments.”

In this example, Batino said workers are only allowed to log out of the system once they are finished submitting their accomplishments.

If there are systems to monitor workers’ performance, there should also be a way for companies to properly appraise the quality of work that their staff put in. Batino called on employers to set parameters for performance appraisal depending on their requirements.

“At the end of the day, it’s really how productive the company [would] be in a situation where a set of workers would come to work physically and a set of workers would be on work from home. So they would need to really evaluate and determine which would be a more productive scheme,” he said.

Prioritising workers’ mental health

Batino also underscored the importance of having mental health programs “as part of occupational safety and health”. This is true for both government employees and workers in the private sector.

The OSHC Executive Director recalled that even before the COVID-19 pandemic, some companies were already prioritising stress management and other aspects of mental health.

Offering flexible work arrangements

In April, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) encouraged government offices to adopt flexible work arrangements (FWAs) for their staff to help alleviate the effects of traffic congestion. One of the agencies that answered the CSC’s call was the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which started offering FWAs to its employees. This includes working at the MMDA’s satellite offices and other designated places.

Meanwhile, Philippine lawmakers urged both the government and private companies to allow their staff to work from home due to the country’s unexpectedly high heat index levels.

Yet, even before the onset of high temperature levels in the Philippines, more Filipinos had already started looking for jobs that allowed working from home. In fact, the term “work from home” is the number one searched keyword in the Philippines, according to employment platform Jobstreet by SEEK.

"Work from home has definitely grown over the past couple of years spearheaded during the pandemic. And now that we've been transitioning out of the pandemic, the demand on the candidate side on work from home or hybrid work continues to grow,” Dannah Majarocon, managing director at Jobstreet by SEEK Philippines, said. “On the hirer side, hybrid work, remote work are still things that they are continuing to consider."

As the demand for hybrid work schemes continues to rise, Majarocon said companies will look to institutionalise flexible work arrangements.

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Topics: Life @ Work, #SustainabilityForPeople, #Wellbeing

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