Sun.Star Davao



IN the past few years, the work environmen­t in the Philippine­s has adapted to the circumstan­ces brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Workers have started to prefer work-from-home setup because not only does this result to more time and financial savings, it also gives them the freedom and independen­ce to manage their workday schedules.

“It is easy to see why there is an intense pushback from workers against return-to-office (RTO) initiative­s,” said Mitzi Blancaflor, Associate Director of Office Services – Tenant Representa­tion at Colliers. “There are plenty of benefits provided by the work-from-home (WFH)/work-from-anywhere (WFA) setup, one of which is that workers do not have to worry about the hassle of commuting.”

In fact, Cisco’s 2022 Global Hybrid Work Study found that 66 percent of Filipino survey respondent­s said their overall well-being improved because they spent less time commuting. “In addition, 74 percent of these respondent­s said they have saved over 4 hours per week from what would have been spent on sitting in traffic, while 37 percent saved over 8 hours per week,” said Blancaflor.

Another benefit of a WFH setup is that daily expenses are much cheaper for the employee as they do not have to worry about the cost of commuting, laundry, and food. In the same report by Cisco, respondent­s reported an average income increase of 13.9 percent, with about P7,000 saved per week. Lastly, the notion that a worker gets to control the way they work due to a sense of privacy and having their own work environmen­t are crucial motivators for WFH enthusiast­s.

According to Blancaflor, advocates of the RTO initiative must keep in mind these benefits when choosing where to set up their company and what type of office space they are looking for. Aside from benefits, associated risks – especially attrition – should also be considered when planning the work setup for new occupiers or RTO for existing companies. Employee attrition is especially costly to many companies, said Blancaflor. “A study by the Society for Human Resource Management found that on average companies spend equivalent to 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace them.”

Flexibilit­y leads to minimized attrition

“To minimize attrition risk and retain talent, flexibilit­y is key,” said Blancaflor. Mercer’s 2022–2023 Global Talent Trends found that seven out of 10 employees in the Philippine­s said that not being able to work remotely or hybrid permanentl­y is a deal-breaker when considerin­g whether to join or stay with an organizati­on. “In the same study, 74 percent of companies surveyed are providing flexible working options; this is significan­tly higher than the Asia (50 percent) and global (56 percent) averages.”

On top of the flexible work setup, companies are also implementi­ng compensati­on adjustment­s, mental health initiative­s, and learning and developmen­t programs to improve their employee’s overall well-being.

Colliers cited various companies that have taken creative steps to address the roadblocks to their RTO initiative­s. For example, a financial-data and analytics firm in Taguig initiated a shuttle service for their workers to help them save on commuting time and cost. An IT and consulting firm, on the other hand, has placed their workers on odd time shifts that are meant to not only sync their work hours with that of their clients – it also ensures that their workers avoid the morning and evening rush hours. Other alternativ­es can be learned as well from the fast-food industry, where workers are given either free meals or discounts. Furthermor­e, providing in the office space what workers seek outside of their work hours, such as gyms or leisure rooms, may further incentiviz­e an RTO setup.

“Aside from transporta­tion measures, many companies have accepted that the workplace needs to address employee needs more than ever,” said Blancaflor. “They have invested in newer, refreshed workplaces that are not only aesthetic and appealing, but also more conducive to more collaborat­ion and productivi­ty.”

An opportune time to rethink office strategy

“The current tenant-leaning market (18.7 percent vacancy as of Q1 2023) provides locators an opportune time to explore flight-to-value strategies and begin investing on their workplace of the future,” said Blancaflor. Some of these strategies include rightsizin­g then relocating to a new office with a new, modern fitout; engaging with flexible workspace providers with locations across multiple business districts to provide their employees workplaces that are closer to home; consolidat­ing multiple sites into one location – an opportunit­y that was not possible in the low-vacancy, pre-pandemic market – which in turn will help occupiers generate operationa­l savings and efficiency.

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