WFH — A Boon or A Bane ?

By Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye


The lifting of the 30 per cent Work From Home policy can be a boon and a bane.

It is welcome news particularly for manufacturing industries that require complex and technical work that could not be done remotely.

But reservations have been expressed by those who are concerned that the move could lead to more Covid-19 infections.

Part of the solution will lie on a judicious mixture of the old and the new. Returning to the office does not mean returning to the old ways.

Employers and employees must still follow all the SOPs to the letter, i.e. wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and following strict sanitization practices.

Before welcoming back the workers, employers must ensure that workplaces are safe and conducive with strict adherence to the SOPs and the imposition of new work procedures.

The topmost priority should be to make all workplaces safe from transmission of Covid-19. It is essential to ensure that all safety precautions are put in place before work resumes.

In this connection, safety and health committees in all places of work which have been mandated under OSHA must focus on Covid prevention in addition to its core duty which is to ensure the practice of Safety and Health and promote OSH at the workplace.

In the fight against Covid-19, OSH Committees should look into the following:-

1. Ensuring all safety precautions are taken before restarting work.

2. Ensuring compliances to all SOPs at all workplaces.

3. Identifying solutions and design safety features and safe work procedures in workplaces as part of the new normal.

4. Ensuring adequate personal protective equipment (PPEs) for use by all workers for prevention of Covid and accidents.

5. Promoting mental health literacy and awareness among all workers and educate them on ways to address all mental health issues.

New office habits could include staggering the lunch and tea breaks, and dividing the workforce to only allow a fixed number to be present in the offices on any particular day and maintaining physical distancing.

There could also be strict timetables when and how many workers can visit the canteen or use the washrooms.

These measures might seem trivial but they are most important, given the fact that there has been no respite in the number of daily infections.

We have to bear in mind the fact that we are nowhere near attaining herd immunity because so far only a fraction of the population have been vaccinated when 80 per cent is the minimum required.

On the upside, returning to the office will bring some respite to those who have been working from the home this past year in cramped rooms and residential units, leading to increased stress levels.

Returning to office means nurturing a spirit of camaraderie through a sharing of the workload.

In the end, whether it’s WFH or back to the office, the overriding concern and practice should be to stay safe and remain safe, for our sakes and for everybody else’s sake. There is no other alternative.

In the final analysis what is urgently needed in the fight against Covid-19 is people empowerment and self regulation and this includes the employers and employees fully understanding the serious threat and danger of Covid-19 and taking initiatives to keep themselves safe at all times.


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