MSMEs identify challenges to adopting telecommuting

Filipino companies, especially micro, small and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs), still need help in understanding telecommuting and how it can enhance their operations, according to the results of a new survey conducted by the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (PHILEXPORT).

Of the overall 53 surveyed companies-of which 75% consisted of micro and small firms, followed by medium enterprises and a few large ones-28 were reluctant to introduce telecommuting. Although they saw the benefits of telecommuting, those not willing cited additional cost implications, inapplicability to their business operations, and concern over data security as factors holding them back.

Moreover, for 35 out of the total, telecommuting was seen as not always a practical choice, and as a viable option only for certain types of work. They indicated that telecommuting did not apply to their operations since they were involved in manufacturing or people-to-people work, which both required the physical presence and interaction of the employees.

These 35 companies came from manufacturing-intensive sectors such as holiday decor, gift, premium, and garment industries.

“This means that companies that are heavily involved in manufacturing (and some in services as well) cannot [adopt] Telecommuting into their businesses due to the nature of their work,” said the survey report.

“This also suggests that a large number of MSMEs are involved in manufacturing, where their work requires physical presence/interaction and careful supervision to be able to deliver a physical or interactive output.”

Another survey outcome is that technological literacy plays a vital role in the uptake of a telecommuting program. The hesitance is partly due to the illiteracy in technology of parts of the respondents’ supply chains. Since their suppliers are technologically challenged and still prefer to do transactions manually, it makes it harder for companies to embrace telecommuting.

But the companies did see the benefit of telecommuting as a way to promote work-life balance among their employees, lessen traffic near their business premises, and bring faster and more convenient communication into their business operations.

The findings highlight a need to disseminate thoroughly to MSMEs available information on business-relevant laws such as the Telecommuting Act, said the report. While many MSMEs expressed reluctance to implement a telecommuting program, this was partly due to their limited knowledge or information about it.

“When MSMEs are given all the available information on the latest laws that may affect them as businesses, they have better chances to make necessary preparations and appropriate management decisions for it,” concluded the report.

The Employers Confederation of the Philippine (ECOP) also released recently the results of its own survey on telecommuting, which showed that most companies were willing to implement telecommuting in their workplace if certain conditions were met.

Around 87% of the respondents expressed openness to the idea of implementing a telecommuting/work-from-home scheme in the future as long as these were available: appropriate equipment; better internet connection; software for monitoring working hours and output; best practices/benchmarking tools from their industry; restructured organization (e.g. definition of roles and responsibilities); and guidelines and policies.

Republic Act No. 11165 , or the Telecommuting Act, was signed by President Rodrigo Duterte last December 20. The new law defines telecommuting as “a work arrangement that allows an employee in the private sector to work from an alternative workplace with the use of telecommunication and/or computer technologies.”

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