By Herminia S. Jacinto
OUR lives, especially those in the work force, have changed a lot in the past eight months after the first of several lockdowns was imposed. Work from home (WFH) is the new buzz word. Suddenly, we were not allowed to go out and go to our respective places of work. We thought it was a welcome respite from traffic, work and meetings! The happiness was short-lived. There was work to be done, but how? Movement of people was restricted and exceptions were limited. The insurance industry is expected to be present at all times, especially during calamities and events that cause a lot of stress and anxiety. We had to go back to work!
Business had to be proactive and came up with various ways to continue the normal process of production, marketing, servicing and other business activities. Working from home was the best alternative as this has been institutionalized by Republic Act 11165, otherwise known as the “Telecommuting Act.” This law was principally authored by Sen. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva and signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018. The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) have been issued by the Department of Labor and Employment, which made it easy for business to implement the work process.
With due respect to the purpose of the Telecommuting Act and the IRR, various types of business operations still had to evaluate if WFH was going to work for them. After eight months of WFH, I am curious if the practice is working and what are problems they have encountered. May I share with you the results of my interviews some of my friends from the insurance companies?
The heads of the departments or units initially found it difficult to make the assignments as to who and how long people would work from home or in the office. There are jobs that are best done in the office but some employees still opt to work from home too! Employees who lived far from their offices are relieved from waking up very early to get rides and avoid traffic. They save money from eating snacks and lunch at home with the family. They can maximize their time working because they work by themselves without other people, including noisy office mates bothering them and they do not tire themselves from commuting. But, yes there is a but, maybe several buts! What equipment and tools will he need so he can work from home? He will need a strong internet connection. Who will pay for them? Where are the files, both hard and soft copies? Are they immediately accessible to the employee from his home?
How about the employers? How do we address concerns like supervision, completion and measurement of work? How do they determine who will work overtime? Is there a need for it? Will management allow them to bring home files or access to confidential data bases? Are there privacy considerations?
The list of hows and whys can go on and on but I guess companies have found the right answers to these questions and have made WFH a viable alternative of working during this period that we continue to fight the pandemic. Among industries, insurance is the most adaptable to the WFH procedure because our product of assurance and commitment is written in a document which can be transmitted electronically. Our industry is very much ahead in terms of computerization. We have had our data bases installed many years back. Our producers, agents, brokers and financial advisors are now comfortable with their gadgets in selling the insurance products. We hit the ground running. All we need now is to improve on these systems and upgrade the tools.
I will end this article by sharing the concern of one of my former students in the institute. He said: “Ma’am, I don’t like working at home. I cannot concentrate because my mom keeps on sending me out on errands. In the middle of a sales talk, she goes, ‘Rico, bili ka nga ng kamatis!’” How do you solve a problem like Rico’s?