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Majority of Surveyed Malaysia Employees Prefer Flexible Ways of Working Post-COVID-19 Pandemic

by Gopalakrishnan Nair
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When pandemic restrictions ease locally, only 22% of Malaysia employees surveyed would prefer to work from office full-time, according to the EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey. The majority would prefer to work anywhere (23%), work remotely full time (29%), or in a hybrid work arrangement i.e., mix of in-office and remote working (25%), consistent with preferences revealed by employees surveyed from around the world.

The global survey canvassed the views of more than 16,000 employees across 16 countries, including Malaysia. It explored employee attitudes and experiences to work throughout the pandemic and into the “next normal”. 

The survey finds that among Malaysia respondents, nine in 10 employees want flexibility in where and when they work, in the absence of which almost half (45%) would consider leaving their job post-COVID-19 pandemic. Given the choice between two jobs, their preferences were evenly split: 48% would choose flexibility in when they work and 47% would choose flexibility in where they work. On average, employees would want to work between two and three days remotely after the pandemic, with more than a third (36%) of respondents saying they want a shorter working week altogether. The majority (63%) believe their productivity can be accurately measured irrespective of location. Yet, there is a strong perception (72%) that this arrangement would impact their access to career opportunities.

Despite the apparent willingness to move jobs for more flexible working arrangements, most employee respondents (75%) say they are satisfied with their jobs, and almost all (89%) say they plan to stay in their current roles for the following 12 months.

Tan Lay Keng, EY Asean and Malaysia People Advisory Services Leader said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a major shift in where we work, when we work and how we work. Employers that promote hybrid work arrangements and provide the flexibility for employees to work anywhere and anytime, are ahead of the curve. These employers are likely to have better employee attraction, retention and satisfaction in the long run, which could positively impact the business.”

He added, “Employees surveyed saw employers taking steps to enable them to work productively and to better manage their workload in this new hybrid environment. By investing in collaboration technology, providing employee benefits that support home office set-up and building a strong teaming culture, these employers are likely to be more successful in this new normal.”

The survey also canvassed attitudes to existing work practices, with employee respondents broadly positive about the impact of remote working. Almost half (54%) say their organizational culture has changed and improved during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, while only 32% believe it has worsened. Beyond its impact on culture, the majority of respondents agreed that a new mix of onsite and remote work would increase the company’s productivity (67%) and creativity (71%).

As employers adapted to offer hybrid work arrangements, they have had to change their work practices to better manage productivity during the pandemic. Respondents observed changes ranging from establishing “meeting/email-free” times for the team/company (46%), using productivity tools (46%), setting aside time on calendar for individual/focused work (45%), establishing clear working hours for work-life balance (45%), and reducing meeting times to 25 to 45 minutes to allow for breaks in between meetings (35%).

The prospect of increasingly widespread flexible working is leading to more demands for technology, both on-site and in the home office. Eighty-one percent of respondents say they want better technology in the office (e.g., faster internet and videoconferencing), and more than half say they want companies to upgrade at-home hardware such as extra monitors and headsets (59%), and would like reimbursement for high-speed internet/phone expenses (51%). 

However, despite the shift toward new ways of working and the rapid adoption of virtual meeting technology, 63% would like to travel for business moderately to extensively after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tan concludes, “As companies seek to reposition for growth in the recovery from the pandemic, their talent is likely to be their most important asset. Employers will need to constantly review their employee engagement strategies, the impact of employee sentiments on culture and productivity, and the technological investments that are needed to sustain an optimized in-person, hybrid and digital work experience.”

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