In the aftermath of the global pandemic, employees are demanding flexibility and autonomy, and organizations are trying to keep up with the ever-changing world of work. The EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey reveals that only 22% of respondents in Malaysia would prefer to work from the office full-time. 9 in 10 want flexibility regarding where and when they work, and 7 out of 10 respondents say that hybrid work will increase productivity and creativity. Even more staggering is the finding that 50% of survey respondents would quit their jobs if not provided with post-pandemic flexibility.
Both organizations and governments are making changes to navigate this new normal. Recently, the Malaysian government codified such working arrangements through the Flexible Work Arrangements (FWA) by modifying the Employment Act of 1955. However, adopting FWAs in organizations calls for informed decision-making, and setting up the infrastructure and ecosystem that supports such an arrangement for long-term sustainability.
Workplace agility – the key to flexibility
In the workplace of today, flexibility is intertwined with agility; a term that denotes the organization’s readiness and speed to react to changes. There are several ways for an organization to build agility in the workplace such as strategy, values, agile team, organizational structure, culture, and processes. For employees, this translates into continuous learning and development, upskilling, and experiencing a people-centered, purpose-driven culture that supports them. The latter includes having control over their working hours (33%) or having the ability to work from any location (24%) or choosing the days to work (19%) or being measured by performance instead of hours (18%), as per a Qualtrics research. Work-life integration is pivotal to employee satisfaction, so much so that the same research indicates that ‘flexibility is a big driver of retention (66%) in Southeast Asia’.
‘Flexible Working Arrangement’
The Flexible Working Arrangement (FWA) Amendment Act comes as a huge step from the Malaysian government in response to the growing ‘workplace flexibility’ expectations that employees have. HRD Corp conducted a survey of 1136 respondents across all states in Malaysia targeting workers from all industries. The survey validated what chief human resource officers (CHROs) and HR leaders had deduced from their on-ground experience of managing talent. 59% of respondents strongly agreed, while 26% agreed that having an FWA option in their organization was important. The most frequently cited reasons in support of FWA were – personal health management, decreased travel time, increased work productivity, and more time for family and childcare needs.
TalentCorp, the national agency that drives Malaysia’s talent strategy and works with organizations to implement FWA at their workplace, believes FWA will play a key role in the future of work (FoW) by empowering the workforce.
HR Technology to facilitate workplace flexibility
While the amendment empowers employees, what can empower the organization to become flexible and agile? One part of the answer is establishing clear policies and guidelines and building a communication plan to set clear expectations with all stakeholders. The other vital part is – the right technology and tools.
A modern HR technology platform can address the expectations of both an organization and its people. A human resource management software (HRMS) can enable enterprises to adapt to change quickly, facilitate processes in a seamless manner, provide tools for collaboration for the remote/hybrid workforce, free up admin time for HR while increasing productivity, efficiency, and engagement for employees. Next-gen HRMSs also help in configuring and tracking overtime, managing data for part-time work, staggered shifts, seasonal work, etc. along with customized leave policies, and so on.
There is no one-size-fits-all working arrangement, but organizations now have an opportunity to tailor work models in alignment with their people’s expectations. A nimble IT infrastructure with a future forward HRMS combined with governmental and corporate leadership support will play a crucial role in achieving the desired flexibility in the workplace in Malaysia.
By Jayant Paleti, Co-Founder at Darwinbox