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Why Malaysians are ditching their offices to work from home

Why are so many people in Malaysia seeking the benefits of working from home? Tom Osborne, regional director of Hays in Malaysia, explains

The cost and time taken to commute to work are the chief motivators for Malaysians who are considering taking a pay cut in order to work from home. Photo:

As the competition for skilled talent intensifies in Malaysia, companies are now exploring more creative talent retention strategies, with flexi-hours and work-from-home schemes growing increasingly popular. According to the 2016 Hays Asia Salary Guide, 57% of employers surveyed across Asia stated that flexible work arrangements were in place at their organisation. The most popular policies cited were flexible working hours and “flexi-place” – a company policy that gives employees more authority on where they will work from, be it the office, home or perhaps even a café.

An indication of just how valued this kind of workplace flexibility is can be seen in a further survey of 1,137 Malaysian employees. This poll revealed that 42% of respondents were prepared to drop their salary by up to 10% in order to work from home, while a further 23% were prepared to take a hit of up to 20% for the same privilege. So why are employees willing to take a substantial pay cut for this benefit?

The cost and time taken to commute to work are the chief motivators for Malaysians who are considering taking a pay cut in order to work from the convenience of their own homes. The World Bank’s 2015 Malaysia’s Economic Monitor revealed that commuters wasted more than 250 million hours stuck in traffic jams in the Greater Kuala Lumpur area in 2014. The cost of lost hours and fuel added up to at least MYR3,100 (US$750) per head, or more than 1.1% of the annual national GDP, a substantial cost only exacerbated by increasingly challenging traffic conditions.

Work location also plays a much more significant role for Malaysians in comparison to other Asian countries such as Singapore, Japan and China. The Hays Asia Salary Guide revealed that 18% of Malaysian employees are considering changing jobs due to work location, compared to 11% in Singapore and China and 15% in Japan. Employers in Malaysia need to be aware of the importance of work location to their employees and explore flexi-place or work-from-home policies as part of their attraction and retention strategies.

For employers, the benefits of work-from-home arrangements include reduced loss of hours, higher productivity, as well as greater attraction and retention rates. In the Hays Asia Salary Guide, 34% of employees in Malaysia cited work-life balance as a key factor that made them stay with their current employer, whilst 27% of employees stay due to work location. Having the flexibility to work from home can greatly improve employee satisfaction and be a real point of difference for your brand where competitors don’t offer such flexibility.

However, working from home is not always the ultimate solution for all people. There are various jobs that do not suit flexi-place arrangements due to the need for face-to-face interaction or sensitivity of information. For example, legal professionals or pharmaceutical salespeople require substantial client interaction that cannot be achieved working from home. A physical presence in the office is also valuable in establishing professional relationships within an organisation and fostering a better team culture.

Another alternative to a working-from-home policy, is flexi-working hours. Flexi-hours allow staff to plan their schedules more effectively and avoid peak hour traffic, resulting in increased productivity and reduced loss of hours for employers. It can also be a popular retention strategy as employees are able to better achieve a work-life balance through this arrangement.

Whether it is a work-from-home or flexi-hours strategy, it is essential that such workplace policies be in line with company culture and the nature of the business. This will in turn ensure buy-in from both staff and management and also enable a smooth implementation.   

Hays is the world’s leading recruiting experts in qualified, professional and skilled people.

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