Two years into the pandemic, the daily commute to the office has become the trip from the bed to the living room or kitchen. As employees enjoy the comfort of not having to get formally dressed every morning, more and more people are realizing the undeniable perks of flexible working conditions.
In a 2021 Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics (GWA) survey in the United States, 90% of employees surveyed felt as productive or more working remotely compared to working in an office. Some 84% believed working remotely post-pandemic would make them feel happier, while 71% wanted to work in a hybrid manner.
When it comes to teamwork, working onsite is often preferred. Among those who have returned to the office, according to the Ipsos “Return to the Workplace” 2021 global survey, more than three quarters said that they feel more included. And a 2020 GWA global survey found that 70% of employees felt equally productive at the office or at home, but 87% would be more satisfied collaborating in person at the office.
However, a heightened sense of autonomy also comes with consequences. Unconventional changes have challenged workers’ mental health, satisfaction or productivity. According to a 2021 Ipsos survey for the World Economic Forum, nearly half of those who worked remotely responded to feeling lonely or isolated, while 46% had difficulty completing their work due to the lack of working equipment or insufficient setup at home. At the same time, more than 40% saw a decline in productivity that made it hard to finish their work.
It is clear that with the disruptive changes propelled by the global pandemic, flexibility in working methods is here to stay. Therefore, more attention has been given to the question of whether a more relaxed working habit promotes employees’ work-life balance.
To better grasp the situation in Vietnam, we talked to four Vietnamese employees who have flexible work schedules for their insights and experiences when it comes to keeping work and life balanced.
How do you feel regarding your current working method?
Nghia Nguyen (25, technical support engineer): My company is based in Vietnam, but I work remotely in the U.S., where I can pursue my higher education journey. In general, I feel like working from home is convenient and flexible as long as you get the job done.
However, you can get tired of looking at the computer screen all day, only being able to see your colleagues virtually, which makes you start to crave human interaction, and it’s also a barrier to communication. For example, if I have some sort of disagreement with one of my teammates, it’s rather hard to resolve since we may struggle with trying to get what the other person means to say.
Van Anh Duy (22, freelancer): I am currently working in a hybrid manner as a freelancer for three companies: an IT-related firm, and two companies that deal with different aspects of the aviation industry. It appears that I frequently work in the aviation industry but have never been up in the air.
In terms of benefits, you gain exposure to more work environments, which improves your problem-solving abilities and broadens your experience. However, my biggest challenge is balancing all my work so that I meet the deadlines without being reminded by anyone. The work can be too demanding at times, which necessitates a high level of discipline and responsibility.
Where is more stressful to work, home or office?
Thinh Nguyen (24, technical support engineer, Kobiton Vietnam): I feel more uneasy working at home, since you’re confined to a small space, facing only the walls. At the same time, I don’t have the best home office setup, working environment or my colleagues to support me, so the office would be a more airy and spacious place to work at.
Le Khac Nguyen Thien (21, cyber security intern, Ernst & Young Vietnam): Because of COVID-19, I've never had the chance to work in the office. Still, I think working onsite would be more stressful, because I would feel like I’m monitored, which makes me more reluctant to relax, listen to music or zone out. So overall, telecommuting would give me more freedom and therefore, less stress.
How does your company promote work-life balance?
Thinh: My company offers amazing benefits that give me more freedom: No timekeeping, a great amount of paid leave days, flexibility in booking my days off, etc. We also receive remote working packages of working screens, ergonomic chairs or cash to brush up our working spaces at home, and health insurance that not only covers health benefits for me, but also a dependent or family member of mine.
Nghia: For new employees who are yet able to manage their workloads, we have end-of-day meetings for them to sum up their daily to-do list and to ask for help from mentors when needed, and for mentors to find out if they’re overworked. In the evenings, we hold online board-game meetings to relieve stress and for team members to chat more casually outside of work.
What are your recommendations for companies to attract and retain talent?
Thien: Companies should listen more to employees' demands. Working from home or in-office, the ultimate goal is to boost productivity, so companies should go along with employees' choice of workplace. Of course, as for employees, we also need to ensure our commitments and attitude towards the job, no matter where you work.
Duy: Companies, in my opinion, should be in workers’ shoes; this way, they will better understand employees’ needs, and work out what they can provide accordingly. Additionally, firms should not be overly rigid with regulations, but instead should encourage staff to be proactive and result-oriented.
If you know your people, you will have everything.
Nghia: In order to keep employees, I think companies should have the usual things: attractive salary, benefits including health insurance, and preferable working conditions.
Working conditions are especially crucial, since companies can offer competitive salaries but employees would still leave if they feel like they don't have a voice, or if the work isn't demanding, in a sense that they can't develop themselves and get to a higher position at work.
As for working arrangements, I think that's more of a plus than a deciding factor for employees when choosing who to work for, as flexible working locations are already a trend on job search sites and will be in the future for lots of companies.