After four months of working remotely, travel consultant Jin feels both excited and anxious about going back to the office on Monday. His office in District 3 has already been “disinfected and is virus-free”, according to an email sent out by his company last week.
“And I’m already vaccinated with two doses of Astrazeneca, so I feel safe and ready,” said Jin. “But four months of not having any physical interaction with my colleagues may make things awkward at first, but I know what we’ll all talk about to break the ice — our lockdown hobbies.”
Many workers like Jin are also now preparing to go back to their normal work routine on Monday. When Ho Chi Minh City started loosening mobility restrictions on October 1, several companies immediately planned out how they can resume office work setup.
Per government directive, the number of workers allowed to go back in the office will still be limited, to ensure everyone can keep a safe distance. Indoor activities such as meetings will be allowed with a maximum of 10 people, or 60 people if 90% are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19
For the Hive, a workspace located in the heart of District 2, the atmosphere is expected to lighten up come Monday, with its fully vaccinated employees coming back to office after the months-long lockdown. Country Manager Tania Truong said that while the new work setup was challenging at first, the company’s “good structure and tons of online meetings” kept the workflow smooth even as her 10-member team worked remotely since late May, when the city imposed Directive 15.
“We are reopening our office on October 4th. We have to prepare all the safety measures and make sure everything is ready. Our staff, who already got their two doses of vaccines and their green passes, will be able to come to the office. Those who have yet to get vaccinated will have to continue working from home. We are still waiting for more detailed regulations from the Health Ministry, though,” said Tania.
Beyond office premises, city authorities will be keeping checkpoints at gateways and city entrances as HCMC expects heavy traffic starting Monday. Phan Van Mai, chairman of HCMC People’s Committee said that city residents will be allowed to travel across districts, but not to other provinces and cities.
HCMC government also calls for the continued implementation of the 5K prevention measure to support Vietnam’s “dual goal” of fighting against the pandemic and revitalizing the economy. The government also launched PC-Covid app, which will serve as digital proof of vaccination and movement declaration.
On Monday, those moving across districts to their office will have to present their “green” status on the app to be allowed to proceed. Companies are also mandated to closely monitor employees’ health and vaccination status.
But with the COVID-19 situation in Vietnam constantly changing and hampering operations, several companies are opting to keep remote working a permanent part of their work culture. This way, employees are kept safe, and the workflow gets less disrupted when new restrictions are enforced.
For co-working space Dreamplex, which houses over 100 companies across its five locations in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, implementing a strict office-only setup is not seen as a helpful strategy in encouraging productivity among employees.
“Everyone who could work from home, worked from home early on after the Delta variant started spreading. This year we've fully transitioned from an office-based company to a hybrid company. In fact, we've even embraced many principles of remote-first companies. With people across 5 locations (soon 8) in 2 cities, that actually always made more sense for us, it was Directive 15 (and definitely Directive 16) that nudged us towards this,” explained Dreamplex CEO Daan van Rossum.
The Dreamplex team alone has 40 people working across project development, partnerships, design, marketing and operations. Besides finance and HR departments, which have traditionally relied on in-office setup, all other employees were already used to the “work from anywhere” model that allowed them to choose every day whether they wanted to work from home or working in any of the Dreamplex locations.
“I saw that besides us, companies now fully realize that work can be done from anywhere, and that employees are often as productive at home as they are in the office. We've been having many conversations with those business owners who are asking for advice about more hybrid and agile working models, where employees could work from home, near home, or in the office,” said Daan.
“I do see that this will become more mainstream.”