Flexible Work Models: Pros and Cons for Malaysian SMEs

Flexible Work Models: Pros and Cons for Malaysian SMEs

Covid-19 landing on the shores of Malaysia has changed the way we work for the foreseeable future. The onset of the pandemic saw the enforcement of the movement control order, which drove companies to shift to remote working on a permanent basis. As restrictions ease amidst ramped vaccination efforts, we are seeing a gradual shift to near normalcy as we enter into an endemic phase. The question for many companies then becomes whether they should return to the pre-pandemic work model or to adopt flexible work models.

Although the pandemic work model saw productivity levels maintained, over a long period of working from home, employees have felt the brunt of it due to feelings of isolation and increased blurred work-life boundaries which may affect the mental well-being of employees. At the same time, employees may be wary of returning to the pre-pandemic work model due to the Omicron variant and a general fear of being infected with Covid-19 as cases are still prevalent. For corporate Malaysia, a flexible work model may be the more appropriate solution.

Flexible work models are not novel, but are increasingly adopted across the workplace as employers adapt to the endemic phase. Examples of flexible work models include remote working, flexible working schedules or a hybrid work model where employees combine a rotation of working from the office and working from home.

For SMEs, a flexible work model may prove advantageous as operational costs can be reduced as companies bounce back from the effects of the pandemic. Working through the pandemic has shown that employees need not be present in the office. Moving forward, SMEs may consider moving to smaller spaces or utilising coworking spaces when offline working is required. Besides that, flexible work models create efficiencies with travelling time being reduced, and employees can focus on tasks at hand coupled with outcome-oriented steps to make sure that work is being done. As employees are given this flexibility, performance levels will increase and boost overall productivity for the workplace.

However, SMEs must consider that flexible work models may not fit their organisation’s structure. The initial adoption of a flexible working model may see an initial trial-and-error stage as some employees may prefer to return to the office whilst some would prefer to work remotely. Flexible working also requires reinvesting capital to ensure that employees have the infrastructure and systems needed to work effectively. Flexible work models may require investment into offices which are not fully utilised or subscriptions to coworking spaces. Not only that, employees may need allowances to upgrade at-home hardware and reimbursements for high-speed internet and phone expenses. These considerations may not be at the luxury of some SMEs as it requires time and resources to come up with long-term plans and answers before they have the opportunity to see what may work for them.

Ultimately it is up to SMEs to evaluate whether a flexible work model would suit their organisation. While a flexible working model is a recourse for SMEs to continue operating through the pandemic, employees must learn to adapt in these unprecedented times.



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