The Malta Independent 12 May 2021, Wednesday

TMID Editorial: Teleworking - A changing workplace

Monday, 3 May 2021, 08:55 Last update: about 8 days ago

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed pretty much every aspect of our lives – right down to what we do daily.

It stands to reason then that, for many, the workplace environment has changed as well.

Gone are the days when everybody had fixed office hours throughout the week.  Gone are the days when it was only new-fangled gaming companies who would even consider allowing employees to work from home.

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It is said that necessity is the mother of all invention, and while in this case there was no particular “invention” in teleworking – many countries abroad use working from home quite frequently – necessity did bring about a cultural change in the Maltese workplace.

Putting down to an unwillingness for change or just a general lack of trust, many office places in particular always preferred the physical presence of the worker at the office, rather than relying on them – and trusting them – to work from home.

That trust barrier has now been broken.  Productivity has remained, and it’s clear teleworking has – excuse the pun – worked.

The big question now is, with the pandemic subsiding, where do we go from here?

The Malta Independent on Sunday discussed this issue with four prominent members of the business community, and all of them seemed to reach a similar general consensus on the matter – that if productivity remains the same, then why not maintain some form of teleworking?

Teleworking as a concept has a number of benefits: it can provide more flexible working hours for the worker, it can make life easier for parents of young children in particular, and perhaps also provide a more comfortable environment for one to be productive in.

There are also benefits to the country as a whole: particularly, more people working from home means less people on Malta’s roads going to and from the office – no doubt a benefit to Malta’s traffic problem and to pollution levels as a whole.

But there are other matters to consider.

First of all, teleworking is not a solution to everything. Some industries – such as the manufacturing industry for instance – simply cannot function with teleworking.  This applies for a number of other industries as well, so the debate on workers’ rights and the improvement of physical working conditions must – without doubt – continue to be spearheaded.

On where teleworking can be done – one must also keep in mind the social and mental wellbeing of the employee. 

The Chamber of Commerce’s new President Marisa Xuereb rightly said: "When people get out of the loop of belonging to a workplace, to a community of employees, they will suffer in the long run in terms of their performance, how they relate to the vision of the company and in their personal relationship with colleagues."

Likewise, the UHM’s CEO Josef Vella said: “You wouldn't want to work from home all the time and never go in to the office, as there are also aspects of team building and team spirit which come into it as well."

So with all these points in mind, where should the future lie?  Like with many other things – the key is most probably one word: balance.

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