The Telecommuting Act Of 2017: Will Working From Home Boost Your Productivity?

For the average honest-to-goodness working Filipino, commuting is a form of sacrifice that involves serpentine queues, mobile furnaces, and a game of the longest line with other cars. Not only do traffic jams cost the country at least P2.4 billion a day, they also rob people of both their working and quality time.

While easing the flow of vehicles in the country’s major thoroughfares may be a Sisyphean task, government agencies takes a crack at solving traffic jams from time to time.

Previous suggestions include complex number coding schemes and zipper lanes to the reduction of working days. The ideas keep on pouring.

However, one solution being concocted by the senate may prove to be the most sensible of them all: Telecommuting.

A game changer

Last Monday, Senate Bill No. 1363, or the Telecommuting Act of 2017, finally hurdled the third and final reading in the Senate. Authored by Senators Joel Villanueva and Cynthia Villar, the bill faced no hurdles with 22 affirmative votes, zero negative votes, and zero abstentions.

Telecommuting is defined as “the partial or total substitution of computers or telecommunication technologies, or both, for the commute to work by employees.”

This will allow the employees to employ a wide range of tools such as computers, smartphones, and high-speed internet to perform their tasks without the need to go to the office.

This means they can either work from home or pick other places more conducive for work such as coffee shops, bars, and other places.

Once the proposed bill gets the President’s signature, it will allow companies to offer work-from-home programs to their employees with all the benefits they currently enjoy going to the office.

Senator Villanueva said that the practice has been around since the 1980s but only became a globally accepted productivity method with the advancement of technology.

Working from home is favored by both employees and employers in various parts of the globe because it allows the workers to become productive without sacrificing their quality time. Villanueva said it’s time to embrace these changes and change the way people work in the Philippines.

“Our workers have the right to a work-life balance. They have the right to a flexible work arrangement. They have the right to be allowed to work-from-home,” he said in a speech.

“This may be the reason why according to ECOP, there is a growing acceptance of telecommuting in many workplaces such as Meralco, SGS, Metro Pacific Investments Corp and Aboitiz Equity Ventures,” the senator added. “In 2016, DOLE also reported that there are 261 companies with employees who are under voluntary flexible arrangements.”

While it will set the rights of people working from home, the measure will not be mandated. Employers will still have the final say as to whether or not they will allow their employees to telecommute.

Depending on the nature of the business, companies can opt out of telecommuting. However, industries like technology, communications, and others don’t have a reason to not allow their employers to enjoy working on their own terms.

Two-pronged effect

While the primary goal of Senate Bill No. 1363 is to make working flexible for Filipinos, a warm reception of this practice will lead to a much bigger effect: traffic decongestion.

Currently, there are more than two million registered vehicles in Metro Manila, which makes the vehicle density higher than Singapore or Tokyo at 3,643 per square kilometer.

Edsa, the capital’s main thoroughfare, only has a capacity of 288,000 vehicles. But the number of automobiles plying the said road has reached 520,000 daily.

Meanwhile, 1.3 million commuters are being serviced by the three rail lines, which constantly suffer from breakdowns and train stoppage. This is the reality workers have to face on a daily basis.

In a report by traffic navigation app Waze, the company’s Driver Satisfaction Index last year placed Manila at 170, citing traffic and socioeconomic factors as the main drivers for low ratings.

On average, the commute from home to office in the National Capital Region will take a person around 45 minutes.

In a separate report by CNN Philippines, taking the bus will take a person more than two hours to traverse the Metro, while the fastest way to commute is still using the train lines, despite the problems the country’s mass transit usually encounter.

With millions of people embarking on an arduous journey to business districts such as Ortigas, Taguig, and Makati, removing them from the equation with the introduction of telecommuting might make traveling in the capital more bearable. The effects should be felt immediately.