Will work-from-home continue in post-pandemic Việt Nam?

November 22, 2021 - 08:29

For the four months of the strict social distancing, Nguyễn Bích Trâm learned how to oil paint. Like millions of other people, she is happy the situation now allows for work to return to the office, but she does admit she has gotten used to the ease of working from home. 

By Minh Hương

HÀ NỘI — For the four months of the strict social distancing, Nguyễn Bích Trâm learned how to oil paint. Like millions of other people, she is happy the situation now allows for work to return to the office, but she does admit she has gotten used to the ease of working from home. 

Working for a computer company in District 5, HCM City, Trâm told Việt Nam News: “Though the lockdown was terrible, I do feel the benefits of working from home. I can do all the work at home and still have time for other things, all while keeping myself safe in the pandemic.”

Trâm says that her boss is willing to let her continue working in a 'hybrid' way and has even arranged to help her upgrade her internet connection at home, as he wants to keep good employees like Trâm. In her own words: “Wherever I work, I will try my best.”

A mixture of online and offline, or hybrid, working is being applied in most big cities in Việt Nam. According to experts from PwC, the pandemic has provided organisations with the chance to define what the new future of work looks like. Working virtually is no longer seen as new and risky and most organisations use remote operations to some extent. COVID-19 has fast-tracked workforce acceptance and prompted a global shift towards hybrid working.

Aik Sern (Christopher) Lee, a senior manager at Workforce Transformation of PwC Consulting Việt Nam, said: “Before the pandemic, flexible work arrangements such as remote working was presented as a unique employee benefit of just a few organisations. After the relaxing of strict social distancing measures some employers might want to revert to the traditional nine-to-five environment, but this would be a wasted opportunity. It is time for organisations to rethink work, redefine the social contract with employees and explore new ways of working that can create value for employees and the organisations.”

While employees are getting used to the new working style, leaders are anxious about productivity and the ability to sustain innovation and corporate culture across multiple places.

In a report about how the hybrid working is rewriting the rule book, PwC Việt Nam has identified some strategies on how to make hybrid work successful with some key focus areas, in which future workplaces will combine both physical and non-physical elements so people, technology, and processes can integrate seamlessly to enable productive work.

At the same time, people’s well-being at work is also important. Working from home can cause loneliness, isolation and burnout, so employers need to proactively address the issue with practical steps.

PwC suggests that people in leadership positions who design workplace culture, policies and connectivity present different options to their employees. The firm said organisations must be clear on the rights and obligations of their employees, from workplace health and safety to impacts on remuneration and performance management, so that they can take the necessary steps to make hybrid working successful.

According to the firm, established leadership behaviours are increasingly outdated. Companies should adopt a leadership model that prioritises connectivity and team empowerment over control and centralised decision-making as a critical solution to the success of the organisation.

The firm said balancing what employees need and what employers can provide is a delicate act, adding that by creating a compelling employee experience irrespective of work location, organisations should make their people part of the journey and co-create solutions.

“Việt Nam undertook a national ‘work from home’ experiment during the four months of total lockdown. Work has fundamentally changed forever. As we look forward to the next phase of recovery, leaders’ focus is shifting from the question of ‘if’ they should enable remote work to ‘how’. In particular, how to ensure employee performance is uplifted, measured and managed across a hybrid workforce is a critical concern, ” Christopher added.

In late October, ManpowerGroup Việt Nam and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) hosted a webinar called “Digital Transformation: International Experience in Employment Security & the Future of Skills for Vietnamese Workers”.

Lê Văn Thành, Deputy Minister of MOLISA, told the webinar: “While COVID-19 vaccinations are deployed globally, as well as in Việt Nam, the domestic labour market is expected to recover in 2022. The pandemic, which is forecasted to be very unpredictable, will require the labour and employment sector to be more prepared, to change the way it operates in the direction of modernity and digitisation to adapt to the ‘new normal’.”

In tandem with the country’s efforts towards digital transformation, a representative from the Department of Employment shared a project to apply information technology to help connect local workforces with suitable jobs.

According to ManpowerGroup, a workforce solutions company, digital transformation is among today’s biggest workforce trends. The Skills Revolution Reboot 2021 research by ManpowerGroup revealed that 38 per cent of companies globally are speeding up their digitisation and automation; Việt Nam is catching up with the trend.

According to the recent survey, up to 94 per cent of FDI businesses in Việt Nam have a clear intention to enhance the application of new technologies in manufacturing activities in the coming three years.

Simon Matthews, Regional Manager of ManpowerGroup Việt Nam, Thailand & Middle East, told Việt Nam News: “Under the impact of the industrial revolution 4.0 and the pandemic, employers today take a more important role than ever in providing sustainable employment, and the HR department should consider adopting the people-first approach in their business strategy.”

As new work models account for 37 per cent of the top priorities for attracting employees, Jonas Prising, CEO and Chairman of ManpowerGroup, said: “Now is the time to reshape a better, brighter future for workers – one that is more skilled, more diverse, and better orientated than we could ever have imagined.”

At the same time, Phạm Hồng Quân, HR Head of Piaggio Asia Pacific, shared that Piaggio is offering its employees a hybrid work-set up and is also providing mental health support during the pandemic. 

While hybrid work is increasing during the pandemic, on November 17, deputy head of the Central Economic Commission Đỗ Ngọc An, told a workshop on labour transformation and digital human resource development that digitalising the human resource industry is a chance to boost the economy.

Việt Nam had 56.2 million labourers last year and the local digital economy is reported to see a year-on-year growth rate of 31 per cent in 2021, reaching US$21 billion, according to the e-Conomy SEA 2021 Report published by Temasek, Google and management consulting firm Bain & Company earlier this month.

The report said the Vietnamese internet economy could reach US$220 billion in Gross Merchandise Volume by 2030, ranking second after Indonesia. — VNS