By Markus Nisula, Managing Director, Philippines, KONE
As the Philippines anxiously awaits a cure for COVID-19, what was once an unfamiliar order, telecommuting, has now been normalized with safety measures set in place by the government, and many organizations in the Philippines, as is the case globally. Remote working has become the new normal in the country, with a new bill seen to further strengthen the existing telecommuting law. A recent bill filed proposed mandatory work-from-home (WFH) arrangements to be offered to employees who do not require a physical presence in offices to complete their jobs, as long as they fulfill the criteria of having worked with the company for at least a year.
While some workers have easily adapted to this lifestyle, some others are still finding it difficult to do so. The rise in mental health issues is increasingly seen as a key concern by experts as stress levels grow with workdays seemingly bleeding longer, and weekdays blurring into weekends, especially with the concept of work from home remaining as the default option for the majority of organizations up till today.
The pandemic has recalibrated everything: work, life, and play. With the coronavirus crisis not abating anytime soon, telecommuting is still seen to be the norm across the country. Strict physical distancing measures in public transportation will continue to be enforced in a bid to contain the virus as the focus in priority shifts towards the control of people flow in public places.
How should society cope as we move to focus on livelihoods beyond the pandemic?
Reshaping the Future of Work and People Flow
With many organizations forced to fast-track their digital transformation agenda to boost their work from home capabilities, work today has been made more fluid and interconnected. This is seen through the rise in the adoption of digital technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, the Internet of Things, and more. However, as we progressively adapt to new working models and integrated technologies to support remote working, working from home may just be a temporary solution to tide over the pandemic.
The physical work environment will continue to play an irreplaceable role in facilitating face-to-face interactions; core to building lasting relationships and fostering deep collaboration. Whilst more employees may have the option to work from home on a semi-regular basis in the near future, the potential decline in working from the office will pose as a chance to rethink the concept of future offices and people flow, as the number of workers commuting into the city changes as well.
The post-pandemic era calls for open-plan offices to be redesigned, and office cultures redefined, all with the common denominator — flexibility. Businesses need to re-think “compact offices” and decongest office spaces while taking into consideration new social distancing norms. But beyond social distancing, health, wellness, and socializing will become an intrinsic part of the long-term re-architecture of our workplaces. Elements of the hospital and healthcare design such as disinfection infrastructure and air-conditioning technologies such as High-efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters that kill bacteria and viruses will have to be incorporated to ensure higher and predictable levels of cleanliness.
Additional space in offices means more specialized areas can be built to foster greater collaboration, boosting productivity. New office spaces will involve decisions around where these workspaces should be located. With people-flow decreasing in the central business district area and with an eye on decongesting public transportation during peak hours, we will probably see businesses and commercial activities decentralize and spread out.
Post-pandemic decentralization in the Philippines
As a reaction to the impact of the pandemic, we will continue to see several waves of change, and a new “back-to-work” is just the first. With a shifting line of sight in work arrangements and social interactions, the Philippines needs to rethink its urban development to include new greater decentralization efforts and density management.
Decentralizing urban communities would entail considering elements, including sustainability and the environment. Indeed, COVID-19, as well as the threat of other viruses, has shed light on the criticality of proper urban planning and design — and this is where decentralization is seen to reduce the point of failure that makes centralized systems vulnerable.
Real transformation is enabled through conversations, engagement, and building trust. More open discussions with Filipinos should also be developed, allowing them to play an integral role in how living spaces can be best built to suit their needs, and create an efficient and productive space for them to live, work and play in. This ensures that evolving end-user needs are matched alongside future smart city developments. This will be the new normal and we need to be prepared to reimagine, reshape and rebuild the future of the Philippines’ smart urban development.
Kone is a Finnish company that provides elevators, escalators and automatic building doors, as well as solutions for maintenance and modernization to add value to buildings throughout their life cycle.