No one can argue with the fact that traffic in the metropolis has become practically apocalyptic. The sad part is that the situation will become worse in the coming years before it gets any better—if at all.
The addition of tens of thousands of new vehicles every year to the same road network, lack of discipline among public utility and private drivers, clogged side streets that could have served as alternative routes, a dilapidated mass railway system, and the perennially myopic treatment of the problem by successive administrations all contribute to the daily suffering of Filipino commuters.
What used to be a one-hour commute from home to work has more than doubled, or in cases when gridlock happens due to some road repair or accident, even quadrupled.
Last week’s “carmageddon” at the South Luzon Expressway, which backed up vehicular traffic for more than 20 kilometers from Alabang to Laguna and caused thousands of commuters to miss work or classes, appointments and flights, is a testament to this lamentable state.
There is one relief for commuters that should start gaining traction in the Philippines: the option of “telecommuting,” or working from outside the office or place of work using telecommunications and computer technologies.
There is, in fact, now a law on this. President Duterte signed the Telecommuting Act (also known as work-from-home law) on Dec. 20, 2018, to institutionalize telecommuting as an alternative work arrangement for employees in the private sector. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III signed the law’s implementing rules and regulations three months later, on March 26 this year.Based on the implementing rules, an employer in the private sector may offer a telecommuting program to its employees on a voluntary basis or as a result of collective bargaining. It is the employer’s decision if this type of work arrangement is applicable based on the nature of the job and the company’s business.
The employer and employee also have to create a mutually agreed policy or telecommuting agreement detailing “the applicable code of conduct and performance evaluation and assessment; appropriate alternative workplace; use and cost of equipment; observance of data privacy, and occupational safety and health, among others.”
Studies have shown that work-from-anywhere methods improve productivity and save costs. One recent study by consultancy firm P&A Grant Thornton pointed out that telecommuting can have a positive impact on Philippine businesses and the Filipino workforce because it will allow employers to attract and retain prime talent, reduce overhead expenses and increase productivity.
It noted that for many individuals, the travel time between the workplace and home has become a major consideration in applying for employment with a company, and that some executives have actually crossed out job opportunities that would require more than an hour’s commute.
By offering a work-from-home arrangement, the study noted, employers may be able to entice quality candidates to join them; while for existing employees, it will eliminate the daily hellish commute and may help keep them happy enough to stay with an employer for the long term. This scheme also gives workers greater control over their work hours and work location.
Working from home is also seen as more productive because employees do not have the distractions or hectic pace of an office environment.
There are financial benefits that telecommuting offers, too: it saves employers money in office expenses such as office supplies, furniture, equipment, coffee and janitorial services; while it helps employees save on expenses such as fuel, parking fees, vehicle maintenance, public transport fare, dining out and clothing.
Telecommuting is, unfortunately, not for everyone, though. Workers in production lines at factories, for one, where physical presence is required, will not be able to apply for telecommuting arrangements.
Long-term relief from the horrendous traffic situation will hopefully come from the elevated highways and subways being built around the metropolis, which are causing massive road strains at this time.
However, until these promised mass transport systems are fully operational years down the road, commuters at their wits’ end need as much relief as they can get. Telecommuting is an effective, workable and easy-to-implement solution.