Some Filipinos brought up concerns about traffic, fuel costs and the rising prices of goods amid a suggestion that return to the office should be encouraged to boost the economy.
Go Negosyo founder and Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) Lead for Jobs Joey Concepcion III said that workers should be encouraged to return to their offices to boost mobility and consumer spending, leading towards an improved economy.
“If there is no mobility, there will be very weak consumer spending and that will lead to a lower number in our growth of the Philippines,” he said in a public briefing in Malacañang on Monday, August 21.
Concepcion added that there would be lesser demand for public transportation and ride-hailing apps if the work-from-home (WFH) setup continues to be implemented.
According to the adviser, remote work would also mean people spending less on food and shopping compared to when they go to office, even if online shopping is extremely popular among Pinoys.
“Iyong work-from-home, okay lang iyan sa pandemya, pero sa panahon natin ngayon, wala namang pandemic eh. So dapat tuloy-tuloy ang encouragement to work-from-office para may disiplina rin,” Concepcion said, as quoted by reports.
“Kasi kapag work-from-home tayo, anong mangyayari sa Pilipinas?” the PSAC member added.
The adviser said that while he understands that some industries can have WFH setups like those in the information technology field, he stressed that he really encourages more mobility for an “improved economy.”
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. already lifted the COVID-19 public health emergency last month as the country is maintaining a “sufficient healthcare system capacity and low hospital bed utilization rates” amid the pandemic.
The World Health Organization previously declared the end of the global COVID-19 health emergency last May due to decreasing trend in coronavirus-related deaths and hospitalizations and high levels of population immunity.
Latest data from OCTA Research Group fellow Guido David showed that the seven-day positivity rate as of August 18 is at 3.1%. Having a 5% and below positivity rate means that the transmission is controlled by WHO standards.
There are over four million people who have been infected with COVID-19 as of August 18, according to the Department of Health. 3,010 of these are actively infected.
While the COVID-19 situation in the country has significantly improved nowadays, some workers argued that remote work should not be discouraged as it remains beneficial to them compared to working onsite.
Others cited that commuting to and from their workplaces entails additional time on the road, which could have been allotted to more productive or significant activities.
They also cited traffic congestion which lasts hours in Metro Manila, where majority of the workplaces are located.
“Try niyo muna mg commmute mula Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna or Cavite papunta sa BGC (Bonifacio Global City) or Makati, bago mag-suggest na itigil na ang work from home,” a Facebook user commented in response to Concepcion’s words.
“Palibhasa wala kayong nararanasang hirap, sa [pag-commute] pa lang, grabe gugol na oras agad,” another online user wrote.
“Puro traffic! Papahirapan [niyo] mga nagtratrabaho, anong oras na makakauwi sa kanilang mga pamilya dahil sa traffic! Madaling sabihin para sa inyo kasi may pa-car ang gobyerno sa inyo at nakakabili kayo ng sarili [niyo]!” commented a different Pinoy.
In 2018, the Japan International Cooperation Agency said the Philippines was losing P3.5 billion daily of economic opportunities due to the traffic congestion in Metro Manila.
This was because some employees could not immediately work if stuck in traffic for hours.
Some Filipinos also cited the rising cost of goods in the market as a factor for why they prefer the WFH setup.
“Malamang… mahal na lahat ehh… [bakit] pipilitin at aalisin ang work from home… bawas hirap sa pag-commute… at [traffic],” another online user wrote.
“Ang mahal ng pamasahe, pati pagkain sa labas, at sobrang trapik pa. WFH = tipid sa gastos, more time sa family at hindi pa pagod,” commented another Pinoy.
“Mahal na ang bilihin… mas mainam SA bahay ka lang kumain,” wrote a different Facebook user.
Financial publication Nikkei Asia reported on August 10 that while the Philippines’ inflation has cooled, “elevated commodity prices and the effects of interest rate hikes” continued to contribute to slow consumer spending.
This Tuesday, August 22, the prices of fuel saw another round of increase.
The WFH setup was initially imposed at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in a bid to reduce the transmission of the virus.
It was later adjusted to a hybrid setup, while other companies implemented full onsite work.
A survey of young Filipino workers from November 2022 to March 2023 revealed that majority of them prefer remote work.
Experts said that remote work allows a better life-work balance, which may lead to higher job satisfaction and a greater likelihood that workers will stay in a company.
It also benefits employees’ mental health since they can create an environment that allows them to be both comfortable and productive.