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The challenge of making telecommuting work in the Philippine Public Sector 

The challenge of making telecommuting work in the Philippine Public Sector 

Dr. Rowena Paz L. Gelvezon and her research team examined the current and preferred telecommuting arrangements among the government workforce alongside its implications and possible contributions in creating policies and guidelines in the Philippine scenario.


Alterations to the established work patterns of government offices happened during the advent of the pandemic. Most public and private offices opted to use working from home or telecommuting as a work arrangement to continue operating despite the health protocols enforced by the national government. Telecommuting has been practiced and well-studied in other countries, but not in the Philippines. Generating and supplying scientific knowledge on this somehow unknown concept is needed to provide a better understanding and utilize its full potential. 


Dr. Rowena Paz L. Gelvezon together with Dr. Cheryl Joy Fernandez-Abila, Prof. Duvince Zhalimar Dumpit, Dr. Jhoanne Marsh Gatpatan, Inaj Mae Abalajon, Oscar Jinon, Jr., Pearl Gladys Diano, Ms. Mary Ann Sedero, and Mary Jane Castromayor investigated the current and preferred telecommuting arrangements among government workers, the perceived impacts of telecommuting on people, work, and the environment, the factors for telecommuting success, as well as their implications and potential contributions to the development of policies and guidelines in the Philippine context.


A total of 16,159 respondents participated in the study, and 33 people participated in the virtual focus group discussions. These respondents viewed telecommuting positively and expressed a preference for working from home since it enabled them to work at their most convenient time and pace, reduce commute time, and lessen travel expenses. However, there are some factors in which they have expressed hesitancy to telecommute since their jobs require things that are only accessible when they are in the office, and they mostly render direct services to their clients.  The preferred schedule, location, and the number of days per week for telecommuting vary across government agency clusters depending on organizational, job, and individual characteristics.  About 70% of the survey participants said they wanted to continue telecommuting regularly even if the national health emergency ended. 


There are differing opinions among respondents about how telecommuting affects people, the workplace, and the environment. Some say that they experienced stress, frustration, and alienation, while others say telecommuting afforded them more time to be with their family and allowed them to engage in activities that promote physical health and wellness. In terms of the perceived impact of telecommuting on work, government workers valued the flexibility when working remotely, but others felt less productive due to distractions at home and task interdependence.  While respondents mentioned the perceived gains of telecommuting on the environment, such as a reduction in traffic congestion, energy usage, carbon footprint, and solid waste, they also pointed out that these gains may be offset by increased negative impacts at home with regular official work being shifted to government workers’ homes. 


Different factors were identified that have strong associations with government workers’ perceptions of telecommuting success, and these are the nature of work, the worker’s characteristics, educational attainment, support coming from the agency, the type of agency, and employment status. 


Just like any new working arrangement, telecommuting poses new challenges to everyone involved. It redefines the concept of work since it involves the flexibility of time and work set-up. The type or design of telecommuting also differs in each and every cluster of government workers. There is no such thing as a design that fits all; each cluster has unique preferences for adhering to its specific remote work policies. The need to capitalize on the positive impacts of telecommuting as well as mitigate and find solutions to the shortcomings that it imposed should be prioritized. To effectively monitor the work being done, supervisors need to consider several factors to identify, measure, and evaluate the quality of the work done while teleworking. Though it has positive implications for the environment/society, it could have negative impacts at home, especially in terms of operational costs. Consequently, we can say that telecommuting is highly situational, multifaceted, and complex. Prudent planning and deliberations are truly necessary if telecommuting will be instituted as one of the regular working arrangement options in the public sector.


What Now? This DOST-NRCP-funded research is truly significant since it is appropriate to have science-based data about telecommuting in navigating the new normal. This is essential to rationalize the different governing policies that cover this working scheme and enhance its efficacy and expected outputs. 


Telecommuting Preferences of Government Workers in the Philippines
Rowena Paz L. Gelvezon, PhD, Dr. Cheryl Joy Fernandez-Abila, Prof. Duvince Zhalimar Dumpit, Dr. Jhoanne Marsh Gatpatan, Inaj Mae Abalajon, Oscar Jinon, Jr., Pearl Gladys Diano, Ms. Mary Ann Sedero, and Mary Jane Castromayor


This report is not yet available for citation; it can only be accessed in the OVCRE library.