Work From Home: Modern Slavery?

It’s been a year since pandemic began and we have been working from home since then. When The Behavioural Insights Team in the UK has successfully conducted a simple nudge to encourage employer giving flexible working environment, the reversed events encountered from where I work.

It has been generally known that Work From Home extends the work hour. According to this article, a study showed that working from home resulted in average additional 3 more weeks per year since the working hours extend 1.4 days. The reason for additional time for working may vary: internally from managing productivity and focus on working, externally from the companies’ culture and environment. Each individual may have methods to manage their own productivity to increase the quality of working, but what can we do if the reason came from companies’ culture? This would raise a common concern among employer and employee.

Bloomberg research on work hours during pandemic

Working from Home for few people could be a blessing. By working from home, we can create a productive environment and we also have more opportunity to get close to family or doing what we cannot do when working from the office. On the other hand, working from home can be a double-edged sword which can be mistakenly taken by Senior Leaders (VP, managers). The higher up, especially who doesn’t put on respect to other party, will think that working from home = more time to work. Instead, what we’re doing just moving place. So hopefully, we can work during similar time-frame as we usually do at the office. Since working from home means more comfortable environment to work, more people started to ignore the clear separation of working hours and non-working hours.

Personally, I have experienced such things where my Senior Leaders don’t even bother to respect their subordinate’s time. All they can think of are just work, work, work. Is it a bad thing? Yes, it’s a bad thing when a person should have owned another hobby and leisure but still bothered by work. For example: We suppose to work only 5 days (Monday to Friday) within the time frame of 8 hours working. It has been governed in National Act (UU №13 Tahun 2003), supported by enterprise’s regulation (related to several policy documents) which clearly mentioned about the time-frame or working and the flexible options of working arrangement. According to the documents, the normal working hour is 8 hours with the flexibility to work remotely outside the office or working outside normal working hours (9–5) as long as the time-frame is during 8 hours working window.

The fact? I have to work more than 8 hours since the VP often asked the subordinate to discuss work-related excuse outside working hours. There are a lot of problems that eventually revealed afterwards.

  1. Poor time and project management: the discussion that is being held outside working hours is a clear example of poor time management of the Senior Leaders. Things that could have been discussed during working hours is being discussed outside working hours and it violated the rights of the employee to rest (or having a life). Poor project management, during the peak season of project work-progress, the discussion is being held almost every night and it didn’t give significant enhancement for the deliverables. At this point, we should ask: Does this discussion really necessary or is it just an ego-pleasing tool abused by the Senior Leader?
  2. Passive and ignorance subordinate: in my working environment, Senior Leader expects the younger staff to be more critical and analytical. We just don’t know to what extent? Since there are lots of moment where Senior Leader asked the younger staff to contribute ideas but they too often counter-attack the feedback. Does that mean the ideas is bad? Not necessarily, some ideas are great but the Senior Leader closed the opportunity for the younger staff to explore more possibility. There is no encouragement, only discouragement. Longer working hours, evening discussions outside working hours also lead to passive and ignorance behaviour. Since the younger staff has worked during the day, they don’t see evening discussion (post-working) will give them additional value. Instead, they just want the discussion to end soon. If the Senior Leader still think that working long hours will fulfils their demand of more critical and analytical staff, I think they need to check their sanity to psychiatrist.
  3. Losing respect from subordinate: Not just younger generation, the basic human attitude is respect. And to gain respect, you have to respect other people’s business first. At this point, basic human respect starts from respecting rights of others. If we can’t even respect the right of people to rest then how would we gain respect from them? This is the problem with Senior Leader in my working environment, the more they fear us they think the more they can control us (staff) to do the task. The result is actually the opposite, staff will still do the task but they don’t want to fulfil the high demand Senior Leader have set. And it resulting to worst possibility: toxic environment where no one respect each other.

To resolve worse scenario, the Board of Directors (CEO and CHCO) needs to take action on the issue. CHCO has done a great thing by releasing regulation which managed working hours. However, their intervention to keep the obedience is still needed. CHCO can provide an Employee Well-Being task force or unit to make sure that the employee is guaranteed working comfortably. CHCO shall provide opportunity for employee to file complaints about their issue and uncomfortable feeling during work to increase productivity. On the extreme side, CHCO can provide whistle-blowing system which allows employees to report their ordinate’s non-respectful behaviour. Our CHCO might want to learn from UK’s or tech giant’s (Google, Facebook, Amazon) employment system which gave more room for employee to work comfortably. Since happy employee will actually benefit the company, increasing productivity, and increasing sense of belonging which can help company pursue their target at ease.

If there’s no change inside the company and nobody shouted it out for change, there will be no change at all. And if the CEO or CHCO has read this article and take no actions, but ask me to take it down or move me to another place, it means the “AGILITY, FLEXIBLE, and DIGITAL READY TRANSFORMATION” are just a deception for the public.

This post is specifically written for PT. Telkom Indonesia Board of Directors (CEO and CHCO). I hope the Board of Directors start listening to the employee and stop giving Senior Leader the power to abuse working hours and employee’s right. Thank you.