Taipei, Taiwan -Taiwan has been praised around the world for its quick response to COVID-19 but as it struggles to hatch amid a sudden new outbreak of the disease a major vulnerability has emerged from an unexpected corner: culture in the area at work.
While Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center raised the “Level 3” alert in Taipei and New Taipei City, home to nearly one-third of Taiwan’s population, over the weekend they imposed new size bans. at gatherings and made public face masks obligatory. They also urged employers to allow people to work from home.
The streets were empty over the weekend as residents descended on the house. But with the arrival of Monday as everyone is heading to work even if the outbreak appears to be the most serious to hit the island since December 2019.
Employers, it seems, will need more encouragement to allow their staff to work from home.
“The main issue that persists is that the government needs a deregulated approach to companies and has not given the energy to implement change. We are finally facing the issue now as soon as Taiwan finally faces working out of the country.” home and that has challenged the entire job structure, ”said Roy Ngerng, a Singaporean who writes about wage issues in Taiwan, in addition to other jobs.
“How do you tell people to take a break to take care of their children or stay home or bring the family to see a doctor? [because of] COVID19? How can you not afford it? ”He said.
Like much of East Asia, Taiwan’s workplaces have a reputation for being more hierarchical, with many hours prioritizing office face-time above other productivity measures.
For “knowledge workers” – people who work in fields such as accounting, law, design and programming – Researchers from Harvard University have shown that a short -term arrangement of working at home can increase productivity and job satisfaction because people are able to set their own schedule and save time by not attending meetings.
The government did not make any financial support available for those working from home – especially important because if it ordered schools to close until May 28 across Taipei and New Taipei City, parents were told they were legally allowed. to take care of the child but they have to negotiate. any compensation to their employer.
On social media, there have been complaints that supervisors refuse to allow work from home because they cannot believe staff can be equally productive.
Posts also show about employers insisting office workers go to the workplace on transfers rather than work remotely. Others say they can work from home but not get paid.
While working at a university -based research center at the start of the pandemic, Ngerng recalled that even in an academic environment, it was uncomfortable to manage employees working from home even though most of the work could be easily done online. . If they work remotely, they have to check in via video call three times a day, he said.
Christine Chen, who heads the employment and immigration division at Winkler Partners, a Taipei law firm, said Taiwan’s approach to working from home is largely industry-determined.
Many employees in the technology industry, he said, have been working from home for almost a year but in an economy where government data shows that 97.5 per cent of businesses are classified as “small and medium businesses”, this is not common in other sectors. .
“I think it’s different in the industry,” he said. “In tech, they’re used to working from home or work – whether the employee can still deliver a product or finish the project on time. But for local businesses it’s not about trust, it’s about the product… it’s about whether this kind of work style we can create for the company, ”he said, adding that most small companies in Taiwan don’t believe they can afford to take risks.
Chen, whose company also works from home, said he expects to see the government move to provide assistance or tax breaks to other industries such as the service sector or food and beverage to cover the salaries of the can’t work.
Until Taiwan reaches level 4 – a total lockdown – only private companies are advised to allow employees to work from their homes even if the local governments of Taipei and New Taipei City allow civilian staff who work remotely or use faster hours.
As the the rest of Taiwan was placed under Level 3 on Wednesday, the government has not yet announced any additional economic incentives for companies to allow remote employment.
Mark Stocker, an American national who has lived in Taiwan for 30 years, says he has no plans to close the brand consultancy offices where he works as a manager unless the government declares a Level 4 alert.
“I want to see everyone in the office who can help with communication,” he said. His company has about 20 employees. “As a manager of a business you have to decide how the rules are made and how everyone agrees to a set of rules, and my policy because we are a foreign company operating in Taiwan, I find it easier to obey the government. ”
Stocker speculates that Taiwan’s work culture is a hangover from its manufacturing roots and recalled that even employees in offices and universities are required to clock in and out and are sometimes embarrassed by fatigue.
His first job on the island was at a company that made bicycle pedals and after his salary increased when he arrived 10 minutes later he realized the difference in work culture.
“Preferring everyone in the office as opposed to working from home, more than anything I think it started with the fact that Taiwan is a manufacturing country and continues to be one.” as he. “Most of the GDP (gross domestic product) is export-related. Touch that and to run a factory you need the people in the factory and at the right time. ”