The pandemic sweeping the world, COVID-19, has rendered a large proportion of the workforce unable to commute to work, to mitigate the spread of the virus. This has resulted in both employers and employees seeking alternative work arrangements, especially in a fast-paced metropolitan like Hong Kong. Due to the pandemic, most if not all workers experienced work from home (WFH). Hence WFH has become a policy priority for most governments. In doing so, the policies must be made keeping in mind the practicality for both employers and employees. However, this current situation provides unique insight into how well working from home works and may play a vital role in future policies that reshape the current structure of working hours, possibly allowing for more flexibility. Using an exploratory framework and a SWOT analysis, this study investigates the continuing experience of the employer and employees face in Hong Kong. Critical insight and related recommendations have been developed for future policy decisions. It will also critically investigate if this work arrangement will remain as a transitory element responding to the exceptional circumstances, or whether it could be a permanent arrangement. Refer website: vex 4
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19), a pandemic sweeping across the globe, has challenged society in ways once considered unimaginable, forcing people to reconsider a wide variety of practices, from work, to leisure, to basic travel and daily tasks. Not only has this had individual impacts, but it has also impacted countries as a whole from an economic standpoint, bringing an array of economic sectors to a complete standstill. While there was a lot anticipated and there were countless warnings, especially from those working in public health, the challenge remained as a substantial change that requires planning, training, and facilitating. While society did mentally prepare, the extent and solution still remained unthinkable and remains to be a big challenge. COVID-19 is a new disease that has begun circulating in the human population since December 2019. It is part of the coronavirus family, the same group of viruses that caused the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in South East Asia in 2002 and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak in 2012. Currently, the known main mode of transmission is through respiratory droplets and hence is considered to spread through close contact with other people. At present, the only tools to combat the viral spread are using masks properly, introducing social distancing measures, and practice of good hand hygiene (Centre for Health Protection [CHP]2020a). The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of COVID-19 as a global health emergency on 31 January 2020 (World Health Organisation 2020). Since then, the virus has spread rapidly.
The virus has vastly spread worldwide, with over 60 million confirmed cases and over 1.4 million confirmed deaths as of 26 November 2020, and the number has been increasing consistently (World Health Organisation 2020). As the coronavirus continues to spread across the world, some governments worldwide have imposed and re-imposed strict lockdowns with the closure of non-essential businesses and banned non-essential gatherings from keeping hospitals from the threats of being overwhelmed due to COVID-19. Many of their counterparts have urged their citizens to stay at home as much as possible and practice social distancing to limit face-to-face interactions with others. At this time, authorities and organizers of mass gathering events are encouraged to carry out a risk assessment in the context of the pandemic for their events to protect people from harm. For instance, the WHO has released a risk assessment tool for stakeholders to use to assess the safety of any mass gatherings that are to take place. This tool involves three pillars of assessment, namely: Risk Evaluation; Risk Mitigation; and Risk Communication. Once data is filled into these categories, data is automatically filled into a Decision Matrix which assesses the total risk score (from 0 to 5) against the total mitigation score (%) and categorizes the overall risk of transmission and spread from very low to very high. Besides, employers are also advised to carry out a coronavirus-specific risk assessment of the workplace, taking each individual into account, to determine the safety of their employees working on-site. Businesses in the UK are required to openly share the risk assessment results with the workforce (HM Government 2020). This might be because offices are among the top three places to get infected with COVID-19, according to Dr Zhong Nanshan, a renowned respiratory disease expert (Hong Kong Economic Times Limited 2020). If the risk is too significant, employers are forced to accept alternative working methods, by practicing social distancing at work or implementing WFH.