Drawing on government-led directives, companies in Malaysia are looking at containing Covid-19 with their own enhanced SOPs and return to work (RTW) options, out of abundance of caution and for the protection of their employees and community. As the country witnesses another Controlled Movement Control Order (CMCO) extension order till June 9th 2020, a high degree of uncertainty shrouds the business continuity of several organizations and how they will navigate safety and workforce deployment in the ongoing crisis. 

To get an overview of the current business landscape under CMCO, an informal and casual survey was carried out over 50 representatives from a cross-section of industries and sectors on May 6th 2020 to determine their immediate plan of action and also to get to know their opinions on the current scenario. The analysis was carried out following a readiness expressed by many companies to get back to work and their own organizational preparedness to do so.

While this was not a formal survey done under the guidance of systematic sampling, geographic/demographic or industry-led findings, the results will only help you gain an overall understanding of how companies are devising their post-exit strategies with respect to altering CMCO guidelines.

HR practitioners were asked a set of questions on their return to work strategy, date of return, percentage of teams returning to work, staggered or shortened work hour plans and also on those critical roles that are likely to resume work first.

Companies surveyed represent sectors such as technology, healthcare, consumer goods & manufacturing, retail, telecom, oil & gas, consulting, power, insurance, automobile, banking and shared services.

Anticipating the impact of the pandemic in confined spaces like offices and manufacturing units, 52% of the respondents have decided to withhold their return to office operations till the end of May. While the rest are looking forward to opening their offices in reduced capacities, they are also maintaining a status quo till the CMCO is lifted in full.

Over 91% of the respondents have planned for rotation of their shifts and will bring in an average of 23% of their workforce to offices during the current phase of the CMCO which extends till June 9, 2020. Around 63% of the respondents were open to staggered work hours and teams and 77% emphasized that there would not be any shortening of work hours during this period.

A majority of the practitioners who were surveyed mentioned that roles in sales, supply chain, administration, customer care and services were ones they considered critical. Their next-highest concern was sanitizing and disinfecting offices, elevating the role of housekeeping departments as a critical function in days to come. Role of finance, logistics & warehousing teams were also highlighted as indispensable necessities among those surveyed.

Specific to sectors, the IT industry is largely welcoming the work-from-home directive and shows no urgency to resume operations from office. Most of the respondents from the IT sector say that returning to office is voluntary and will be optional till the crisis abates. Their main focus is on their support services, which needs to run uninterrupted even if teams are working from home.

The pharmaceutical and healthcare industry is also focusing on work-from-home options as of now. Their main focus is to ensure supply chain and sales challenges are straightened out during the CMCO phase, even if returning to office doesn’t happen. Most of their workforce has been directed to work from home except those who need to be present for administrative roles.

Some respondents are also offering exemption from RTW for employees caring for children and the elderly at home. They also plan to initiate measures to reduce use of public transport systems and practice social distancing even when offices resume post CMCO.

Overall, a majority of the respondents are currently minimising non-essential office work and travel as a counter-measure to contain the spread of the virus. By focusing more on remote deployment tools and best practices in personnel safety, companies are deferring RTW options till the end of May 2020 in the interest of the workforce, government and society at large.

We wish to thank all respondents for participating in the informal survey and encourage the HR fraternity to continue to support each other with best practices during these unusual times. Do feel free to share these insights among your network. 

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