To stay safe, young Vietnamese want to work from home

By Staff writers   November 20, 2021 | 05:01 pm PT
To stay safe, young Vietnamese want to work from home
A female office worker in Hanoi works at home, April 2020. Photo courtesy of UNICEF Vietnam
Once forced to work from home because of Covid-19, many people, especially younger ones, are increasingly opting for remote work because of its advantages.

For Le Ha, 28, a salesperson in Hanoi, wanting to continue to work remotely even after the fourth wave of the pandemic subsided and her employer told her to go back to the office has cost her her job.

In September, when Hanoi ended its lockdown, Ha was supposed to get back to her company, a South Korean construction materials provider, in My Dinh District. But she didn’t want to because she was still concerned about lingering health risks and found that meeting customers online was as effective as meeting them in person.

But with her company not obliging, she decided to quit.

"At present I’m living on my savings, and will stay at home until the Lunar New Year (in early February)," she said. "Employers should be flexible and not force employees to return to the office in this situation."

Like elsewhere in the world, in Vietnam too many people have been forced to work from home for the past two years, learned to adapt, and found remote work beneficial, especially when considering the potential health risks.

Indeed, in a recent survey of 463 employees carried out by global workforce solutions company ManpowerGroup titled ‘What Vietnamese Workers Want,’ most people now consider health-related issues such as flexible schedules to enable easier and safer commutes as important as other priorities like career development and keeping their jobs.

In the survey, 42 percent wanted to work remotely three to four days a week while 35 percent did not want to go to the office at all.

Tran Thuy Nhi, a senior HR consultant in HCMC, said since the start of the fourth wave she has been working from home.

Her company has allowed employees to do so until the Lunar New Year (Tet).

Nhi said more and more people, especially young IT developers, now want to work remotely to stay safe, and believe remote work does not affect their productivity.

Bao Minh, 29, a graphic designer in HCMC whose company also allows workers to work remotely until Tet, said if employees can ensure productivity when working from home, they should be allowed to do so.

"If I’m forced to go back to the office after Tet, I’ll quit," Minh said, adding he would look for remote work elsewhere.

A 22-year old marketing assistant in Hanoi who works remotely half the time for an online job portal, Waw Asia, and asked to remain unnamed, said younger people with technology skills are increasingly drawn toward remote work because of its advantages such as saving time and money for commuting daily.

A recent graduate of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, she had sought out remote work.

She described working from home as offering flexibility also in terms of time, though she admitted she needs to learn how to properly manage her workload. For instance, multi-tasking at home makes her postpone daytime work to night, leaving little time for rest.

Yet she has adapted and grown very comfortable with it, and could switch to fully working from home anytime, she said.

Indeed, ensuring flexibility and work-life balance by seeking alternative types of work instead of permanent full-time office jobs is a growing trend in Vietnam, with its relatively young, tech-savvy workforce, especially after Covid.

Phuong Nhi, 33, the mother of a five-year-old girl in HCMC, shows a typical sense of autonomy and entrepreneurship and seeks to balance work and life.

After working from home for many months she decided to quit her accounting job to take care of her daughter, who is yet to be vaccinated, but also to start her own business.

"After seven years of office work I had become tired," she said, adding she had saved enough money and is at present working online as an investor.

Not just millennials like Phuong Nhi, but also younger ones belonging to the so-called Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012 and expected to make up a quarter of the nation’s workforce) also have a similar attitude.

According to a report released in September by market research company Decision Lab and office solutions provider Dreamplex, Vietnamese Gen Z-ers are not looking for safe, long-term and well-paying jobs, but instead want to contribute and impact the world through social work, entrepreneurship or multiple jobs.

When asked about the pros and cons of office work versus remote work as well as what they thought about a mixture, almost 70 percent of the respondents said they prefer a combination of office and remote work.

In this and other studies, respondents listed the common shortcomings of remote work as being distraction, poor workload management, lack of contact with colleagues and managers, and poor Internet connection.

To deal with these problems, a survey of 1,200 employees by recruitment services provider Navigos Group found, remote workers are employing strategies such as maintaining office connections with online software, making plans and sticking to them and finding suitable places at home to work.

In this and other studies, many people still felt positive about going back to the workplace and found remote work had some shortcomings such as distraction, poor workload management, lack of contact with colleagues and managers, and poor Internet connection.

According to some labor experts, switching job trend after the pandemic is inevitable as many people have adapted or found value in working remotely. But young workers who are working remotely may miss out on important skills in workplace.

Several employees said they prefer working in office. It helps them concentrate better, and connect and exchange easier with colleagues and bosses.

Expert advice from HR companies all point out the need to adapt to the new flexibility thrust upon by the pandemic, not just by employees but also employers to keep and attract talent by exploring hybrid models.

But are employers willing? It seems they are, at least for the time being.

In another ManpowerGroup survey of 152 employers in 17 industries, over 41 percent said they would adopt the hybrid work mode to ensure a balance between business and workers’ safety.

Depending on the nature of the industry, nearly 9 percent also planned to have their employees work from home for the next three to six months.

Graphic designer Minh, who wants employers to consider a hybrid model, will be pleased.

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