LAST_UPDATEThu, 19 Jul 2018 1pm

Malaysians Confess They Are Happier Working From Home

The idea of working from home has always been associated with a part-time job, a part of a post-retirement plan, a hobby, or side project.

Perhaps previously, earning a living from home was just a far-fetched dream, and it would also mean having to cope with an unstable income. But thanks to the advancement of the Internet, more people around the world are now kicking-off their home based careers, or café based as some would call it. 

The ratio of people working from home have grown. It’s no longer a marvel these days that people are operating an entire company from the comfort of their homes, organising business meetings through webcam or FaceTime, while some even submit their weekly reports while on the go, adopting flexible schedules.

The best part of it apart from the flexibility? Remote workers actually do get paid as equally as any 9-to-5 office-bound worker would earn. In fact, some entrepreneurs who have taken this path have succeeded in managing their companies, or little start-ups online very well.

Take a look around us, the traditional methods we previously knew from the early phase of job seeking to hiring employees, are now becoming less of a priority but rather an alternative. In fact, billionaire Richard Branson, who is the chairman of Virgin Group also agrees that working from home is a step forward in this modern age.

Branson once wrote in his blog, “We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.”

Website Virtual Workspace even listed the “5 Best Countries to Work From Home” being the United States of America, India, Hong Kong, Sweden and Maldives, in its article written in July this year. Last year, the United Kingdom also recorded a rise in the number of people who worked from home at 4.2 million.

Kelly career service, had also conducted a poll which stated that traditional organisations today only employ up to 55 percent of the workforce on a full-time basis, while the remaining 45 percent include temporary, part-time, or casual employees.

FlexJobs, an online job listings board for telecommuting, flexible schedule, part-time and freelance jobs had listed the “100 Top Companies with Remote Jobs in 2015”. Among them are Teletech, Amazon, Kelly Services, IBM, Dell, Xerox, Aetna, American Express, Apple, Nielsen, Thomson Reuters and 3M.

As part of its analysis of the top companies with remote jobs, they also discovered a 26 percent increase in the number of remote jobs posted over the last year, signalling that the option to work from home is becoming more accepted and widely available across industries and career fields.

These findings prove that the employment industry is slowly shifting towards employing remote workers, and with more and more people now starting to wish they could work from home, Malaysian Digest interviewed three independent and home based professionals with various job backgrounds to contribute their thoughts and personal experiences on this emerging trend of employment in the country.

Freelance copywriter

Zarith Illyas, 32, worked in an advertising firm for five years before leaving her desk job to become an independent based writer.

She had always dreamed of setting up her own copywriting business, but to ensure stability towards her move, she had gathered enough project materials through work experiences with established companies to finally get the ball rolling.

“To quit my job at the (advertising) firm has always been part of the plan,” she recounts.

Four years after leaving her job, Zarith’s copywriting portfolio grew significantly enough to make her recognisable in her field.

“Working freelance has allowed me to connect with more people from different fields and backgrounds as compared to receiving projects via my company.

“I am more directly involved with my clients and so are they. That is what I had in mind when I first started planning to go freelance,” she expressed.

When it comes to her monthly earnings she shared, “It’s typically based on the number of clients I can secure. Although the pay can be inconsistent, the amount of money I make is as equivalent to what I used to earn when working in an office previously.”

Event space general manager

Muiz Azim, 29, handles reservations and the setting up of his company’s event spaces around Kuala Lumpur and the Klang Valley.

Although he lives in Shah Alam, his company’s office is conveniently located in Mutiara Damansara, in between most of the event space locations.

As the nature of his job sometimes requires him to travel back and forth his event space locations, his employer has given him the freedom to work from wherever convenient. The flexibility in his job has definitely allowed him to conveniently drop by his office whenever necessary, although he does not need to do so that often.

“Most of my work just requires me to communicate with the clients, answering calls, passing on messages, exchanging rates and such. So, technically, I don’t really have to be physically in one place as almost everything can be done through phone calls, e-mails and text messaging,” explained Azim.

A plus point, Azim is paid the same amount as he would be paid if he were to work from the company’s office.

He then shared, “If it’s not at home, I usually do my work from cafés and just chill there as long as I want, well more like as long as I can have everything completed that is.”

However, too much freedom does tend to come with several downsides. One major problem that Azim is faced with is the lack of stability and control that comes with authority.

“I am basically my own boss, that’s the only negative aspect of my job,” said Azim.

He further explained, “When you let loose control of your work a bit, it will be under your own authority and things get unpleasant from there.

“It’s times like these that you would wish you are in a more stable environment where there are routines and deadlines set. I have to admit, I do miss that part of a normal office based job.”

Ceramic designer

Ros Jacob, 51, quit her job as a town planner 23 years ago to pursue her dream in ceramic crafts.

“Back then, people just assumed I was unreasonable to drop a perfectly stable paying job with an established company just so I can ‘play with clay’ at home,” said Jacob.

She added, “Honestly, I just want to do something from home so I can be with my then new-born daughter. I picked up pottery and that is when I realised I could make something out of it.”

Today, Jacob is a proud owner of a successful locally based handmade ceramics company, which supplies interior crafts to both local and overseas hotels and resorts, mosques, and shopping malls, among others.

“During the first few years, I was mostly by myself working from my dining table. While I was pursuing my ‘hobby’ and trying to make an earning out of it, I also get to spend more time taking care of my home life so it was basically the ideal work life for me,” said the mother of three.

Working from home certainly does have its perks when it comes to time and location flexibility even back then, but the increasing presence of advance communication technology has no doubt helped a lot in boosting her business in recent years.

“I would be lucky to have these conveniences when I first started all those years ago. Now, it has become very accessible to pursue a home-based work life in my opinion,” Jacob lamented.

It’s A Win-Win Situation

The Internet has evidently revolutionised the working experience of employees today, giving them more flexibility, work satisfaction, and guaranteeing a higher level of productivity.

Research by the Harvard Business Review reported that “The performance of the work from home group increased by 13 percent, as measured by their sales rate and interactions with customers. They were also more productive per minute.” They cited less noise distraction, fewer breaks and fewer sick days as some possible reasons for the boosts in productivity.

Recent studies also supported the idea that working from home can increase job satisfaction, productivity, decrease stress, adding that employees are happier than those working in the office on a regular basis.

But it’s not just the employees that benefit. Employers too benefit greatly from remote working employees. Research suggests companies that encourage and support a work from home protocol actually save money in the long run.

CEO and co-founder of Affilorama Simon Slade who has experienced first-hand the benefits of having remote workers at his company affirms this: “By allowing employees to work remotely, you can hire the best of the best while not limiting yourself by geographical restrictions. At Doubledot Media, 19 of our 28 employees work remotely, and I have seen no difference in job satisfaction or work performance. If anything, my remote employees' production rate is higher because they are better equipped to avoid distractions.” The benefits also extend to his bottom line, “telecommuting saves me money because they pay for their own computer, electricity and other utilities.”

While companies are catching onto the trend, when it comes to working from home, employees must also be prepared to adapt to the different environment, get less distracted from their surroundings, and know how to be flexible and be more open to learn new skills.And finally, personality is very important.

A study by University of Calgary in 2014 found that workers who were honest, meticulous and satisfied with their jobs were productive remote workers, whereas those who had a tendency to procrastinate were less productive.

So, if you’re up for working remotely and think you have a personality that fits the bill, stop compromising your happiness and start job hunting right away!

- Malaysian Digest