Taipei, Taiwan – Taiwan has been praised around the world for its rapid response to COVID-19, but as it overflows through the hatches amid a new and sudden outbreak of the disease, a great weakness has emerged from a corner unexpected: their work culture.
While the Taiwan Central Epidemic Command Center raised the alert to “level 3” in Taipei and the city of New Taipei, home to nearly a third of Taiwan’s population, over the weekend they imposed new restrictions on the size of meetings and made facial masks in public mandatory. They also urged employers to allow people to work from home.
The streets were empty over the weekend while neighbors hid at home. But last Monday, it looked like everyone was heading to work, even though the outbreak emerged as the most serious to hit the island since December 2019.
It seems that employers would require more than encouragement to let their staff work from home.
“The key issue that is happening is that the government is taking a deregulated approach to business and not creating the momentum to enforce change. We are finally facing this issue right now when Taiwan is finally facing having to work from home. and that challenges the whole work structure, ”said Roy Ngerng, a Singaporean who writes about wage issues in Taiwan, among other jobs.
“How can you tell people to say goodbye to take care of their children or to stay home or take the family to the doctor? [because of] COVID-19[FEMININE?Comnoespotpagarperaixò?”Ellvadir
Igual que gran part de l’Àsia oriental, els llocs de treball taiwanesos tenen la reputació de ser profundament jeràrquics, amb llargues hores que donen prioritat al temps real a l’oficina per sobre d’altres mètriques de productivitat.
Per als “treballadors del coneixement” (persones que treballen en camps com la comptabilitat, el dret, el disseny i la programació), investigadors de la Universitat de Harvard han demostrat que, a curt termini, els acords de treball des de casa poden augmentar la productivitat i la satisfacció laboral perquè la gent és capaç d’organitzar-se el seu propi horari i estalvien temps en no assistir a les reunions.
El govern no ha proporcionat cap suport econòmic per a aquells que treballen des de casa, particularment crucial perquè quan es va ordenar el tancament de les escoles fins al 28 de maig a Taipei i la nova ciutat de Taipei, es va dir als pares que tenien permís legal per prendre permisos de guarderia, però haurien de negociar qualsevol sou amb el seu empresari.
On social media, it was reported that supervisors refused to allow work from home because they could not believe staff could be just as productive.
Publications were also published about employers insisting that office workers come to the workplace in shifts instead of working remotely. Others were told they could work from home but would not be paid.
While working at a university-based research center at the start of the pandemic, Ngerng recalls that even in an academic setting, management was uncomfortable with employees working from home, although most the job could easily be done online. When they worked remotely, they had to register by video call three times a day, he said.
Legacy of manufacture
Christine Chen, who heads the labor law and immigration division of Winkler Partners, a law firm in Taipei, says Taiwan’s approach to working from home is largely determined by the industry.
According to her, many employees in the technology industry have been working from home for much of the year, but in an economy where government data show that 97.5 percent of companies are classified as “small and medium companies “is not so common in other sectors.
“I think it’s quite different by industry,” he said. “In technology, they are used to working from home or from work, if the employee can still provide 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 that kind of work style can generate revenue for the business, ”he said, adding that most Taiwan’s small businesses do not believe they can afford the risk.
Chen, whose company also works from home, says he hopes to see the government step in to provide aid or tax breaks in other industries, such as the service sector or food and beverage, to cover the wages of those who cannot to work.
Until Taiwan reaches level 4 (a total closure), only private companies that allow employees to work from home have been achieved, although local governments in Taipei and New Taipei City have allowed officials work remotely or adopt more flexible schedules.
Like the the rest of Taiwan was placed below level 3 on Wednesday, the government has not yet announced any financial incentives to companies to allow remote work.
Mark Stocker, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Taiwan for 30 years, says he has no plans to close the offices of the branding consultancy where he works as general manager unless the government issues a level 4 alert.
“I would like to see everyone in the office because it facilitates communication,” he said. His company has about 20 employees. “As a manager of a company, you have to decide how the rules are made and how to get everyone to accept a set of rules, and my policy is that we are a foreign company operating in Taiwan, I have been easier to follow rules governmental governments “.
Stocker speculates that Taiwan’s work culture is a hangover from its manufacturing roots and notes that even office and university employees are forced to come and go and sometimes feel embarrassed by tardiness.
His first job on the island was at a company that made pedals for bicycles and it was when his salary came when he arrived 10 minutes late that he realized the difference in work culture.
“The preference for everyone to be in the office instead of working from home, I think more than anything, stems from the fact that Taiwan was a manufacturing country and continues to be so.” He said. “The vast majority of GDP (gross domestic product) is related to exports. This is tangible and to run a factory you need people in the factory and on time. “