Permanent WFH is good, but here’s the catch you’ve been avoiding

·Contributor
·14 min read
UK, Essex, Harlow, elevated view of a woman working from home (WFH) in her garden using a laptop computer. (Photo: Getty Images)
A woman works from home (WFH) in her garden. The Philippines is seeing an increased in the demand for and availability of home-based jobs due to various factors. (Photo: Getty Images)

There has been an increase in the demand for and availability of home-based jobs in the Philippines. It does not take rocket science to understand why – it is caused by short-term factors due to current events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a global economic slowdown, a high national unemployment rate, and even long-term factors such as shifting generational preferences and workplace attitudes such as working from home (WFH).

Of all these uncertainties in the workplace, one thing, at least, remains certain: Today's employees have been rewriting the rules. They want it all. They no longer want to be a corporate slave. Employers must either adapt or die.

But up to what extent can employees demand for what they want and need? What is the stopping point? And will the job market be able to continue adapting to the younger workforce’s new demands?

Anthony Ramirez, 25, previously worked as a site engineer for a commercial real estate company ever since he got out of college in 2018. As a site engineer, he was physically supervising the construction of units, under the intense heat of the sun, in the subdivision property where he was assigned every day. He also held meetings with the management, architects, contractors, and homeowners on-site.

Until last year when he discovered a home-based, full-time estimator job that is related to his profession as a civil engineer. As the company is based overseas, needless to say, the pay is a lot higher than what he was getting in his former job. Some of his colleagues who were also doing on-site work are now taking on home-based jobs with him, too.

When my employer required me to RTO already, I handed them my resignation letter instead; it would be too hard for me to commute daily to the office and school at the same time.Kristine Generoso, home-based content writer

“While I genuinely loved my on-site work, many times I still longed to just work from home. It was not easy to be working under the sun every day, especially here in the Philippines’ where it is really hot. Not to mention that the pay for many civil engineering jobs here is not exactly always as good. Many times I feel like I am receiving just the bare minimum despite all the risks in construction work,” he shared. “Moving to my current job is a win-win situation: It is home-based yet still full-time, the pay is higher, and the time I spent previously on the daily commute is converted to additional time for myself and my family.”

This is the same case with Kristine Generoso, 29, who resigned from her previous job as an auditor once her former employer required her to return to office (RTO). Generoso maximized the great flexibility brought about by working from home; she enrolled in law school last year because she finally found the time to do so without having to leave her job – thanks to the time that she managed to save due to her temporary remote work set-up.

“I was attending to my job remotely in the morning and then I attended my classes in the evening. So when my employer required me to RTO already, I handed them my resignation letter instead; it would be too hard for me to commute daily to the office and school at the same time,” she shared. She moved back to her parents’ house in Rizal while her office is in Taguig City.

She found a home-based freelance job as a content writer for an Australia-based startup, which she does now to support her family as well as her legal education. “This is a freelance job, although in many ways it still feels like a full-time job; I clock in eight hours a day and five days a week, and I need to reach a quota every day. But the good thing here is that this is permanently remote work,” said Generoso. This setup allows her to organize her daily schedule accordingly and to prioritize both her work and schooling equally.

Top home-based jobs with the highest availability

Side view of male freelance worker discussing during video call with colleagues. Smiling businessman is sitting at table in home office. He is working late at night. (Photo: Getty Images)
Among the jobs with the highest availability at the moment are as follows Encoder, Civil Engineer, Office Staff, Virtual Assistant, and Mechanical Engineer. (Photo: Getty Images)

Southeast Asia's largest online employment company, JobStreet, shared with Yahoo Philippines its data on top home-based jobs in the country. The jobs with the highest availability on their website at the moment are as follows:

  1. Encoder (2,150 available jobs)

  2. Civil Engineer (1,823)

  3. Office Staff (1,782)

  4. Virtual Assistant (1,368)

  5. Mechanical Engineer (1,224)

Further, JobStreet data also revealed that most jobseekers prefer to work remotely five days a week; these candidates are mostly from the industries of IT and technology, consulting, marketing and communication, media and information, human resources, customer service, and sales.

Darwin Rivers, the founder of the Philippines HR Group, explained that encoders, also called data entry specialists, are those who transcribe, proofread, or encode their clients' documents. This usually does not have a fixed amount of salary as the client pays the encoder on a per-project basis. The more project you take on, the more pay you get.

But of all these jobs, Rivers noted that Virtual Assistant is the one that has earned more popularity in the past couple of years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual assistant does the job of a secretary of a client, most of whom are based overseas. Some of their tasks include taking care of their clients' schedules, setting up meetings and appointments, cold-calling possible business partners, or drafting speeches, among others.

The increasing demand for home-based opportunities is driven by the transformations in the working environment caused by the pandemic, jobseekers’ shifting preferences, and employers’ adjustments to continue their operations amid the quarantine.Philip Gioca, JobStreet Philippines

On top of these, there are also home-based jobs that allowed people to venture into content creation and entrepreneurship, both of which have the same capital: passion.

Rivers noted that because the Philippines has been posting higher unemployment rates since last year (it reached 7.2% in July 2021 and is at 6.0% as of June 2022), it must be no surprise that many people are being more creative in earning money. Instead of looking for full-time jobs that would restrict them from continuing their hobbies and interests or those that they were able to start doing during the pandemic, they are trying their luck instead in content creation such as vlogging and influencer marketing, or entrepreneurship where they can do their passions while also earning money out of it.

While it is hard to quantify whether or not those with home-based jobs, whether full-time or freelance, earn more than those who are doing office-based jobs, Rivers noted that the home-based workers no longer need to invest in office clothes or save money for daily office meals and transportation.

Philip Gioca, Country Manager of JobStreet Philippines, added, "The increasing demand for home-based opportunities is driven by the transformations in the working environment caused by the pandemic, jobseekers’ shifting preferences, and employers’ adjustments to continue their operations amid the quarantine. The pandemic has undeniably introduced new ways of working and jobseekers are now seeking more flexibility which home-based jobs offer."

Home-based jobs are nice, but they have their cons, too

A woman uses a computer keyboard in this photo illustration taken in Sydney June 23, 2011. Australia cleared a key hurdle on Thursday in setting up a $38 billion high-speed broadband system after phone operator Telstra agreed to rent out its network for the nation's biggest infrastructure project in decades. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne
Today, if you want permanent WFH, enjoy more flexibility, and get a higher paycheck, you have to forego many employee perks and benefits, including the HMO; regularization, including security and tenure; career progression; and more physical social interactions, among others. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

As they say: You cannot have it all. Millennials and Gen Zers may have earned the reputation of shaking up the workforce, but the truth is they have not gotten yet everything that they have been asking for – proof that there is still a stopping point set in the workplace that limits their power over their employers.

As much as home-based jobs are flexible and practical, they have their setbacks, too.

Generoso said that while she is enjoying her home-based, freelance job, she said she still hopes to get regularized and promoted someday – something that cannot be promised to many home-based jobs provided by overseas-based organizations. She added, “Many times I envy my friends who are already regular employees or are already holding senior positions in their respective careers. I guess not being able to experience those things is one of the drawbacks of having a home- and foreign-based job.”

For Ramirez, meanwhile, the lack of HMO and government-mandated benefits is especially difficult. “Now, I have to regularly and manually process my contributions to the likes of SSS, PhilHealth, and PAG-IBIG. It is so easy to just not pay my contributions and claim that I simply just forgot to do so, but of course, I do not want to get questioned about it someday,” he shared. “It would have been a breeze if I have an employer that can process these things for me, just as what happens in many regular jobs.”

While there are outsourcing companies that employ home-based, full-time virtual assistants or encoders, which means they receive the usual things that any corporate employee gets such as an HMO, a retirement plan, leave credits, regularization, and chances for a promotion, Rivers said that those who choose to take on home-based, freelance jobs cannot expect the same.

“These workers must always find the balance because it is hard to fall into the trap of thinking that you are earning more now that you are doing a home- and foreign-based job, and yet you do not have an HMO and other employee benefits like social security, health insurance, and a retirement plan, among others,” said Rivers. “When you realize that you do not get these things from your home-based job, can you still convince yourself that you are earning more?”

In the case of freelance virtual assistant jobs that proliferated in the market in the past two years, Rivers noted that they have been seeing a notable decline in its availability and demand already. No freelance job, essentially, is promised to be permanent.

It is hard to fall into the trap of thinking that you are earning more now that you are doing a home- and foreign-based job, and yet you do not have an HMO and other employee benefits... When you realize that you do not get these things from your home-based job, can you still convince yourself that you are earning more?Darwin Rivers, Philippines HR Group

"Most of the freelance virtual assistants' clients needed their virtual work back when they were working from home because of quarantine restrictions. But now that a majority of the global workforce – including their clients – are returning to the office already, they no longer needed their virtual assistants anymore because they can work with their assistants on-site already," explained Rivers. "So what happens now to those who relied so hard on their freelance virtual assistant job if they were not able to build a wide network of clients?"

Those who are taking on home-based jobs, especially freelance, must also be wary of bogus clients or those who present themselves as a legitimate partner that would seek services, but would not give the agreed payment in the end. In most of these home-based jobs, it is hard to follow up on those who must have accountability simply because they do not have a physical office space in the Philippines where they can physically reach out to the necessary offices.

Gioca of JobsStreet noted more personal disadvantages for those who choose to take on home-based jobs, such as the lack of human communication or personal interaction with colleagues and the absence of a border between work life and personal life; employees who are working from home, as an effect, tend to work for longer hours or take on household responsibilities while working.

In essence, if you want permanent WFH, enjoy more flexibility, and get a higher paycheck, you have to forego many employee perks and benefits, including the HMO; regularization, including security and tenure; career progression; and more physical social interactions, among others.

At this point, there is no “perfect job” just yet.

Despite all this, Gioca said, "Working from home is still the most-preferred arrangement because candidates can save time, money, and energy as they do not need to commute to and from the office. They also have more time to spend with their families or do other activities, and they have opportunities to choose from when location isn't a factor to be considered."

This trend will stay, but only if…

Business owner discussing ideas with colleagues on video call, communication, brainstorming. (Photo: Getty Images)
Will the high demand and availability of home-based jobs continue, For Darwin Rivers of the Philippines HR Group, as long as there is demand for work-at-home opportunities, this trend will stay. (Photo: Getty Images)

Ramirez, the home-based civil engineer, is pretty certain that he no longer wants to work at the office ever again.

“I cannot imagine myself having to mingle with people I do not even like in an office set-up. I am pretty satisfied working at home without having to mind other people. I am more productive this way; I admit I was never really a team player,” he said. “I acknowledge that this is not a perfect setup, but what is perfect? I guess people now choose based on what is fit to their lifestyle and preferences, and this is what is fit to mine at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Generoso is just grateful that she also has her legal education to mind to date. “I am a Come-what-may kind of girl. Right now, I am focused on finishing law school, and I need my home-based content writing job to get me through it. I do not think I will be able to finish law school if I also have an office job because that would require so much of my time, money, and energy. I am pretty happy with my current setup.”

Is she ready to forego the chances for regularization or promotion, now that she is settled to stay at doing home-based, freelance jobs?

I acknowledge that this is not a perfect setup, but what is perfect?Anthony Ramirez, home-based civil engineer

“I admit that those are such huge losses for me; security and tenure are great corporate promises,” said Generoso. “But I think I have got other wins, anyway: I get to work while also facing my readings without being cautious of lurking supervisors or colleagues, I get to save money which would have been used for my office clothes and daily travel, and I even get to live with my family again indefinitely. These are the wins that I will not get to enjoy when I decide to RTO.”

Gioca advises jobseekers to always read the description of the job post to confirm if it is for a full-time or part-time opportunity and to see the authenticity of the ad. They must also invest in work-from-home essentials such as internet, laptop, and noise-canceling earphones, among others, to get more chances of being hired for home-based jobs. Gioca added that it also pays to improve their digital literacy skills to be able to stay updated and catch up in today's work environment.

"In our latest Global Talent Survey, it was found that employees prefer to work either completely remotely or in a hybrid setup if given the choice. Since the pandemic, more companies and employees have already adjusted to working from home, and they have seen the advantages of this setup in their work productivity, operating expenses, business goals, and overall work-life balance," he noted. "Given this, we can say that this flexibility will stay and will be sought after by candidates in the future."

Will the high demand for and availability of home-based jobs continue?

"Many people continue to prefer working at home rather than at the office. I believe that as long as there is demand for work-at-home opportunities, this trend will stay," said Rivers.

Juju Z. Baluyot is a Manila-based writer who writes in-depth special reports, news features, and opinion-editorial pieces for a wide range of publications. He covers cultures, media, and gender.

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