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Jakarta Post

Working without fear

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, June 10, 2020   /   08:22 am
Working without fear Loose restriction: Office workers walk to their workplace near Dukuh Atas Station, Central Jakarta, in May. (JP/Seto Wardhana)

The catchphrase “new normal” has gained traction as the government starts to lift months-old restrictions that have put the economy and social life on hold. Many, however, may see this change as an opportunity to celebrate, all the while ignoring that a new normal demands drastic behavioral changes of us all.

Referring to a health ministerial decree issued on May 25, workplaces must follow strict health protocols on decreasing the chances of COVID-19 transmission to qualify for reopening. Requirements include body temperature checks, regular cleaning of the workplace and its facilities, the provision of handwashing facilities or hand sanitizers and physical distancing among employees. In addition, work hours must not prevent employees from having at least seven hours a day to sleep.

These protocols suggest anything but a return to normalcy, especially as the pandemic has shown no signs of slowing down in Indonesia. The COVID-19 task force announced the country’s highest single-day increase of infections at 1,043 on Tuesday, owing to an increase in the country’s capability of conducting tests, which is said to be 10,000 per day.

Nevertheless, the pandemic is certainly not over and no vaccine is within sight to end perhaps the most severe global health crisis since the Spanish flu.

Health protocols at the workplace are prescribed to ensure everybody can work safely without fear of contracting the virus, which has so far contributed to the deaths of nearly 2,000 people across Indonesia. Workplace safety also leads to productivity, which is why the government wants business to resume in the first place. The pandemic has hurt the nation financially and mentally and it will take years to recover.

We don’t know how many offices, both public and private, are ready to fulfill the protocols. There are also questions over how closely protocol implementation will be supervised.

Some businesses may be prepared for the new normal, as they are facilitating rapid tests for their employees to make sure all are fit to work and providing carpooling services to discourage them from using public transportation.

Compliance with the protocols, not to mention the extra facilities, means additional spending, which most corporations and institutions cannot afford in this time of economic slowdown. For those who are not ready to follow the health protocols, work from home remains the best policy.

A recent survey jointly conducted by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the University of Indonesia (UI) and the Manpower Ministry discovered that 78 percent of 1,213 respondents claimed they remained productive while working from home. Unsurprisingly, one of the researchers involved in the survey suggested the continuation of work-from-home measures so long as the pandemic remains unbeaten.

Considering the risks of virus transmission en route to the workplace, especially for those taking public transportation, and possible traffic congestion, working from home should be an ideal choice for both employees and employers, despite household distractions and non-ideal work settings. Home sweet home, as the old saying goes, as no place offers peace and shelter better than our abodes.