By Krixia Subingsubing, June 21, 2022; Inquirer
More than two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, government agencies can now finally implement alternative work arrangements at any time for some 1.7 million employees, regardless of their status of appointment.
News about the approval of the Civil Service Commission’s (CSC) Memorandum Circular No. 2022-6, which took effect on June 15, came as a relief to Genevieve (not her real name) who went back to reporting to the office earlier this year.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources employee said that at the height of the pandemic, she was allowed to work from home (WFH), an arrangement she found more comfortable and productive.
“I did not have to worry about contracting the virus, and did not have to worry about the struggles of commuting to and from home, especially because during that time, it was very hard to [get a ride] due to restrictions,” Genevieve told the Inquirer.
“It was also better for me because since I was at home, I had time for both work and side jobs that benefited me financially. I could do more at home than just sit in the office doing one type of work,” she said.
The approval of the CSC memorandum circular, according to Genevieve, was a welcome development “with COVID-19 and everything.”
“As a public servant, guidelines for us to go to work every day despite the pandemic have been strict, and it has been hard especially for seniors in the office. But I think that with this new resolution, productivity in the workplace will increase, because we will feel more secure and mentally ready for whatever comes,” she said.
2 years in the making
The CSC said the move was part of its efforts to institutionalize a more responsive and efficient bureaucracy as the country transitions to a post-pandemic new normal.
This is the first time it has institutionalized such a policy, which took two years to finalize. In doing so, the agency hopes to create a more “agile and flexible bureaucracy where workers and heads of agencies now have an automatic default during times of crises and emergencies,” CSC Commissioner Aileen Lizada told the Inquirer.
“This is something new for the government and we would like to see how it plays out now. Of course we have to make sure that all government services are running smoothly, but we also have to protect government workers and see to it that they also have a work-life balance,” she said.
Under the CSC memorandum, general rules still apply: government agencies and employees must render service from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. every day, except Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
Government offices can choose from any of the following arrangements:
1) Flexi place: workers can render services away from the office;
2) Compressed workweek: the 40-hour workweek can be compressed into four days or less instead of five;
3) Skeleton workforce: a minimum number of workers must report for office when full staffing is not possible;
4) Work shifting: for offices required to operate 24/7 or observe health and safety protocols;
5) Flexi time: employees can report anytime between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. as long as they complete the 40-hour workweek, or
6) A combination of all options.
Lizada clarified that the CSC was just presenting options because “no one formula [could] work for the entire bureaucracy.”
She also pointed out that WFH arrangements should not be automatically adopted, saying these must be aligned with an agency’s internal guidelines.
“For example, there are certain administrative tasks that [do not require one to] report [to the] office anymore like accounting, research and policy formulation…, it depends on the tasks that the agencies will consider appropriate for these schemes.”
For those wishing to adopt flexi work arrangements, they must first formulate internal guidelines and submit these to their CSC regional office for recording and reference purposes.
They must also draw up performance standards, timelines, and submissions of accomplishment reports in line with Republic Act No. 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business Act.
No overtime pay
Failure to accomplish their tasks within these parameters could be used to deny subsequent requests for flexi place work arrangements, Lizada said.
As for the downside, employees under flexi place arrangements are not entitled to compensatory overtime credit/overtime pay. They can collect this only if they physically report for work and render services beyond the normal eight-hour workdays/40-hour workweek, and on rest days and holidays.
Reasonable expenses incurred under flexi place setups, like electricity and internet connection bills, may also be defrayed by an agency only in case of a WFH arrangement during national or local outbreaks, or natural/man-made calamities.
Lizada said the government’s experience could serve as a guide for the private sector, which was currently debating whether to adopt a similar work arrangement.