This post is the first in a three-part series on remote work and telecommuting in Malta. In this post we look at the latest trends emerging amongst Maltese businesses.
In our interactions with multiple Maltese businesses in different industries, the subject of remote work and telecommuting has become increasingly topical especially since Covid-19 has impacted our economy, workplaces and work practices. Our interactions result in 7 key points that emerge on this subject:
1. Work from home policies
Where possible, especially with non-customer facing roles, businesses have implemented work from home policies. The approaches vary, but employees work from home two or three days a week. Some businesses have also ventured into total flexibility by allowing employees to work from home with no restrictions. Whether this trend of remote working and telecommuting will become more ingrained in Maltese work culture, remains to be seen. However, the general trend is one of adaptation.
2. Office sizes
A number of businesses we are in contact with have made a realisation that maybe they can do with smaller offices, and consequently lower expenses related to renting, operating, and maintaining larger offices. Some businesses have already reduced the number and size of offices, especially in those circumstances where employees had to be laid off. Others, however, have adopted an office roster and the physical space requirements have been reduced.
3. Working remotely might actually work
The idea of working remotely, has helped create a more flexible environment where a variety of settings for work are becoming more acceptable. Employees not only work from home but from everywhere. For example, some have started having meetings in their cars whilst commuting.
4. Supporting employees
Some businesses we are in contact with were, on the other hand, surprised by requests from employees to work permanently from the office. The reasons behind this request vary from issues with mental health due to isolation, communication issues and sometimes cases of complicated family situations. In all these instances employers felt the need to offer more support.
5. Remote productivity concerns
Some employers already had a work culture oriented to productivity and the transition to remote working was smoother, however, some others are looking at investing in software for tracking productivity. Here the narrow line between policing employees and tracking productivity would need to be navigated.
6. Non-Maltese going back home
The most surprising new trend we came across is that of non-Maltese employees moving back to their country, mainly to be closer to their family, while retaining their job in Malta. The result it that they are still employed in Malta, whilst not residing in Malta. The legal form of employment would obviously need to be considered here.
7. Global freelancing
Due to increased remote working, some employers were more open to engage freelancers residing in Malta and, surprisingly, also freelancers residing in other countries. We believe that this type of global outsourcing will increase substantially when the Maltese economy re-opens post COVID-19 since it is already driving additional benefits to businesses.
The points raised have been accelerated due to the impact Covid-19 has made on the country and on businesses. In discussing further, it appears that some practices may be temporary, while others may be more permanent. The reality is that time will tell where the endpoint is since the Malta business community’s relationship with remote working and telecommuting is very much in the evolution stage.