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Hybrid work setup, rising oil prices, and unemployment 

As pandemic restrictions remain in its lowest level ever since an Alert Level 1 was imposed in Metro Manila and in most of the country, with establishments allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity, many workplaces — public and private — continue to struggle with the new realities of working.

For many, this means going into a full “back-to-the-office” setup. Still some have continued with a work from home arrangement for all employees. Yet others have adopted a more “new normal-esque” work model, a hybrid between physically reporting in the office and working from home.

Working from home, for many Filipinos, was introduced out of necessity. Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, there have been some workplaces particularly in the West that have been measuring the pros and cons of such a setup.

In the Philippines, two years of living in a pandemic, with restrictions mostly at a stringent level, have helped many employers and employees see what a work from home setup could bring. There were certain tasks where employees’ productivity increased in a work from home setup. There were also tasks not suitable for this remote type of work. In both cases, because of the special circumstances the pandemic brought, many found working from home more challenging than their routines pre-Covid.

Recognizing the difficulties the whole situation brought, many became more aware of mental health. Companies took extra measures to remind their employees of the need to take care of their health (to avoid the risk of acquiring Covid) and their mental health. Halfway through the year, more and more businesses are on the path to recovery. More and more workers return to their offices, and a hybrid setup allows for a stabler path toward this recovery.

That there are more cars during “pandemic rush hours,” that the MRT and LRT lines are full again, buses are back, and jeepneys are again taking on passengers on a fuller capacity are signs that there are more people going back to work. This return to commuting in these busier streets, for those who have been used to a work from home setup, was the new challenge to overcome. Add to this the ever fluctuating, albeit on a more upward trend, oil and gas prices.

A hybrid work setup, on the other hand, allows for employees to manage their commutes more effectively and plan their work well in order to increase productivity. At any rate, the labor conditions—i.e., more employment opportunities—suggest that the Philippines is moving toward recovery. It may be recalled that, when lockdowns were imposed, the difficulties of not being able to open forced businesses to shutter, causing many workers to lose their jobs.

After two years, that work seems to be back to almost full swing suggests that there are more people who have jobs now. The busier, daily commute scene as well as data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show that unemployment has declined (by 1.3 percent from 7.1 percent in March 2021 to 5.8 percent in March 2022).

Perhaps the adoption of a hybrid work setup for industries fit for it will further diminish the country’s unemployment rate, with hope, within the second half of the year.

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