Dear Employers; we don’t want beanbags, we want flexible working

Written and submitted anonymously.


I know this is probably going to get some snide remarks by someone close to their forties, rolling their eyes so far back it might just leave their eye sockets vacant. And yes, I just did that.

I made a profiling assumption.

What? I can’t judge? You’re the one sitting there judging my whiny Millennial backside.

So how do we get started? Oh my, I am itching to get started. 

Let’s start with the common knowledge that the Malaysian labour market is one where you are paid peanuts to work as many hours as humanely possible in day, because let’s face it, too many people sitting in swivelling chairs and cosy private rooms seem to think that the hours you put in work has any relevance at all with the quality of your output.

I guess we’re still living in 1970 until these fellas take a step down. 

But wait a minute, are those colourful beanbag chairs you have at the office?! Oh my gosh, a PS4 in the break room?! 

Wait, there’s a ping pong table?!

Oh how fascinating, all these would undoubtedly make me feel so much better about spending 15 hours out of 24 hours a day being a good 30km away from my cosy little home. Oh, not because I didn’t finish my work on time, it’s just because the office is so well-furnished with these recreational items, why would anyone be unhappy being at the office, am I right?

Look, you dressing up the office, throwing a glittery beanbag chair here and there is cute. That PS4 in the break room? Damn tight. 

But in case you hadn’t noticed, it doesn’t replace nor compensate the fact that working arrangements in Malaysia are still unbelievably old-schooled and rigid. Having a cool space to work with a lot of facilities is great, it makes the office space somewhere that can help one find creative inspiration, but ultimately, what we really want is flexibility.

We are not the generation that’s attached to strings and cables. We’re wireless. We can work anywhere, everywhere and frankly, any time, given the rule that we’re allowed to be flexible with when and how long we put the hours in.

When is it ever going to get through to your skulls that great output has no relevance to hours put in?

Sure, Rome wasn’t built in a day and one should spend time working on the tasks assigned meticulously to deliver great results. But the office space, no matter how unicorn coloured and lavender scented it is, can never beat the open world.

“Oh, but we have flexi-hours,” snaps a 40 year old manager somewhere.

Seriously? Choosing what time to go in and out cannot even begin to compensate for the fact that we are all unfortunately so accessible now – sending a little text on WhatsApp after 6PM is still working, mind you. If we are expected to work flexibly in this sense, why can’t we enjoy the freedom of working around the clock (pretty much) while being remote/mobile working?

The sad misconception about remote/mobile working is that employers tend to think that we would be disengaged employees and would not be able to assimilate into the team, but I think we can all agree that being up your co-worker’s face 5 days a week, 15 hours a day doesn’t really make you want to put on your corporate polo tee and jump around in circles while holding hands with your team.

Technology has gone so far – too many jobs out there can actually made be remote/mobile, but the only obstacle left is the old-school mindset of employers we have here in Malaysia. I won’t be citing the many studies and success cases reported out there by advanced countries who retract the leash and let people work flexibly – we all know it’s all positive, yet no employer here in Malaysia would want to take a progressive step.

If client, data protection and confidentiality are some of the reasons why you think your company cannot adopt such styles of working, then you should relook at what your IT department is doing. These days, IT engineers can control your organisation’s technology to the end bits of not allowing the copy paste option, fully encrypted sign ins, yada yada yada.

They can do it.

And we can work remotely!

If you are of the opinion that colleagues should still see each other regularly as to not lose the connection, then fine, have a day in every week where everyone is mandated to come in. Absence makes the heart grow fonder – we’ll be very much happier to see each other, shooting knowing smiles behind our bosses’ backs once a week.

So please, don’t spend on beanbag chairs and PS4 at the office.

Invest in technology, find ways to make remote/mobile working possible for your employees.

You’ll save on rent, utilities….and you too get to enjoy more time with your family or to focus on work without having to pretend to work hard when you know it’s all about working smart.

Will it be 2030 before employers in Malaysia throw their old thinking caps aside and remote/mobile working finally be a norm?

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