CommonWealth Magazine | Work from Home – a great opportunity for Taiwan companies

Unfortunately, Taiwan recently got hit by a Covid-19 outbreak. That now forces the entire nation to make some adjustments to life and work. Work from Home (WFH) forcefully came onto the agenda for many organizations: To avoid the further spread of the virus, all work that can be done from home should be considered being done from home. People should be given the opportunity to stay at home, to avoid crowded public transportation as well as offices without windows and many people inside.

So, companies are asked to allow WFH. In different contexts that is more or less difficult. Depending on the kind of work, that can be done very easily, like for most office work. For some work, like in a production facility, it is very difficult if not impossible.

Supportive, trying and sabotaging

The reactions of organizations can be categorized in three ways: 

There are the ones that fully support it and allow their members to WFH. Companies like Bosch Taiwan or Porsche Taiwan and many companies in the offshore wind sector being examples among others. 

Ralph Uhlmann, Director of Business Development for Porsche writes on linkedin: “We introduced WFH last year with the beginning of the pandemic.

When the situation went back to “normal” we kept and even promoted the possibility for WFH and provided the necessary hardware where needed. With the latest developments it was no problem for us to switch to a full WFH mode immediately.” Most foreign companies in Taiwan fall into this category.

Also progressive local companies like Taiwan Home Nursing (THN) embrace it. Because THN provides onsite nursing services, the nurses still have to go to clients’ homes with additional safety precautions in place. “Yet our management and team directors and managers (around 1/4 of our total employees) can choose to work from home. We use online teleconferences for daily operations now,” says Ben Kao, one of the three founders.

The second category are the slightly slow and hesitant organizations. In general, they are (forced into) considering it but so far have never really thought about how to do it. A Taiwanese friend working in a government agency wrote to me in a private message: “They are talking about WFH now but due to lack of experience we know nothing now about how exactly it will be carried out. We are now experiencing what the western world was going through last year.” 

Another acquaintance in the electronics industry reports that they split their team in two halves with rotating shifts in the office and others work from home. They do this because the government enforced level 3 alert and the company follows the regulation.

Some currently still force their employees to come into the office because they won’t allow people to access company data from home and have not created the IT systems that would safely allow this.

Some friends working in Human Resources tell me about Taiwan’s archaic labor law that apparently poses some challenges on how to do it right. However, it is definitely a problem that can be solved.

The third category are organizations who actively, even now, try all they can to avoid WFH and discourage their members in all ways possible. Kathy Cheng is collecting stories on Twitter with people in Taiwan sharing their experiences. 

Some of the grim examples: “Management seems to be just ignoring the problem. Two directors requested WFH, either in full or half in half out for employees, but it was denied by the CEO. The directors are foreigners, the CEO is Taiwanese.” 

“The cafeteria is closed, you have to wear a mask all day, no in-person meetings allowed, but they are still making people show up. To sit at a desk and do Zoom meetings, and only take off their mask to eat their take-away lunch.”

“Well. Our HR directly said to us: how do we know you are working at home?”

WFH is just a symptom, not the real issue

The last quote from the HR director points us to the real issue at hand and the great opportunity for organizations in Taiwan.

As I argued in a recent article about the future of work in this magazine: In essence challenges like WFH are in most cases attitude and cultural problems not legal or technical problems (although these might exist as well).


Read more