Why are Remote Work Models on the Rise in Southeast Asia?

Published on
May 10, 2022

The phenomenon of hybrid working – work from home - is only going to grow. and the tech-minded, young workforces of Southeast Asia are ready to jump on this bandwagon.

remote work

Southeast Asia comprises 11 countries, with 6 of them, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, leading the region in terms of economy and progress. The combined population of 655 million, a young and talented demographic, and a propensity for online shopping make SEA the hotbed for development in the region.

Over the last few years, we've seen immense growth in the e-commerce market, the rise of remote work, and the adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) across Southeast Asia.

But, how do these shifts affect occupational transitions in this region? 

Employers across industries and sectors now realize that they must bring the work to their employees instead of forcing them to work. The increasing digital transformation and technology adoption are the biggest drivers of this change, further propelled by the limitations put forth by COVID-19.

Of course, employee experience, engagement, and productivity are essential parts of this equation.

Let's explore the reasons behind the prevalence of the hybrid work model, especially in Southeast Asia. 

The Rise of Remote Work Model 

In the last ten years, remote working has increased by 400%, and in the coming years, 73% of businesses will work remotely. Remote work is winning across all industries.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 88% of global office workers went remote at the onset of the pandemic. In May 2020, Facebook and Twitter permanently allowed their employees to work remotely, while Google experimented with hybrid workweeks that led to 85% of its employees requesting to relocate or work remotely. 

In short, remote working is here to stay and that too because of the following reasons:

Improved Productivity

Productivity is paramount for businesses. And allowing people to work at their own time from their own home, seems to improve productivity a lot. 

Research shows that 65% of workers believe they are more productive working from home than in an office. Businesses too agree, with more than 85% backing up these findings.  

Another advantage of remote working is the prevalence of asynchronous communication among employees. This is when one person provides info, and some time passes until the recipient responds. This usually involves emails, corporate intranet, and even Trello and Asana boards. 

Of course, you can give them access to productivity tools, ensuring every employee is equipped with the tools and resources they need to be productive while working from home.

Huge Talent Accessibility

More than 660 million young and tech-savvy people live in Southeast Asia, and 50% of them are under 30. This generation is tech-savvy and great at building tech: Singapore ranked #3, Malaysia #26, and Thailand #45 on the Bloomberg Innovation Index.

This talent is all in favor of adopting flexible work schedules, hybrid working, a collaborative work culture, and growth over salary.

Also, many of the "Sea Turtles (students studying abroad)" of this hub of innovation and technology region are increasingly lured back to their fertile home ground, making the region an excellent place to hunt for talented professionals.

Southeast Asia is also home to thousands of digital nomads working online. Many foreigners reside in local cities such as Chiang Mai and Bali, primarily due to the inexpensive lifestyle compared to their home countries.  

So, setting up remote teams in Southeast Asia (SEA) can give you access to a forward-thinking and travel-oriented generation of workers. Another surprising benefit of remote working is that employers can recruit, hire, interview, onboard, and train employees remotely, making recruitment faster and budget-friendly.

Reduced Fixed & Operational Costs

One of the earliest adopters of the hybrid work model was Dell. The company started remote working policies back in 2016 when it found that it could save $12 million a year in real estate costs. 

The money advantage of remote working can't be denied. It can help businesses save up to 50% on operational costs, 15%-25% on the equipment, plant, property, stationary, parking, etc., and 31% on health insurance. 

Low Absenteeism

A sad reality of the corporate world – 78% of employees who call in sick aren’t sick in real. That leaves you only 2 honest absents in a team. However, some pressing issues may be the reason for such employees.

Reasons that lead to employee absenteeism are:

  • Illness
  • Appointments
  • Emergencies
  • Bad weather
  • Family functions

Remote workers often adjust these events and issues around their workday, completing their tasks on their own schedule, so your business doesn't suffer as much. Moreover, they aren't affected by drastic changes in the weather. They have fewer reasons not to log in from the safe confines of their homes, even when there's a raging storm outside.

So, it's no wonder that with the rise of hybrid working, the rate of absences fell by 63%.

Employees Do More When Working From Home

Taking about the productivity of remote workers, they work 1.4 days/month (almost three weeks) more than their conventional counterparts? 

Sun microsystems found that every week their remote employees work 5 hours more than their office-working employees.

Working without the physical presence of immediate managers/employers also reflects how loyal and honest employees are towards the company and to their individual goals. Remote employees are more grateful to the company than others, as they save hours and energy wasted on the commute, so they don’t mind giving extra hours. 

remote work in southeast asia

Competitive Edge

Regardless of the mission, product, or markets, it's the people – your employees – who drive business success. They shape the future of the products, drive efficiency, and are the caretakers of the growth and health of your business plan. 

In today's competitive business world, it's in the hands of business to attract and retain its top talent. In this regard, remote work plays a positive role, offering a positive yet personal sense of recognition between employer and employee. 

One of the factors in selecting their next career move is flexible working arrangements. So to entice a potential candidate with your job offer, keep the remote work option open.

More Dispersed/Remote Workforce 

With the rising demand for a hybrid work model, the need for remote roles has also increased sharply. This practice clearly shows that organizations are adapting to a more dispersed workforce.

COVID-19 forced people away from their offices, which shifted the workplace mindset. Organizations uncovered productivity gains from shorter commutes, improved workflow, or by realizing the true potential of tech solutions and collaboration tools.

Initially, it was assumed that organizations are embracing the change due to these benefits, but now, there are different uptake rates across the regions. Australia, the Philippines, and New Zealand lead remote job postings, while Malaysia and Singapore are well on their way to becoming leaders.

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Improved Satisfaction & Morale

Not only for employers, but remote working is also beneficial for employees as well, especially in terms of savings; on average, you can save up to $4,000 a year by working from home. Otherwise, this could have been wasted on office wear, commute, lunch, and many others.

Do you know workers spend around 2 hours per week in commutes (back and forth between office and residence), this makes 96 hours a year? So, with work from home, no more wasted time while waiting in the subway and trudging through traffic.   

No wonder most employees prefer companies with remote work models over those that don’t.

All in all, remote working is a win-win phenomenon, offering monetary and non-monetary benefits to both employees and employers while increasing their morale and satisfaction.  

Limited Distractions and Lesser Stress

No matter how strict the workplace is, some never-ending aspects of work-life, especially gossip and friendships, can never take the back seat, and to be honest, a great deal of time and energy is wasted because of these unwanted moments. 

Thanks to the remote work model for not offering such distractions, this added flexibility can be helpful for employees to adopt other forms of socialization while not compromising their productivity.

Also, working from home lets employees choose a peaceful workplace to remain productive, relaxed, and hassle-free throughout their working hours. 

The hybrid work model also lets employees deal with stress that creeps due to several reasons, including;

  • Boredom
  • Commute
  • Workplace politics
  • Anger
  • Work-family conflict
  • Frustration

The added flexibility also allows employees to work around the clock; more than 84% of employees agree that flexibility aids in better managing mental stress.

In Conclusion

The phenomenon of hybrid working – work from home - is only going to grow, at least for years to come, and it's also clear that the tech-minded, young workforces of Southeast Asia are ready to jump on this bandwagon. 

Even on the business's end, they have every reason to consider tapping into this emerging hybrid ecosystem.  

Bursting with potential for growth and innovation, ASEAN countries offer an emerging market's cost-saving opportunities, both to employees and employers.

The work-from-home model will be the rule for the foreseeable future for Southeast Asian countries because it's desirable (preferred by the workforce), it's viable for employers and the whole economy as a whole, and it's feasible for both the ecosystem and your crew. 

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Photo Credits:

Ian Haynes
Proud Brooklynite, avid reader, writing enthusiast, and a digital marketing specialist.
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