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The ‘office’ is SO last year. Say hello to more remote working.

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The ‘office’ is SO last year. Say hello to more remote working. | The Thaiger
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Do you work from home? Or anywhere you have your laptop and wi-fi? You’re part of a growing trend in modern work practices as the fancy city office becomes an expensive relic of the ‘old normal’.

2020 became the year of people working from home. In same case, it was the year of being told to stay home so there wasn’t much option. During Thailand’s lockdowns in April and May, offices were closed and employers had to scramble to find alternatives to the “office”. With the rise of Zoom and other video conferencing software, ways of tracking time-on-keyboard and hundreds of other monitoring apps, employers suddenly discovered they could actually run their businesses without an office. There were certainly new dynamics and unforeseen challenges, but for the most part, it worked.

Companies had worked from central office locations for a hundred years. The remote/work-from-home option was a new test for everyone involved but many early wrinkles have been ironed out after an accelerated learning curve due to the Covid-19 situation.

In the early days, most companies weren’t ready to close up the office and send their workers home claiming that some basic operations such as accounting and invoicing were not yet able to be done online (Thailand has a love of hard-copies and paperwork).

Team meetings were also more clumsy online. There were even companies that told their staff to keep coming in to the office as there was no legal barrier preventing them from doing so. But many smaller and less digitally-savvy firms required workers to come in and risk contracting the virus.

In the US, the Bureau of Labour Statistics found only 29% of jobs in the US could be completed from home, while in Thailand (a far less digitised and service-based economy) the percentage was probably lower.

But larger Thai firms, such as Unilever and True Digital allowed nearly 100% of their white-collar employees to work from home early during the lockdown phase. Other companies adapted quickly and found that working remotely, or from home, allowed their businesses additional flexibility. Many workers also say they enjoyed the lack of office interruptions too.

While Unilever was unable to send its factory workforce home, it was able to shift all sales and executive personnel fully online to avoid possible Covid exposure finding hitherto unknown improvements in the firm’s e-commerce presence.

Thai startups such as Eko (“your complete employee experience platform”) was able to capitalise on the rise of work-from-home with its “work anywhere” employee application. Eko experienced 200% year-on-year sales growth in the first half of 2020 as companies looked for solutions to connect employees from home.

Teleconferencing juggernaut Zoom was trading shares at US$88 at the start of 2020, to rise to $568 by mid-October, only to trail off to $337 by the end of the year – the fickle nature of a fast-rising tech start-up.

Employees, generally, prefer the shift to working from home and the flexible hours. It doesn’t suit all businesses or all employees, but it suits many. A study by by recruitment specialists Robert Walters Thailand found 75% of workers want opportunities to work-from-home and only 25% want a return to full-time work at the office.

Last month the police and the Bangkok Metropolitan Organisation police urged businesses to allow employees to work from home at least once a week to cut down on traffic-induced pollution.

The Covid-19 pandemic also forced countries to rethink their supply chains and reliance on foreign goods. China, for example, responded to the outbreak by shutting down factories, some of which other countries relied on for medical equipment needed to fight the virus, and vital components needed for manufacturing of goods in China and other countries.

Whilst there was an initial push-back on China, the international supply chain has become so entwined with Chinese businesses and manufacturers, and China with other countries, that it would take decades to unwind.

One of the biggest winners this year has been the rise of the delivery services. Grab Bike, Food Panda, We Serve and Line Bike are the best known but there are start ups making inroads into the growing delivery space as well as many smaller and larger businesses that have their own deliveries.

These businesses have been able to thrive on the ‘new normal’ stay-at-home culture. Eat at home, work at home, shop from home, watch movies at home – the trend is growing as people realise that they can get almost everything delivered, timely, efficiently and at little additional cost, usually free.

The big test will be once the Covid situation settles down, whatever that means and whenever it happens, and companies look back at the successes and failures of their employees working from home. But there’s no doubt the pandemic and the imposed restrictions ave accelerated the need to develop new ways of allowing employees to work safely, remotely or from home.

The successful transition of some office work to work-at-home will also put continued pressure on the commercial real estate market. Many employers are looking at their monthly office rental outgoings and starting to measure the return on their investment.

The rise of the work-at-home phenomenon and the digital nomad will be the main trends for office work in 2021.

This article was written laying on a couch, at home, at 6.15am in the morning, because we can.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Avatar

    gosport

    Saturday, January 2, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    working at home, learning at home, tuition must be cut in half, salary must be up by 30%.

  2. Avatar

    gosport

    Saturday, January 2, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    working at home, learning at home, tuition must be cut in half, salary must be up by 30%.

  3. Avatar

    Richard

    Saturday, January 2, 2021 at 8:26 pm

    There are a lot of typos in this story. A lot of great information but proof reading this would have helped.

    • Avatar

      preesy chepuce

      Sunday, January 3, 2021 at 10:49 am

      It’s junk isn’t it… just regurgitating old news but badly with no purpose.

      • Avatar

        gosport

        Sunday, January 3, 2021 at 11:57 am

        It is not junk, it is called refreshing.

  4. Avatar

    babble

    Sunday, January 3, 2021 at 1:56 pm

    Yeah, I wish I could bring my chem lab at home too…

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Business

Future of Thai department stores is being redefined

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Future of Thai department stores is being redefined | The Thaiger

While department stores have been a familiar destination for Thai people for many decades, CBRE, an international property consultant, is witnessing a decline in popularity and stunted growth, particularly in 2020 when Covid-19 adversely impacted the sector. CBRE believes that to adapt to e-commerce disruption and the changing consumer behaviour, department stores in 2021 (and beyond) will have to fine-tune their business model in terms of customer shopping experience, inventive activities and value-added programmes to continue their status as the second home for Thai shoppers.

Jariya Thumtrongkitkul, Head of Advisory and Transaction Services – Retail, CBRE Thailand explained… “While department stores offer shoppers convenience, saving them time with many varieties of goods grouped in different departments and allowing the shoppers to find and compare products and choose what they want, the traditional department store model does not fit the needs, lifestyle and behaviour of its shoppers anymore, especially the new generations.”

According to CBRE Research, the total retail supply in Bangkok as of Q4 2020 increased to 7.8 million square metres, a 1.16% increase year-on-year. Out of this, only approximately 3% was reported within the department store format. The department store market in Thailand is mainly dominated by two domestic retail giants, with Central Group and The Mall Group holding the largest market shares. They do not only concentrate in Bangkok, but have also opened department stores in many major cities throughout the country which allowed them to build bigger networks and grow their customer base.

In the past few decades, Japanese investors had also shown interest in entering the Thai market and offered local features that are well-known in Japanese department stores: simplicity, premium quality and services. However, with strong competition many Japanese department store operators have ceased their expansion plans. Some have exited the country due to the fierce competition against the local players, their performance in Thailand and the shrinking Japanese department store business, especially in overseas countries.

“The department store concept as a one stop shopping place is still in demand for certain groups of customers. However, with the e-commerce disruption and changing consumer behaviour, department store operators need to adapt their models, offerings and value-added services to their customers to cope with the challenging economic and market conditions.”

Adaptability of department stores can be highlighted into 3 main parts: customer shopping experience, inventive sales and marketing activities, and value-added programmes. While more and more younger generations prefer to shop online to save time and money, the brick-and-mortar store is still believed to be the second home for Thai shoppers. Department stores should be more agile in the era of e-commerce and adopt some technological innovations such as in-store automation and mobile payment solutions to reach the younger crowds.

Design is another aspect that plays an important part in customer shopping experience. Department stores can be more creative in remodelling traditional department store space into some ingenious and interactive space with a great design and right product portfolio mix for their customers.

The Mall Group, for example, has launched its first “Lifestore” concept at The Mall Ngamwongwan at the end of 2020 by redesigning and renovating its traditional department store space to enhance customer shopping experience and enjoyment.

The second part to be considered for the adaptability comprises inventive activities related to sales and marketing. The prices of products being sold in a department store are normally set high to cover the higher establishment and operating costs by operators, narrowing their target to only upper- to high-income customers.

Brand offerings may also no longer meet fast-changing customer needs since today’s shoppers have more choices in buying products online, not to mention the declining footfall due to the growth of e-commerce. CBRE Research has seen domestic players pushing hard to drive sales growth via numerous promotions, marketing campaigns and activities and collaboration with credit card companies during seasonal sales.

The third part consists of value-added programmes such as personal shopper, customer loyalty programme, on-demand solution and service personalisation, which have become a new trend as customers, including the aging population, are now more sophisticated and demanding.

The retail landscape has changed drastically in the past few years from various factors like technological advancement, consumer behaviour and preference as well as Covid-19. Cookie-cutter strategy will be a thing of the past, especially for department stores where the format and offerings have remained the same for decades.

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Can Phuket survive? Interview with Bill Barnett | VIDEO

Bill Barnett

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Can Phuket survive? Interview with Bill Barnett | VIDEO | The Thaiger

Interview with Bill Barnett from c9Hotelworks. Phuket has now been hit with a 3rd major crisis, each one more profound than the long-term effects from the 2004 tsunami. Now the island has new restrictions imposed on arrivals on the southern island, imposed by the Phuket Provincial Authority.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

US jobs market stumbles back into decline

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US jobs market stumbles back into decline | The Thaiger

The labour market for the world’s largest economy is heading back into reverse mode after slowly chugging back into gear over the past 8 months, following the March stock crash and initial impacts of the US state lockdown measures.. The December report was the first drop since April figures, providing the strongest evidence of the impact of the huge number of Covid-19 infections weighing on the economy.

“Nonfarm payrolls” in the US fell by 140,000 in December, the data published by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics showed yesterday. This reading follows November’s increase of 336,000 (revised from 245,000) and missed the market expectation of +71,000 by a wide margin.

Further details of the publication revealed that the Unemployment Rate stayed unchanged at 6.7% and the Average Hourly Earnings rose by 0.8% on a monthly basis.

“Nonfarm payroll employment is a compiled name for goods, construction and manufacturing companies in the US. It does not include farm workers, private household employees, or non-profit organisation employees.”

The weakness in the US jobs market largely reflects job cuts at restaurants and hospitality venues impacted by revised restrictions.

The President-elect will inherit an economy that’s down almost 10 million jobs compared with before the pandemic. The pace of hiring will be hard-pressed to accelerate until a meaningful portion of the general population is vaccinated, with distribution in the US running slower than planned and potentially holding back the recovery.

Other parts of the US labour market held up in last month’s figures. Retail, professional and business services, construction and manufacturing all posted job gains, indicating much of the economy continues to stagger back to economic health. The number of unemployed Americans who permanently lost a job declined to a four-month low of 3.37 million.

Michael Gapen, chief U.S. economist at Barclays says parts of the US economy continue to show some resilience.

“Outside of consumer-facing sectors the remainder of the economy continues to show resilience. It does show that if we can get control of the pandemic, then we can restore economic activity and labor market conditions over the course of this year. It’s a pandemic-driven number, a pandemic-driven composition.”

“The pace of hiring will be hard-pressed to accelerate until a meaningful portion of the general population is vaccinated, with distribution in the US running slower than planned and potentially holding back the recovery.”

A new viral strain of Covid-19, that led to new or extended lockdowns in the UK and Germany, has now been identified in the US, which risks spurring more restrictions that could hinder hirings over the coming months.

In December, there was an average of 1.5 million new cases per week in the US and Covid-related deaths continued to rise at a record pace, forcing some states to ramp up business restrictions leading to an uptick in layoffs.

Private-sector payrolls, excluding government jobs, decreased by 95,000 last month following a 417,000 gain in November.

SOURCE: Bloomberg | USA Today

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