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Time to return to office

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 28, 2022

Jakarta – After two years of closure, office buildings across Greater Jakarta can now reopen in full, welcoming back those who have been forced to work from home due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The government policy followed the most recent statistics that saw a drastic decline in the number of both active cases and transmissions.

Jakarta, once a hotbed for COVID-19 infection, and its buffer cities can breathe a sigh of relief under the lowest level of public activity restrictions (PPKM) from May 24 to June 6. That means employers are allowed to permit all their employees to work from the office, as long as they comply with the government's mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.

An elated Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan hopes the capital city can immediately return to normal, as a result of the latest state of the pandemic. Tough mobility curbs are the last thing he and Jakarta people want to see, he said.

A gubernatorial regulation on PPKM level 1 is being prepared for release soon. It will provide new details that include arrangements on activities in offices and shopping malls. One thing is for sure, civil servants will be required to work from the office.

Public places and facilities, including the National Monument (Monas) park, will be reopened and schools are allowed to resume full face-to-face learning while houses of worship can operate at a 100 percent capacity. Domestic and international travel regulations will be significantly relaxed as well.

The pandemic curve has also flattened outside of Greater Jakarta. The Home Ministry has said the number of cities/regencies deescalated to the PPKM level 1 has increased from 11 to 41. PPKM level 2 remains in place in 86 cities/regencies, down from 116. Pamekasan on Madura Island in East Java is now the only region that imposes PPKM level 3. No region falls under level 4 of the restrictions, claimed the ministry.

Many are happy to return to the office as they believe face-to-face interactions will go some way toward a stronger workplace synergy. But some may continue to opt for the flexibility of working from home because the pandemic is not over yet.

Fresh outbreaks in key Chinese cities, as well as a recent surge in coronavirus infections in Western Europe and the United States prove that COVID-19 is still a threat. No wonder that many epidemiologists say remote work should remain an option.

Working from home has been effective in minimizing the risk of virus transmission. Hence, a flexible hybrid model, which combines remote work with time in the office, is recommended in cases where face-to-face interaction cannot be avoided.

Relaxation is perhaps the most awaited policy as it will accelerate the economic recovery. But we also should keep in mind that after the pandemic, things will never be the same again.

Since its emergence, COVID-19 has spread across the world and impacted every aspect of life. Therefore, amid excitement about returning to the office, precautionary measures, such as vaccinations, should remain top concerns to ensure we do not return to the emergency phase again. There are still many things we do not know about the virus, but we know it can mutate into a more dangerous strain.

Eased restrictions should not create euphoria. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that vigilance is important to prevent the virus from striking back in the future.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2022/05/27/time-to-return-to-office.htm