How remote workers can help businesses be sustainable
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How remote workers can help businesses be sustainable

URBANISATION is a rising trend which sees hundreds of millions of people, especially in Asia, migrating from smaller towns to the big cities, bringing challenges to lawmakers and urban planners addressing growth and other challenges, including the environment and climate change.

There are both advantages and disadvantages when it comes to urbanisation, as companies and organisations would have to deal with environmental and social issues, along with congestion and pollution that comes with workers commuting to work in busy cities – with workers having long commutes in inefficient public transport.

However, several members of a panel discussion at The Economist‘s Sustainability Summit 2018 in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday believe this is why remote working could be part of an overall solution to problems that come along with the growth of cities and populations.

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Dr Dahlia Rosly, president of the Malaysian Association of Social Impact Assesment pointed out a total of four billion people are living in cities around the world today, double the population in urban areas 60 years ago.

“You can imagine the jump of mass migration (decades ago) into city centres, and as you know with the engines of growth, cities have become madness,” she said during the panel discussion entitled Urbanisation and mass migration.

If not addressed, the negative effects of urbanisation could allow urban poverty to go on unchecked.

“When you cluster cities together and (mass) migration comes in, there is not enough affordable housing, so the pattern (of urbanisation) tends to grow out and sprawl at the edge of the cities,” Dahlia said.


Jakarta is known as one of the world’s most congested cities. Source: Shutterstock/AsiaTravel

Vijay Eswaran, executive chairman and founder of e-commerce conglomerate QI Group, says the future of work in the coming decades will be changing dramatically.

“If one were able to look at the millennials today, most are not looking forward to having a nine to five job,” he said.

“So being able to work from home is becoming more of a reality.”

Vijay’s company, which employs over 1,500 people in offices across seven cities, has implemented numerous solutions to allow operations to be sustainable.

“But working from home (among employees) is a major one (solution).”

But to create opportunities in less urbanised areas, Romolo Nati, executive chairman and founder of Italpinas Development Corporation, a major development company operating in the Philippines, says sufficient infrastructure was needed.

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“You have to have basic infrastructure like water, power and telecommunications, which is very important because the Philippines has a very big business outsourcing industry which accounts for round 10 percent of the GDP,”

“This means that if you want to develop communities in emerging locations, you need to give people the opportunity for people to work in, for example, the business outsourcing industry.”

Aside from the basic infrastructure needed to allow remote working, especially in allowing employees to work from smaller, less developed towns, Dahlia says there is also a need to promote the culture in both the public and the private sector.

“I think it’s a cultural thing in which you (organisations) would want to see workers physically but the way that urbanisation that is going on — with concentrated growth – urban areas are being oversubscribed,” she said

“I think these intermediate and small towns are important (in addressing urbanisation problems)”.