Companies in Myanmar embrace remote working in precautionary move
Businesses in Myanmar’s commercial capital have begun to ask employees to work from home in order to reduce the risks of virus infections.
Several companies and banks in Yangon have started to telecommute its employees in the face of the novel coronavirus.
Corporate executives have said that some telecom operators and banks have started testing the work-from-home system on Wednesday and operations will change depending on the government’s announcement.
“Some banks have started teleworking but not us. The reason for that being our bank has to accept and give out cash,” one banker said, adding that the bank is preparing to protect not only employees but customers.
Moreover, banks are drawing up plans to do remote working to prevent the spread of COVID-19, bankers told The Myanmar Times.
“Currently at our banks, we have distanced the employees to be 4.5 feet from each other and we have limited the number of people eating lunch by having them eat at different intervals,” said U Pe Myint, managing director of the Co-operative Bank.
The central bank has instructed the banks to report on their measures against the prevention of COVID-19, said U Kyi Nyunt, manager of Myanmar Oriental Bank.
Private banks are cooperating with the Ministry of Health and Sports to hold awareness campaigns on information about COVID-19, among other measures.
Telecom operators have also said that they have enforced preventive measures against COVID-19.
Ooredoo Myanmar is running a three-day trial on mobile working from March 18 to 20, a company official spoke to The Myanmar Times.
“Our members of staff are linked via digital channels such as Skype, Viber, Whatsapp and video conferencing. We have tested it out and are practicing to get used to it,” Daw May Myo Han, public relations senior manager of Ooredoo, told this paper.
Since the news of the novel coronavirus spread, Ooredoo has distributed hand sanitisers, face masks, and shared information on how to prevent it.
Norwegian mobile operator Telenor’s Myanmar office plans to work from home or separate employees to work in different locations, said Daw Nu Yin Myint its head of corporate communications.
Telenor Myanmar will continue to operate but will reduce the number of staff who are in direct contact with external visitors, supported by video conferences and virtual support systems.
State-owned MPT and military firm Mytel did not respond to requests for comments.
Other firms have also sent their employees home to work after the government issued wide-ranging guidelines on precautionary measures.
Those working for the EU Delegation are also asked to minimise the risks of infection and are encouraged to wash their hands, stay at home and reduce contact with other individuals. The EU in Myanmar said many of their staff will continue to work from home.
It added that its office remains open and a core team of staff will be at the office.
Phandeeyar’s office is now closed until March 31 and has switched to a work from home system.
Daw Myat Theingi, senior marketing associate at Phandeeyar said that her whole office has closed and she is working from home until the end of the month.
In addition, some companies are preparing to adapt how employees can work from home.
Aung Naing Thitsar, a company with more than 300 employees, has shut down the office and its team is working remotely. Its chair U Aung Zaw Oo said the firm is prepared to protect its staff from the pandemic and employees have been told not to go to crowded areas and have been given advice on how to minimise the risks.
Some media outlets have also switched to remotely working. The Democratic Voice of Burma – DVB – have started doing so on March 18, according to its editor U Zin Maung.
“Employees at the office have been asked to work from home since that day [March 18], but the internet has provided the essentials and work has not reduced,” he said.
Hotels in Yangon are also responding to the risks of the virus spread, according to the Myanmar Hoteliers Association (MHA).
U Aung Myo Min Din, president of the MHA, said the hotels are currently working on minimising the risks of infections. He said he was preparing to act on any suspected patients in the process.
The hotel industry is hurt and his email account is filled with booking cancellations.
“There are even days when there are no guests at all,” said U Aung Myo Min Din.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has suspended all training courses offered by the department from March 17 to April 30, and the suspension could be extended depending on the situation. The department plans to conduct training courses online.