Every day Huynh Minh Dang wakes up at 5 a.m. for a brief meeting with his colleagues in North America, but then pretty much works in his own time.
He first goes out for a five-kilometer jog, returns home to work for an hour or two and then has some spare time before resuming work in the afternoon.
Though his days are productive, for the 30-year-old software engineer in HCMC, working remotely for U.S.-based software company Acumatica gives him much greater flexibility than a traditional office job.
As more and more global companies look to developing economies for skilled English-proficient workers at relatively lower salaries, in Vietnam, many young people like Dang are embracing the opportunity to acquire a whole new working experience.
“The only difficulty is the different time zones,” Dang, who has been working for Acumatica for four years as a regional product engineer, says.
Every day, after meeting online with the North American team at 5 a.m, Dang also meets his colleagues in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines at 7 a.m. and in India and Sri Lanka at 5 p.m.
Huynh Minh Dang during a business trip to Manila, the Philippines, in September 2019. Photo courtesy of Dang
Remote mode, a growing trend
Though remote work was becoming more common in industries such as IT, finance, digital marketing, and graphic design, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated this trend in the last two years.
A recent University of Oxford survey found a 30 percent increase in global cross-border remote work during the pandemic, and Australian job brokers have reportedly accelerated their hunt for remote workers in Southeast Asia who could save global employers facing skill shortages and exorbitant salaries at home up to 70 percent in salaries.
While many Vietnamese businesses still consider remote work a temporary solution because of concerns about productivity, management capacity and technological infrastructure, multinational accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers surveyed 300 global companies in 2020 and found 80 percent of had already adopted or would soon adopt remote work, 45 percent would not require workers to return to the office after pandemic restrictions eased, and 21 percent expected a hybrid combination of remote and office work in future.
From an employees’ perspective, global workforce solutions company ManpowerGroup found last year that 48 percent of workers would likely work remotely at least part of the time after Covid-19 compared to 30 percent pre-pandemic, and 43 percent of them thought the pandemic marked the end of “every day in the workplace.”
For remote employees like software engineer Dang and PR specialist Nguyen Thi Thu Nga also of HCMC, one of the biggest advantages of remote work is not having to commute between home and the office, avoiding traffic and pollution.
“It would take me around 20 minutes, and up to one hour during traffic jams, to get to my office in District 1, which was both time-consuming and unhealthy,” Dang says.
His company has grown from a startup into a corporation and has a branch in HCMC but still retains its original flexibility by allowing employees to choose between remote and office work.
As for Nga, 32, who works as a media relations consultant for a PR agency in Singapore which connects high-tech international businesses with the Vietnamese media, the perks of remote work include a flexible schedule and the lack of need for dressing up.
A woman uses a laptop to work from home. Photo by Envato Elements
“Sometimes I have to start my workday earlier and end a little later than usual, but it does not affect my life much because I still have spare time by not having to commute back and forth between office and home,” she says.
On days when she finishes work early or does not have much to do, instead of idling her time away or surfing aimlessly at an office desk, she can simply switch to housework or taking care of herself and her family.
Sometimes when she feels tired of the ambience at home, she takes her laptop to a café to work, while on the weekends she combines work with travel and sightseeing.
Thanks to their flexible schedules, before the pandemic Dang and his wife, who also works remotely for a foreign company, used to travel every two or three months.
After they had a baby during the pandemic, remote work now gives them time for childcare, which Dang says he really appreciates.
Experiencing first-rate professionalism, from here
For experienced employees like Dang and Nga, besides competitive salaries which are still relatively higher than what Vietnamese businesses can pay, working remotely for foreign employers also brings an enriching professional and cultural experience.
What Nga, who earlier used to work remotely for another foreign company with an office in Vietnam, likes most about foreign employers is their willingness to pay qualified people well, their straightforward and open-minded attitude in treating employees as equals, listening to their opinions and discussing work fairly and professionally, and last but not least, their emphasis on providing both new and senior workers with useful training.
Dang’s company often holds 15- to 20-minute meetings for employees to discuss work individually and directly with managers, and organizes workshops every quarter-end for managers to present future roadmaps.
HR staff at his company also frequently reach out to employees to inquire if they face any difficulty at work, Dang says.
“On the other hand, some Vietnamese bosses may tend to handle work in a more personal way, for instance by inviting employees to go out and drink their way out of problems.
“Vietnamese workers can also feel it necessary to shower their bosses with flattery which foreign employers can do without.”
Yet, many remote workers prefer not to take that extra step to relocate overseas to continue working for their employers despite the advantages it offers in terms of career opportunities.
Dang says his company has offered him good money and benefits to relocate, but he has refused because he prefers living in Vietnam with its cheaper cost of living and familiar culture. In other countries, such as the Philippines for instance, people use guns a lot, which Dang says makes him uncomfortable.
Nga also prefers working remotely from Vietnam rather than move to Singapore because of the high cost of living, which any salary increase would barely cover.
“My current pay is quite good, and I feel content,” Nga, who has several personal projects up her sleeve in Vietnam and which would be impossible to take care of with a traditional eight-hour office job, says.
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