Making the right connection

Aqilah Rahman

Slow Internet connection and high subscription costs are some of the most prominent issues in e-learning and work from home (WFH) arrangements. Almost half of the people are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the Internet speed, while 36 per cent is unhappy with the subscription cost, according to a survey by the Brunei Computer Emergency Response Team (BruCERT).

Among the 1,574 respondents, only 30 per cent said they preferred to study or work from home (WFH). Almost two-thirds of public and private sector employees preferred to work in the office, while 83 per cent of students and 76 per cent of educators would rather be in school.

Self-employed individuals we-re split between the two arran-gements. Unemployed individuals showed the highest preference for a WFH arrangement at 53 per cent.

EASE OF WORK

In terms of work equipment, people are generally satisfied with the devices they use for work. Only five per cent found the availability of work devices to be a challenge, and 19 per cent were not satisfied with the performance of their work devices. Overall, people were satisfied with the availability of software and the ease of using the required technology for work.

Common problems of WFH and online learning include having too many distractions (55 per cent), longer working hours (56 per cent), inability to access work documents (53 per cent) and lack of proper workspace (40 per cent).

Over half of the survey respondents spent at least eight hours online per day, with the most popular platforms being WhatsApp (91 per cent), Zoom (73 per cent) and Microsoft Teams (70 per cent). Some struggled to get work done at home due to the nature of their jobs and many have increased their spending on the Internet and office equipment such as printers and scanners.

HIGH COST, SLOW SPEED

A major source of frustration among employees is Internet performance, followed by the cost of subscription and data top-up. Some have problems with broadband installation and have resorted to using mobile data but the signal is poor. One respondent said they’ve been waiting since April for their broadband to be installed, and another said their broadband application was turned down because they live in a remote area (Kampong Sungai Bunga) despite having had access to Wi-Fi back in 2018.

Disconnections are frequent in online meetings and cause stress among employees.

ONLINE LEARNING IS NOT FOR EVERYONE

Many students do not show up for online lessons. Most students have an unstable Internet connection and report that the subscription cost is high. Mental health is a concern and many have remarked that there seems to be a bigger load of assignments compared to in-school learning.

Managing data usage also poses a problem, especially for those living in large households. Some students are unable to attend classes when they run out of data.

Meanwhile, some educators pointed out the issue of being contacted outside working hours, especially by students who do not have their devices and have to share with their parents working during the day. A teacher commented that they have received texts and work submissions as late as after midnight and as early as four in the morning.

The pressure of having to prepare online lessons, in addition to gathering data for the higher-ups and having to reply to students, parents and colleagues, makes some educators feel as if they work 24/7.

“I feel like I don’t have time for myself and my family. The line between work and rest is gone,” said one respondent.

Many educators also voiced concerns about long periods of screen time causing eye strain, headaches and migraines, aches and pains due to bad ergonomics. There is also a need to address stress management, mental health and lack of work-life balance.

While online learning may be a viable option for older students, it is not an ideal platform for children. Some parents do their children’s work for them, while some children do their work without their parents’ supervision.

LONGER WORKING HOURS

Several governments and private sector employees reported having to work longer hours from home.

Some receive work tasks after office hours and on non-working days, leading to concerns for mental health and wellbeing.

Some also experience a lack of trust from their superiors to conduct their tasks.

One employee, who alternated between working from the office and home said they work nearly 14 hours a day for seven days a week except when working from the office, which is about nine hour.

The respondent clocked in “an average of 90 hours per week, which is 54 hours over the required amount by contract”.

BENEFITS OF WORKING FROM HOME

Despite the challenges, many respondents also mentioned WFH benefits such as not having to commute, having flexible hours and spending more time with their family.

Staying at home also lowers the risk of being infected or spreading COVID-19.

Some employees, who prefer working from home, suggested that employers consider offering WFH as an option after the pandemic.