The CEO of a Vietnam-based company explains why his team has a hybrid schedule when most companies in the country are back in the office

Daan van Rossum, in the middle of the back row, moved to Ho Chi Minh City eight years ago and started multiple companies.

Daan van Rossum

A CEO in Vietnam offers his team hybrid work, unlike many other companies in the country.Many employees in Vietnam never stopped coming into the office at the start of the pandemic.Asia is winning the return-to-office battle, with nearly 80% office occupancy.

Daan van Rossum’s company is quite different from many other companies in Vietnam: It offers hybrid work.

In 2022, van Rossum, who is from the Netherlands and moved to Ho Chi Minh City, founded FlexOS, a company that creates digital tools for hybrid and remote managers — and he lets his staff have a hybrid-work setup.

“I cannot run this company and then tell them to come to the office five days a week,” van Rossum told Insider. “That would be cruel.”

However, he said, that’s very rare for companies in Vietnam.

At the start of the pandemic, Vietnam had a 15-day national lockdown, with longer lockdowns in some provinces, meaning some companies initially transitioned to a remote environment. Van Rossum said he observed companies debating whether it would make sense to go back to the office, and most quickly went back to a fully in-person model.

Overall, Asia has seen a much higher rate of returning to the office than the US has. While office occupancy in the Americas sits at 49%, Asia-Pacific office occupancy is 79%, slightly above Europe at 75%, the real-estate-services firm Jones Lang LaSalle found. Using data from his company’s research, van Rossum estimates the number of fully in-person companies is even higher.

“If you’re trying to retain and engage and attract really good talent, then you’re obviously looking at what are other companies doing, and so when companies realized that remote work wasn’t really as mainstream as some people maybe have thought, very quickly they went back to the office,” van Rossum said.

Van Rossum’s company, FlexOS, offers a hybrid work environment.

Daan van Rossum

Many US companies have been trying to bring people back into the office, though in many Asian countries, most workers never stopped going in, even during the height of the pandemic.

Van Rossum said his predominantly Gen Z team wanted to balance work with freedom and flexibility, so he settled on two days in the office. His team informally goes to coffee shops or coworking spaces on non-office days.

Van Rossum said it’s helped his team stay focused and complete more time-sensitive projects without the constant distractions of the office. Plus, his workers said they feel more productive when they don’t need to commute long distances each way.

“I love those two in-office gatherings, and they make me feel more confident in work as I can hear the week’s news in person, get alignment, and mostly fuel inspiration,” one employee said to Insider. “I shaped a routine for this hybrid schedule: office day for social and small tasks, WFH for serious and long-time required tasks.”

Van Rossum said many young people, including many of his staff, live with their parents and grandparents, which is not always conducive to a comfortable and quiet at-home work environment.

Starting average monthly salaries in Vietnam are around $434 a month, which he said is another reason why many younger Vietnamese workers live at home until a few years after graduating college.

Van Rossum said most of his employees under 27 years old still live at home.

“It’s pretty normal for people here to basically spend the first 30 to 60 minutes every day on their motorbike in 90- to 100-degree weather bumper to bumper on the way to the office,” van Rossum said. “This doesn’t make any sense, like, why don’t we just let people work from home who have the capacity to do that?”

How the rest of Asia is faring

Countries like Japan and South Korea have among the lowest average days worked from home of any nation. Neither Japan nor South Korea imposed a full national lockdown, so many workers never needed to adjust to remote work.

Research from June shows Americans work 1.4 days from home each week on average, compared to 0.4 days in South Korea and 0.5 days in Japan.

In Vietnam — and in some other Asian nations — many daily tasks need to be done in person, van Rossum said, such as putting a physical company seal on an invoice or contract.

A February report from the Center for Creative Leadership said over one-in-five leaders in India, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka expect employees to work in the office every day.

In many ways, Singapore mirrors the US in that many companies offer remote work, given the country’s more advanced digitization. Singapore invested heavily and early in telecommunications, and the government put pressure on larger companies to make files digital.

At the end of the day, van Rossum said there’s still no answer on whether in-person or hybrid work is best. Though Asian nations are winning the return-to-office battle, he said that leaders need to listen to their teams, assess what works, and implement new initiatives to keep companies moving forward.

Are you a worker in Europe or Asia who has recently returned to the office or never worked from home? Reach out to this reporter at [email protected].

Read the original article on Business Insider

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