SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, December 21, 2020 — The Seoul Metropolitan Government will launch a pilot program next year to support small and medium-sized businesses struggling to adopt telecommuting practices, helping them set up an infrastructure for remote working. The city will join hands with The Korea Federation of Small and Medium Business (KBIZ) to provide various information, including government support and operation manuals to boost the scheme.
Seoul has called for the “Emergency Standstill Period” for its 10 million population, bolstering distancing, quarantine, and epidemic prevention standards in line with the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters bumping up social distancing measures to Level 2.5. As such, Seoul-based businesses have been reducing in-office staff to 30 to 50 percent, with the rest working from home or remote locations.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government, in conjunction with the Seoul headquarters of KBIZ, has been encouraging private firms to adopt telecommuting schemes for more than half* of their staff as well as staggered working hours to disperse the majority of in-office employees in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
* Central government guidelines advise telecommuting for more than one third of a company’s workforce.
An increasing number of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are introducing flexible or shorter working hours to help mitigate the spread of the virus. However, they are struggling with implementing telecommuting schemes on concerns over inadequate working conditions to support Smart Work* practices, adverse effects on company operations, and inefficiency due to the lack of available office staff.
* Smart Work: Telecommuting, remote working, or working from smart work centers and other types of schemes that make use of technology, irrespective of the constraints of time and place
According to a June KBIZ survey on Smart Work schemes, 68.1 percent of the 301 SMEs surveyed replied that they have yet to adopt a Smart Work system. The main cause was that ① it was inapplicable to their particular operations (30.6%) and ② the considerable costs involved. (28.9%).
The Seoul Metropolitan Government and KBIZ urged the Ministry of SMEs and Startups to allow the on-site use of “non-face-to-face service vouchers*.” As a result, 29,803 SMEs** based in Seoul will be provided with vouchers that can be used to access human resources, labor, and security consultants to adopt non-face-to-face services.
* The ministry provides each company with 4 million won worth of funding (including the companies’ share of 10 percent) in the form of vouchers that can be used to implement telecommuting and other non-face-to-faces services and policies, providing access to consultants in the field of human resources, labor and security.
** Of the nation’s 101,146 SMEs that applied for the scheme, 29.5 percent are concentrated in Seoul.
The city plans brace for a protracted pandemic and work closely with KBIZ to establish a viable telecommuting system, by enhancing funding and PR to promote flexible work schemes.
“The city will strive to provide support for more companies to implement telecommuting schemes as we need active participation from the private sector to mitigate local outbreaks of COVID-19,” said Kim Eui Seung, head of SMG’s Economic Policy Office. “We would like to thank companies actively taking part in the implementation of policies such as telecommuting and flexible working hours, despite the difficulties entailed.”