Audrey Tang first minister to work outside of office

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Oct 19, 2016 - Page 3

Minister without Portfolio Audrey Tang (唐鳳) has become the first Cabinet member to adopt a remote working arrangement, sparking a debate about workplace culture among netizens.

In line with her previous jobs, Tang, who is a programmer, has worked on a remote basis every Wednesday and Friday since joining the Cabinet this month.

Working from outside the office — which Tang asked Premier Lin Chuan (林全) if she could do when she assumed the office — increases flexibility, mobility and mental fitness at work, and also allows staff to leave work on time, she said.

“Speaking from personal experience, the pattern is not only feasible, but helpful in boosting productivity,” Tang said in a video explaining her work scheme in response to media queries.

When on business trips, information technology officials often make use of an Executive Yuan digital work platform to work remotely, so what she does is not exceptional, Tang said.

She arranges face-to-face meetings outside the Executive Yuan on Wednesdays and Fridays to discuss and develop policy proposals, a process which is more productive when conducted in non-work environments, Tang said.

Tang said she set up a digital workflow system to allow Executive Yuan staff to collaborate and share files securely, so that they do not have to use cloud services provided by Google or Dropbox, which involve more security risks as staff have to access domains outside of the Executive Yuan.

“I really like the work environment at the Executive Yuan. I meet colleagues at least three days every week to confirm work schedules and maintain diversified and smooth communication,” she said.

Tang’s comments met with mixed reactions from netizens, with some saying that working in an office might be counterproductive and that Tang has introduced a new practice into the government’s dull work environment.

However, others said Tang was speaking from a position of privilege and asked the government to make remote work options available to all young employees.

Tang said the Ministry of Labor last year issued a regulation about out-of-office working, which applies to all employees, and she helped formulate the rule in her capacity as an adviser to the Executive Yuan.

Lin yesterday said that the Executive Yuan has no regulations governing remote working, but Tang, as a minister without portfolio, could transmit her messages or policy directives via computer when she is not in the office.

As long as the work is not affected, “we think it is feasible,” Lin said.

The choice of Wednesdays and Fridays as her remote working days is to ensure her attendance at regular meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays, while her attendance is still required at important meetings scheduled on Wednesdays and Fridays, the Executive Yuan said.

Additional reporting by Alison Hsiao