Over the decades as globalisation has taken hold, the Philippines has become a major player in the outsourcing industry. In cities from Makati to Quezon City, more than 1.2 million people staff are employed by BPO companies, call centres, IT centres and all kinds of other outsourcing services to western businesses, including Australia and New Zealand.
But the uncontrolled nature of the country’s coronavirus lockdown declared at four hours’ notice in March, left many outsourcers clambering to avoid operation interruptions as they shifted to remote working. This highlighted the risks of focusing on outsourced operations and work that has been kept in- house but transferred offshore in a singular place.
The Philippines which is one of Asia’s biggest outsourcing and offshoring hub and one of the worlds top five is one of the outsourcing hotspots hoping to benefit.
For those businesses that were not considered outsourcing before, the pandemic will expedite it. They will look at the circumstance and say if we are global operating companies, we too have to have our workforce allocated more evenly.
One hurdle for Philippines outsourcers in the switch to remote work or work-from-home was stern privacy rules on what can be taken out of the office. Next was the inadequacy of infrastructure, power interruptions, and staff often lack stable internet connections at home.
Many companies were not anticipating the scale of the impact. Most staff don’t have fast home broadband because it is too expensive so BPO companies have had to provide their staff with a prepaid sim card (with internet cash stipend) and laptops so they can work remotely. Some even let the staff take home their office desktop computers.
Since we transitioned our staff in DBOS to work from home, productivity continues to be higher. We have tools to track the productivity of every employee right now. There is a lockdown, so obviously, everybody is focused on work. We have to recognise how a grand-scale work from home stacks up in a non-lockdown environment. The second viewpoint is a lot of clients have comfortably accepted it because of the pandemic.
The Philippines remain one of the most competitive and affordable in terms of labour costs among the top outsourcing providers. It continues to attract western companies, including Australian and New Zealand companies. As much of the country continues to be under “enhanced community quarantine”, the country’s BPO industry has adapted to new working practices and shifts in demand. With this, BPO companies executives hope that the way the industry handled the shift to work-from-home setup during the pandemic will be another factor in their favour.