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BPO professionals voice their concern about returning to the office

Text by Patricia B. Mirasol
Video editing by Earl R. Lagundino

Due to long commutes, rising prices, and a lower quality of life, information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) employees dread the return to onsite work. They are instead asking that their previous work-from-home (WFH) setup be made permanent.

On April 1, IT-BPO firms registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) returned to on-site work after a resolution allowing employees to work from home expired March 31. The said Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) resolution was implemented in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

A main cause of stress is the rising cost of commodities, said Paolo, one of four BPO employees who requested that they be identified only by their first names. 

“They want us to spend more, on top of the rising prices for food,” he said, adding that salaries have not increased despite inflation. 

Another consideration is the time lost to long commutes, which translates to missed opportunities for quality family time.

For Jaymar, who has a newborn baby, working from home is a boon.

“I can be both a father and a BPO employee,” he said, noting that the quality of his work has remained consistent throughout the past two years. “My clients are very satisfied. [This] WFH setup is very effective for a dad like me.”

Some companies are structured to flourish onsite, BPO frontliner Jason said.

“On the other hand, I’m leaning towards having PEZA revisit companies [whose staff] work even out of their economic zones,” he said. The setup worked for them, he said, adding that “these companies [that have proven to work effectively remotely] are the companies that could apply for either a hybrid solution, or a permanent WFH.”

As pointed out by Dom, who belongs to the Alliance of Call Center Workers, the nature of the industry is remote work.

“I’m disappointed that the government has decided on this with finality. I feel that it’s a badly thought-out idea that reeks of bad timing,” he said. “They’ve failed to consult the very people that generate these economic activities.”

Paolo said employees should be given a choice on how they want to work — whether onsite, WFH, or hybrid.

The workplace of the post-pandemic era needs to adapt with hybrid, flexible personnel policies tailored to the organization’s needs, according to panelists at a Jan. 19 webinar organized by BusinessWorld.

In its 2021 survey, recruitment firm Robert Walters also found that 33% of respondents in the Philippines preferred a hybrid work setup, with 52% saying they’d decline a job offer which requires 100% office attendance in the office.

“You need to listen to employers. They know the sentiments of their employees,” Paolo added. “WFH is not illegal … we’ve proven that it can work.

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