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Outsourcing sector mulls remote working to combat COVID-19

Published:Thursday | March 19, 2020 | 12:06 AMMark Titus/Gleaner Writer


Several local outsourcing operators are still in dialogue with their clients regarding the implementation of work-at-home (WAH) arrangement for their agents to minimise the risk of potential infection from the coronavirus (COVID-19), as they seek to ensure business continuity.

The sector’s 70 outsourcing firms currently boast a 40,000-strong labour force and projects 11,000 new seats (jobs) annually, but with social distancing becoming the new norm across the globe, stakeholders are exploring a temporary fix, including selected agents working from the comfort of their homes.

According to Gloria Henry, president of the Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ), formerly the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, several firms have already signed off with their clients, and are now awaiting word from the Government regarding their call for a waiver on duties on computers for its members to support its WAH proposal.


“We have about 10,000 that can be done now, and every company will have to do their own vetting and make their determination,” said Henry. “Our goal is to minimise risk, potential infections, and, at the same time, ensure business continuity,” she told The Gleaner on Tuesday. “We are guided by the MOH (Ministry of Health and Wellness) and committed to protecting our workers, preserving our security protocols, and ensuring business continuity as best as possible.”

The GSAJ is also developing an application to communicate with all stakeholders. But some operators will still have to have their workers on site.

“Our clients have not bought into the idea, and they told us flatly that this is not something that they will entertain, but other companies are likely to go this route, depending on the services they are offering,” an operator, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Gleaner. “For somebody to work from home, the client has to whitelist their IP address, and while some will agree with a manager working from home, it might be difficult for some clients to agree for the regular agent to get such a privilege.”

“This is a pandemic and its impact will be global,” argued Henry. “Several variables will have to be assessed before we can determine the impact … every day as things unfold, we have to make adjustments to our strategies,”

However, despite the uncertainties surrounding commerce and trade, 32-year-old Yvonne, who has worked in the sector for the last 10 years, is optimistic for the future.

“The things the Government is screaming about how to prevent us being infected are the things we have been practising over the years at my company, so I am confident that we will be safe,” she said.