BPO sector firms looking to revise work-from-home policy
WESTERN BUREAU: Several operators in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector are pushing to reduce the number of staff working from home in compliance with the Government’s permanent 70-30 staff ratio stipulation by the end of 2023 in light...
Several operators in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector are pushing to reduce the number of staff working from home in compliance with the Government's permanent 70-30 staff ratio stipulation by the end of 2023 in light of productivity concerns.
Under the policy, sector players should have 70 per cent of staff work from the offices and 30 per cent from home by the end of the year.
Some players currently have as much as 50 per cent of staff working from home.
The Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ), however, says that the move to call in more workers to operate from the office is because companies are shaping up to fall in line with the 70-30 mandate.
“The primary reason for companies reducing staff working from home is because of the compliance starting January 2024, when all the BPO firms have to have 70 per cent of their work done from the office,” GSAJ President Anand Biradar told The Gleaner. “So, firms are slowly pulling in staff, at least to the 70 per cent, and then based on their client engagement contract, they will have a work-from-home presence.”
Regional outsourcing firm itel has ordered all its staff back in-house, but has indicated that a structure will be implemented to allow some employees who had been performing well remotely to continue working from home.
“The truth is, we are already 80-20 in office, but let me be clear, we are not eliminating work-from-home, but it's time to bring productivity back to where it was pre-pandemic to ensure that Jamaica remains a premier outsourcing destination and that itel excels for its clients,” said CEO Yoni Epstein.
“We will operate a hybrid model, in which employees who have tenure with the company and are exceeding expectations on all key performance indicators can be eligible [to work remotely],” he added.
The policy to regulate the sector was fashioned by a high-level technical committee, which included key regulatory services, in a move by the GSAJ to develop operating standards for a sustainable regime.
But even when the mandatory COVID-19 work-from-home order for public-sector workers came to an end on December 31, 2021, the Government extended the allowance to BPO companies as they explored a permanent solution.
In the early stages, sector players claimed that their single-mother population in the contact centre grew by 17 per cent. Productivity was said to have increased as workers no longer struggled with commuting. The operators also realised significant savings in operational costs.
But Biradar is maintaining that there is no reported large-scale drop in productivity, noting that if it is happening, it is not significant.
“There may be a drop in pockets, but it's not significant,” said Biradar. “Work from the office is better than working from home for training purposes because it is very hard to train people remotely and bring them up the proficiency curve.”
He added: “So, for the first six months, I can say work from the office is definitely better than working from home.”
One BPO operator, who spoke to The Gleaner on condition of anonymity, a fall in productivity was not a major concern for his firm.
“If we find that there is a sudden decline in the KPIs (key performance indicators), we will analyse the cause,” the operator said. “They are paid based on performance, and that is what we ask of each worker.”