'Not out of the woods': BPO workers blast return to office in April


Posted at Mar 14 2022 01:16 PM

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MANILA – A group of business process outsourcing (BPO) agency employees are opposing government’s move to disallow them from working from home starting April. 

Rachel Balares, who heads a group of BPO workers, said the return to office work will compromise their safety and hurt their productivity.

“Our ability to work from home or work from anywhere helps keep us and our families safe. And we all know that we are not completely out of the woods yet of the pandemic,” Balares said.

“Even with more people vaccinated, the environment remains volatile and COVID surges may happen and new variants may eventually emerge, and these vaccines and boosters will eventually wear off.”

“So there’s no clear cut measure and plans by the government on how they are going to help us, you know, for the safety of the employees,” she added.

She said requiring workers to report to the office may affect their productivity, given the state of public transportation in Metro Manila.

“If we start going back to onsite or going back to office, there will be this main question: how will we get to work? We all know that our transportation system right now remains unstable and unsafe for commuters.”

“How can we show up at work and how can we perform the best that we could if every day we are punishing by commuting to and from the office and thereby sapping our energy?” she asked.

“Therefore, it’s affecting our overall productivity, not to mention it will affect our physical and mental well-being,” she said.

Balares said that she herself has been quarantined 8 times amid the COVID-19 pandemic, despite safety protocols put in place by her employer.

“I personally am not working from home because I work in a financial campaign or account. Therefore since day 1 of the pandemic I have been reporting to work. And since March 18 till now, I have been quarantined for 8 times, I got infected with COVID, the omicron virus, and it’s not really healthy,” she related.

“So…it’s not very helpful for our well-being. ‘Cause even though you know that you’re not positive, just the thought that you have been in contact with the person who’s been tested positive, it says a lot about our health,” she said.

Balares said she doesn’t understand why the government is insisting that BPO employees return to their offices.

“We really cannot speculate with regards to the motivation of the government on why they’re enforcing the return to work,” she said.

“But the obvious fact is the BPO industry has thrived and we have proven for the past 2 years that we can be productive even if we work from home or we work from anywhere, and the BPO industry contributed positively to the country’s economy in the past 2 years, and generating new jobs and expanding our business while other sectors had suffered so much job losses,” she added.

The IT and BPO Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) has pushed for a hybrid work set up that would provide a balance between working on-site or from anywhere to retain the Philippines' competitiveness in the BPO industry.

--ANC, 14 March 2022