How Is WFH Seen Around The World?

When Covid arrived, the world of work changed, with huge pressure on businesses to embrace work from home (WFH). And what we soon discovered was that the barriers facing businesses looking to transition to WFH were much more significant in some countries and regions than in others.

In highly developed countries, like the UK, moving from the office to home was an unusual challenge, but one made easier by the fact that most people had an internet connection at home and some space in which to work – even if it was just the kitchen table.

Compare that with India and the Philippines, two countries very popular as destinations for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The latest research on popular BPO locations by Ryan Strategic Advisory places them at number one and two respectively. So how did they cope during the pandemic and what is the attitude to WFH now in these countries?

There were many challenges in the Philippines. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) rated internet speed the slowest in the entire region. There are only three broadband subscriptions for each one hundred people – compared to around 41 in the UK. The UN Broadband commission ranks the Philippines very poorly for access to the internet.

Unbelievably, some companies in the Philippines sent their employees home and then fined them for not having good enough broadband to be able to effectively work from home. Many companies in the customer service sector were forced to partner with local telecoms players leading to a situation where it was only possible to initiate a WFH strategy if all employees had high quality broadband at home.

India faced similar challenges. While BPOs could ensure that internet quality in the office was always effective, it was much more difficult to guarantee good connectivity with people working from home. India has even less access to broadband at home than the Philippines, with just 1.6 connections per 100 people.

As late as November 2021, around three-quarters (72%) of Indian employees that were working from home said that their internet speed was not good enough to create an optimal working environment.

The Philippines government has insisted on BPO employees all being back in the office from last month – effectively delivering a government ban on any WFH customer service work. This is not because of the poor quality infrastructure, it is because many BPO companies accept grants and tax rebates to locate their offices in specific locations – if everyone is working from home then all these financial incentives are pointless.

Now how do all these employees feel now the pandemic is more than two years old?

In the Philippines the message is clear, 9 out of 10 employees want to either continue working from home or expect to be able to some of the time. In India, just one in five employees would prefer to work from an office and 91% want more control over their work location and hours in future.

So what’s the message we can take from this? It’s clear that popular BPO destinations, such as India and the Philippines, really struggled with the transition to WFH. With few homes connected to high quality broadband it often required support from the telcos to facilitate the transition.

But now people in these locations have upgraded their internet connection and had experience of WFH it seems remarkably similar to locations such as the UK and US. These employees want more flexibility and more control over their working hours and location.

This may be a challenge if companies have a strong culture that is based on being present in the office, but executives need to pay close attention to these preferences. Any company that wants to be seen as an employer of choice now needs to offer more flexibility as standard. This is how you will attract the best talent. Even the Wall St banks have now acknowledged this. 

It’s going to be difficult in regions like the Philippines, where the government is telling workers to all get back to the office, but eventually the message will be clear – people want more flexibility at work and WFH is an important lever to achieving this.

(Webinar) Building Culture and Performance within Homeworking Teams

Contact Centre Network Northern Ireland (CCNNI) webinar in partnership with Sensée  

Wednesday 4 May 2022 | 12:00-13:00 | Microsoft Teams

In this essential webinar, we’ll discuss how to build team spirit and performance as well as look after the health and wellbeing of your homeworking teams, including:

  • What are the most popular hybrid working models today?
  • What are the challenges of virtual recruitment… is there an ideal profile of a candidate for a WFH setting?
  • Can you have homeworking without flexible working? Is the ability to (at least partially) choose your own work hours fundamental to the appeal of homeworking?
  • What are the different ways a Team Leader can encourage their team to engage socially?
  • What leadership techniques and activities will help glue together homeworking and hybrid communities?
  • Tips for looking after the health and well being of remote workers
  • What communication methods can you use in a virtual workplace (e.g. for process changes, account engagement or general updates) and how do you follow-up to ensure comms have landed?
  • How do you manage performance within remote teams?
    What considerations should be made when providing feedback virtually?

This online workshop is targeted at Directors and Managers responsible for contact centre operations, as well as Team Leaders involved in the day-to-day management of home and hybrid working teams.

CCNNI will be joined by experts from Sensée, the work-from-home and hybrid workplace specialists: Simon Hunter (Chief Commercial Office), Kirsty McCarrick (Service Delivery Manager) and Tracey Pinkerton (Team Leader).

 

For more information, and to register for the webinar, contact info@ccnni.com

Wall St Acknowledges That WFH Is Now Essential To Attract Talent

In May last year the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co, Jamie Dimon, said that working from home (WFH) doesn’t work in banking. He said that his experience of working from home during the pandemic proved to him that it’s impossible “to hustle” and he was convinced that young people prefer to work in offices.

Other senior bankers agreed. The CEO of Goldman Sachs, David Solomon, has said that “remote work is not ideal for us, and it’s not a new normal,” he famously told a finance industry conference in February 2021. “It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.”

Most large investment banks have a collegiate working style that is similar to how an apprentice learns – learning on the job. Therefore it always seemed that there was some merit in how these senior bankers reacted to working from home. After all, if you learn from experienced bank traders by being there on the floor with them then how can you continue learning from home?

But there is another variable at play. What if the existing approach is flawed? Perhaps young bankers don’t need to be immersed 100% into a trading environment and some elements of their job can just as easily be managed from home.

This is the argument that many of those young bankers are now making because they want greater flexibility – just like office-based workers in many other industries.

JPMorgan has been forced to announce a reversal of the unpopular ‘back to the office’ policy. “It’s clear that working from home will become more permanent in American business,” Jamie Dimon acknowledged in his annual shareholder letter in April 2022. Mr Dimon then described how that trend will affect the real estate of his firm, New York City’s largest commercial tenant. JP Morgan expects to have about half of its employees work in-person full-time. That includes retail bank branch workers, security and facility workers, and others whose jobs cannot be done remotely.

This is an enormous reversal from 2021, when it was apparently impossible for banks to operate with some employees working from home. Why have companies such as JPMorgan been forced to change their approach?

Talent. People now want more genuine flexibility in their working location and working hours. If an employer insists on being in the office Monday to Friday for a fixed number of hours then they are no longer seen as a desirable place to work. Any company – including big banks – that wants to attract the best talent needs to offer more flexibility.

The New York Times recently reported on the change of plans by JPMorgan, but also noted that banks including UBS, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, HSBC, and BNY Mellon have all recently introduced flexible working plans.

Any company that now wants to be seen as a desirable place to work has to offer employees the ability to work from home – at least some of the time. If the big Wall St banks have now acknowledged that WFH is essential for their business then how is this affecting your own ability to attract the best and brightest to your business?