More than two years into the pandemic, organizations in the Philippines are now slowly going back to their offices. With Metro Manila and most parts of the country now on Alert Level 1 the most lenient restrictions set by the authorities amid the current health crisis, companies are starting to require their employees to return to offices using hybrid work arrangements.
This reality remains a concern for some organizations, such as those that belong to the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry, the largest employer in the private sector. In 2020, the industry, which includes non-voice services from IT support, call centers, to animation, created more work-from-home jobs, helping those displaced from work due to the pandemic. After increasing the head count, BPO employed around 1.32 million people in 2021, according to the IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP). In the next two years, these numbers are estimated to rise to 1.46 million.
This April, however, authorities mandate BPO employees to work onsite. Government guidelines previously allowed the BPO industry to keep its tax breaks while having up to 90 percent of its employees to work from home, lasting until April 1. The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), meanwhile, it announced that it allows a 30 percent WFH scheme for its registered information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPOs) and registered business enterprises (RBEs) until September 12, 2022.
What does this mean for organizations in the country? What are the key considerations businesses need to consider in ensuring that their workplace is ready for hybrid setups and the future of work?
As organizations now heavily embrace hybrid setups, SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) believes that resiliency and agility among companies have been brought into sharp focus. This means that workplace procedures are increasingly prioritized for efficiency, personalization, and flexibility.
Five trends are shaping workplaces, today and in the future, as listed by SAP:
Rise of hybrid workforce. In recent years, gig/remote workers and hyper-specialized consultants have been comprising an ever-greater segment of the workforce. The Philippines, in fact, is the sixth fastest growing economy for the gig economy in 2019, according to a report released by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Amid the pandemic, organizations in most industries are forced into a rapid expansion of the gig and hybrid workforce, especially as they seek to remain competitive by offering employees more flexible work options. This growing trend emphasizes that if the operations at work permit, forming dynamic teams based upon task-oriented skills might be best instead of hiring employees with generalist skills to be physical and permanently located in the office. These teams can also work within a much less centralized and hierarchal structure.
AI in the workplace. With the rise of artificial intelligence, hybrid work setups can take advantage of this technology, for instance, in automating tasks and minimizing errors. AI into already skilled and talented teams can empower them to achieve superior results, with the benefits of advanced analytics, machine learning, and Big Data management on their side.
Upskilling and Reskilling talents. Integrating AI and other digital tools into the workplace requires specialized training. With more distributed workforce, it requires more complex communication processes
New ways of working with distributed workforces also has a learning curve as it requires more complex communication processes and remote-work technologies. But as the adoption of AI and new technologies creates a need for digital upskilling and reskilling, it also provides innovative solutions for delivering that training. For instance, companies can utilize AI-augmented virtual reality (VR) experiences to personalize training procedures.
Diversity and inclusion. Nowadays, companies are increasingly proving that diversity in the workforce leads to higher innovation, success, and employee satisfaction. A recent McKinsey study revealed that companies in the top quartile of the nation for diversity outperformed their competitors by 36%.
SAP, for instance, has also been proactively promoting diversity, inclusion, social justice, and work. These initiatives aim to ensure that its workforce reflects the gender parity and demographics of all the regions where it has employees.
Employee engagement and Wellness. As companies embrace hybrid setups, organizations are also making employee experience a top priority. A recent survey released by Willis Towers Watson revealed that 95% of Philippine employers said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority at their organization over the next three years.
However, with the increasingly remote workforces, achieving employee satisfaction and high degrees of employee engagement can be a challenge. To attain this engagement, HR leaders, nowadays, are turning to AI and new human resources technology to provide augmented experiences and Big Data analysis.
‘Empowering Workforce through Tech’
With the developments brought by the pandemic, experts believe that hybrid work setups are here to stay. Companies utilizing hybrid models must ensure robust and skilled employees who feel valued, supported, and empowered by technologies to attract and retain a highly engaged and productive workforce. The future of work is arriving fast, especially for organizations transforming their workplaces, employees, and the nature of work through innovative ideas and solutions.