BPOs dealing with COVID-19 — Yoni Epstein

BPOs dealing with COVID-19 — Yoni Epstein

Observer Business Writer

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

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Chairman, founder and chief executive officer of Outsourcing Management Limited (itelBPO), Yoni Epstein has detailed how his company navigated through the initial business process outsourcing (BPO) shutdown in the early days of COVID-19.

“In April, we had a two-week lockdown because of the outbreak in the industry and country. We reopened with new protocols to protect employees and made 80 per cent of our team members work from home when the BPO industry was at 40 per cent,” Epstein said at a recent real estate webinar.

By July, half of IielBPO's staff was back at work in compliance with the Ministry of Health and Wellness' protocols, but the savings afforded to staff wasn't translated directly to the company's bottom line. “Being at home saves money for staff on travel costs, but electricity costs have gone up significantly since we have to bring in more fresh air from outside.

“This forces AC units to work harder since they weren't built in that way to do so much work. There has been a similar increase in cleaning staff and material too, due to the increase of constant cleaning.

“Half of the facilities aren't being used right now with our current operating model. We have been affected tremendously and want to see how to make sure the company can work efficiently going forward.

“The aim is to have 25-30 per cent permanently work from home and maintain the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) protocols to protect the rental industry,” he said.

Despite the implications COVID-19 has had on the BPO industry including loss of jobs, Epstein remains confident in Jamaica's ability to be a place of opportunity for growth.

“While we're in a world of uncertainty right now, I feel proud as a Jamaican as to how we've managed COVID-19 as a country.

“Our organisation is very confident about the future and this industry will continue to grow as it provides jobs and support to the local economy.

“Seven thousand jobs of the 40,000 jobs in Jamaica have been lost and we [BPO industry] aim to get them back. A large majority of companies had outsourcing being done out of the Philippines. The Philippines has more than one million jobs in the industry and throughout the pandemic, they have only been able to operate at 10 per cent capacity (100,000 jobs).”

“Many companies have been scurrying to bring jobs back near shore to the United States to continue operating their businesses.

“Jamaica could be a big beneficiary of that given the share size. The only countries bigger than Jamaica are the Dominican Republic and Columbia based on English-speaking ability. Jamaica has an edge to continue growing with facilities [physical buildings] always being a part of the BPO industry based on protocols. Flow has worked on a BPO package where they would be able to distribute Internet at a certain megabit per second for BPO workers. That's a great move on their part as that's a needed part for the work-from-home culture,” Epstein said.

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