[B-SIDE Podcast] Preventing professional isolation: how the outsourcing industry is dealing with a divided workforce

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The outsourcing industry was one of the few sectors that continued to operate throughout the entirety of the lockdown designed to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Much of the industry moved their operations to work from home, creating new challenges when it comes to mental health. Professional isolation is the bane of telecommuters, while those who have to show up on-site–to address cybersecurity needs that aren’t supported by home-based work–have to deal with the anxiety of possibly getting infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Mirei G. Magallona, country vice-president of Telus International Philippines, tells BusinessWorld reporter Jenina P. Ibanez how the outsourcing industry is dealing with these challenges and what the firm is doing to help its workforce.

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The workplace is disconnected.

Outsourcing firms can find remote work challenging. Not only are employees disconnected from each other, management also finds it hard to make sure that their leadership presence is felt through a webcam.

Telus employees in a survey flagged uncertainties brought about by the pandemic, whether they are working from home or on-site.

“When you’re working from home, you’re a little bit isolated,” she said. The company created a toll-free number to give them direct mental and physical health support from professionals.

Communication is important.

Telus, Ms. Magallona said, must communicate health safety protocols and sanitation measures to employees working on site.

The industry is unique because it operates 24/7, so firms have to ensure that health security does not wane.

Despite its unique work hours, the outsourcing industry is not too different from any company working amid a pandemic. “We were all affected, regardless of the industry,” she said.

Speak with experts.

It’s important to speak with experts, especially medical professionals, before setting new policies.

Telus has a health and wellness committee that meets regularly. “We also hired a doctor who’s a specialist on infectious diseases to provide some advice to the committee on how to deal with the situation, on how to address concerns of our team members.”

Policy changes are based on these discussions, health advice, and government protocols.

This B-Side was recorded remotely on Feb. 18. Produced by Paolo L. Lopez, and Sam L. Marcelo.

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