BPOs hope to ride WFH wave by expanding to countryside

THE business process outsourcing (BPO) industry said 30% of its workforce has relocated to the countryside due to the pandemic, presenting an opportunity for the industry to decentralize operations and generate opportunities in untapped markets.

The IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) said BPO companies, which are also known collectively as the Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) industry, could end up establishing new hubs given the level of talent now dispersed in the countryside.

Frankie Antolin, IBPAP talent attraction and development executive director, said at a conference hosted by the Makati Business Club on Wednesday that “about 30% of our headcount … in the countryside and we want to look for different ways that we can expand that (headcount) a lot more,” Ms. Antolin said.

Ms. Antolin hopes that rural expansion brings IT-BPM work opportunities closer to the people.

“It is not really just about decongesting, but we want to be able to bring the (IT-BPM) sector and create more IT-BPM digital hubs across the country. That is certainly one of the priorities that we have which is to move and expand into the countryside,” Ms. Antolin said.

Ms. Antolin said hybrid work has been a success for the industry since the pandemic began in 2020, with staffing levels and revenue rising in 2021.

“The last two years have been a success for the industry. We have seen that there is no sacrifice in terms of productivity as long as we have appropriate work-from-home (WFH), work from anywhere arrangements,” Ms. Antolin said.

“We’ve had a strong 2021. The number of full-time employees increased by 120,000 bringing the industry’s total headcount to 1.44 million and registering growth of 9.1% compared to 2020. We’ve also recorded very good growth in terms of revenue, (at) P29.49 billion, or a 10.6% jump,” she added.

Digital platform Grab Business Director for Sales Amit Patel said that hybrid work will remain even after the pandemic.

“I feel that hybrid work will be here to stay. Not every organization can support this. There are industries that will need to work in the office because of their type of work. We need to balance that as well. (Hybrid work) will stay. It is probably something that is going to outlast the pandemic,” Mr. Patel said.

On June 21, the Fiscal Incentives Review Board (FIRB) issued FIRB Resolution No. 017-22 which  temporarily permitted registered IT-BPM firms to implement 70% onsite and 30% WFH arrangements between April 1 and Sept. 12 without affecting their fiscal incentives.

Incentives are governed by Republic Act No. 11534 or the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law, which normally requires all operations by companies enjoying the perks to do their work within economic zones.  — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave