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The Working Pinoy

How BPO Changed Office Culture in the Philippines

By Paulo Vargas on June 6, 2015

For more than a decade, the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in the Philippines has been revolutionizing the traditional office set up in the Philippines.

In 2014, the BPO industry posted an 18.7% growth - that's US$18.4 billion in revenue flowing into the local economy. By 2016, the industry hopes to hit its benchmark of US$25 billion revenue and 1.3 million employment. And while the industry thrives on traditional contact centers and voice work, or what we know as call centers, it is also making great progress in non-voice work (e-mail support, content/SEO writing, programming, animation, etc.).

Dipping its feet across every industry, this overall growth BPO is experiencing in the country plus its diversity makes it influential in the country's work culture. Now, it's challenging brick and mortar companies to change the way they look at employment and the workplace. For instance, while many traditional accounting firms are going strong, at the same time there is a surge of outsourced accounting work that is getting a considerable part of the traditional accounting firm's market - and they have the workers to do the job. A BPO company offers higher salaries and quicker promotion, among many other perks.

Here are some ways BPO changed the office culture in the Philippines - bringing change to how we all work.

Let them come home

By 2016, BPO is expected to earn US$25 billion. This could challenge OFW remittances, which currently contributes the same amount. If the industry continues to grow at the rate it is in now, BPO will become the biggest earner for the Philippines.

Coupled with the resurgence of manufacturing in the country, perhaps our kababayans don't have to leave at all. This may be wishful thinking, but it's a good start.

Cut the tape!

In the corporate world, there are countless of rules and regulations that inhibit a person's individuality. You must wear a suit for a multinational, you must have a certain haircut, or you should talk a certain way. For BPO companies, what they care about is how you do your work.

If you're a top performer, you can wear dreadlocks, for all they care. Of course, you still have to wear something presentable, but the point is, the red tape of the corporate world is being challenged by BPO, and I hope they win.

Blurring the lines

The most visible change the industry brought to the Philippines is the way they try to make going to the office something a worker looks forward to. Some companies have invested in recreational areas that have video games, billiards tables, and other stress relievers. Most big BPO offices also have gyms.

We won't mention which companies offer these perks, but it's safe to say that there's too many to mention. Big BPOs would almost always have these rec rooms to boost the morale of their workers.

Why choose between work and play when you can do both in your office? Many offices have followed suit (though not as flashy as BPOs) and have invested in workplace recreation. Kalibrr, for example, allows their employees to bring pets to the office.

Safety first

While most workers complain that they have to go to work even if there's a typhoon, they know that it is essential because of the nature of their job. That's why many companies deploy shuttles to ferry their employees to work. In these circumstances, employees can use the sleeping quarters to spend the night in if they cannot brave the storm. On regular days, employees can catch a few Zs if they don't feel like going home.

The city that never sleeps

Manila will never be called the Big Apple, but it can borrow New York's other nickname: The City that Never Sleeps.

Ever since BPO offices arrived in the country, business districts began running 24/7. Not only did BPO pump the local economy with revenues and direct employment, it has also created jobs and businesses as a result of its 24/7 operations. Indirect employment - jobs generated by BPO, like convenience store clerks or coffee shop baristas working late at night - is expected to number 3 million by 2016.

There are many ways everyone benefited from the advent of BPO - we just don't know it. When BPO came into the country less than two decades ago, there was a glut of job opportunities. Unemployement rate increased after the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, but in the mid-2000s, unemployment rate returned to acceptable levels.

The government invested heavily in exporting talent, and that's why OFWs number by the millions. These days, fresh graduates earn big bucks if their first job is in BPO. The glum and hopelessness of the job market of the late 90s and early 2000s have been replaced by readily available BPO jobs.

Even experienced professionals see BPO as a viable career option when they want to shift careers.

We can thank BPO for all coffee shops, restaurants, and convenience stores operating 24/7. We can thank BPO for competitive salaries. But most of all, we can thank BPO for all the jobs it generates for Filipinos around the archipelago.