Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) has long been a reality for both large organisations and small to medium businesses. Remote working too, has seen a huge rise in recent years.  In the US alone remote working increased by 173% between 2005 and 2018.  Largely due to the innovations and improvements in technology, both BPO and remote working offer the advantage of increased efficiency, improved quality and reduced costs. But despite the growing success of BPO there have always been some perceived barriers to outsourcing key operations.

Then, along came 2020.  Suddenly, in order to survive, businesses around the world were forced to send their workers home to work.  Just how much has 2020 changed the view of remote working and how will this impact BPO?

Some interesting statistics

Even though some companies allowed remote working before the pandemic, it has become much more the norm since then.  When the pandemic hit, 88% of organisations worldwide mandated or encouraged their workers to work from home.  A further 97% of organisations worldwide immediately cancelled all work-related travel.

In New Zealand, during lockdown levels 4 and 3, more than 40% of the workforce did some form of working from home.  And according to Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen, remote working is likely to be a key change for post-pandemic New Zealand with 36% of the workforce continuing to work from home in level 1.  However, one size doesn’t fit all – the two industries most likely to work from home are financial and insurance (71%), and information media and telecoms (66%).

Having experienced working from home during lockdown, many workers are now taking a split approach to working – some days in the office and some days at home.  According to Owl Labs, 52% of global employees work remotely once a week and 68% at least once a month.  While these figures will include working overtime in evenings or at weekends for some, remote working is likely to be part of the weekly routine.

Closer to home, Auckland Transport has recently reported that passenger boardings for the year to date to October 2020 are down 35% on last year.  This is largely due to COVID-19 restrictions and takes into account both periods of lockdown. Passenger boardings however are still lower than this time last year – in October 2020 at 5.7million passenger boardings versus over 8million in October 2019.  This suggests that in Auckland at least, there are still less people commuting to work on a daily basis.

Advantages of remote working

According to recent research by Figure.NZ, around half of the New Zealand workforce (56% of women and 49% of men) would like to work from home. And according to Review42, globally 90% of remote workers would recommend remote working to a friend.  So, what are the benefits?  Suggested benefits include:

  • increases in productivity due to less time spent commuting
  • lower costs for the employer for real estate and services
  • improved work life balance for employees
  • environmental benefits with less use of transport
  • skilled workers can be anywhere in the world.

According to Review42, savings per employee who work remotely half the time, could be as much as US$11,000 annually and 77% of employees say they are more productive working from home. 53% of US telecommunicators view flexible scheduling as the top benefit of remote working and US companies that allow remote working have a 25% lower turnover of staff.

Challenges to remote working

According to the Work Futures Group, Otago, during lockdown a key challenge to New Zealanders was not being able to switch off (35%).  Furthermore, one third found collaboration and communication with their co-workers harder.  Others found it difficult to stay motivated or cited that there were too many distractions at home.

Globally, 2020 has seen a 9% increase in Google Search interest related to ‘team building’, 19% of remote employees report loneliness as biggest challenge and 54% of IT professionals think remote workers are a greater security risk.  Anecdotally there were many comments about health and safety obligations around the working environment at home and a number of businesses capitalised on this with ‘work from home desk’ options.

Despite the challenges, it would appear the Zoom era is here to stay and finding solutions to for business is key to success in 2020 and beyond.

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The future

2020 marks the start of a new era for the use of remote working by employers and employees. 67% of organisations reported an increase on spending on web conferencing software as of April 2020.  99% of remote workers would like to continue remote working to some extent and 42% with a remote working option from their employer, plan to work more remotely in the future. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 25% – 30% of the workforce will be working remotely from home by end of 2021.

While it is impossible to predict the future, as we work to overcome the challenges and more employees work remotely, from home or elsewhere, the same perceived barriers to BPO become fewer and there is a promising future for the BPO industry.

More information

If you have reassessed your views on remote working and BPO as a result of Covid-19 and you would like to talk to us about how BPO could help your business, please get in touch.

For more information on any of the statistics mentioned in this article:

Review42 – Remote Work Statistics – working from home is here to stay

Techweek – remote working and the future of the workplace

Auckland Transport – Patronage Report

Works Future Otago University – COVID Survey

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