Home is the new office

Home is the new office

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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Thousands of office workers are now working from home as a result of the stringent measures implemented to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Companies and workers who may have been reluctant in the past have had to move quickly to embrace technology in order that they may maintain productivity.

The assessment of work has undergone a significant change in the relationship between the employer and the employee. Working from home requires employees to confirm that they are engaged in activities expected of them as if they were in the office. The employer must now be far more trusting that the employee is working. Confirmation that an employee is on the job has relied on several tools and measures.

Internet broadband is the foundation of contact between the office and home office, allowing for real-time consultations, meetings, and the delivery of work assignments.

An excellent example of this has been the transformation of the way thousands of workers in the business processing outsourcing (BPO) sector in Jamaica converted into work from home employees. Before the pandemic hit these workplaces hosted thousands of workers on-site helping to fulfil contracted business operations such as accounting, payment processing, IT services, human resources, regulatory compliance, and quality assurance. The breakout of Covid-19 in the close quarters of the BPO set off panic and BPO operators soon recognised the real value of arranging for many of their workers to stay at home and still deliver. A similar situation has evolved for many other companies and even government agencies.

However, working at home requires the necessary tools and, importantly, broadband connection. The leading telecom companies Flow and Digicel found themselves with a new demand for their services.

Working at home does require an environment which encourages concentration on the job at hand. However, the presence of children who had nowhere to go compounded the challenge. Many who did not have the right computer and software relied on their companies for facilities to acquire and to install higher broadband. And then there was the need to create a dedicated space in the home away from every other distraction.

Not every home had such a space and, in a few cases, workers had to be creative in using the dining room table or carving out space in a bedroom.

Several companies have embraced the notion of having many of their workers telecommute, ushering in a new employer-employee relationship. Workers who can work from home will become the 'new normal' creating a new dispensation in the world of work.

Already several international companies have decided that working from home is here to stay. Among them, Twitter where employees are not expected to return to the office. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent an e-mail to employees telling them that they'd be allowed to work from home permanently, even after the coronavirus pandemic lockdown passes. Some jobs, however, require physical presence, such as maintaining servers, and so they will still require attendance.

Regional financial services company Sagicor stepped up their work-from-home practice at the height of the pandemic, and today thousands of their staff across the Caribbean have been serving the needs of their clients with the same high level of efficiency as if they were in their offices. It is a practice which is likely to remain in place for the long term.


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