Health of BPO employees a priority, says itelbpo CEO

With a global services provider (formerly known as business process outsourcer) becoming ground zero of the coronavirus outbreak in Jamaica, Chairman & CEO of itelbpo Yoni Epstein is assuring the public that the health of employees is paramount to the industry.

“As a global services provider, we have always had to go up against negative perceptions in the industry. Now, with the threat of COVID-19 upon us, a sentiment of fear has been added to it,” Epstein noted in a statement from his company.

It is for this reason that he believes that players in the industry must have candid communication with the Jamaican public about steps being taken to reduce the spread of the virus. The need to do so is even more acute when one considers 40,000 jobs are at risk if the Government of Jamaica should impose a lockdown on all global services providers.

An aerial view of itelbpo’s headquarters in Montego Bay, Jamaica (Photo: PR Newswire)

Epstein also reasoned that if itelbpo and other providers were to halt their operations, it would deal a huge blow not only to the Jamaican economy, but also to the employees, many of whom are university and college students putting themselves through school, single-moms who are their households’ only wage-earners, and young professionals rising in their careers and supporting their families.

“As we face the pandemic, our first concern is to safeguard the health and wellness of our employees, and secondly, to preserve their jobs. The two go hand in hand if our country is to make it through this difficult period and rebound quickly,” Epstein, a past president of the Global Services Association of Jamaica (formerly Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica), argued.

“It’s important for the public to see that we must remain open as long as possible and that we are adhering to a strict set of health and safety guidelines in the Disaster Risk Management Act in order to do so responsibly. These protocols are actually costing us more. So, it isn’t about turning a profit, but more so about safeguarding jobs so that our team members have an income to support their families. Profits are for the future; job preservation is for the now,” he continued.

With over 2,000 employees stretched across sites in Kingston and Montego Bay in, Jamaica; Monterrey, Mexico; Nassau in The Bahamas; and a network of work-from-home agents in the United States, itelbpo has transitioned almost half of its staff complement to working from home since the spread of the global pandemic began in March. The company plans to transition even more of its team members to this modus operandi by the end of the month.

In addition, itelbpo is “working closely with other industry stakeholders to uphold and support the Government’s Disaster Risk Management Act”, according to a press release from the company. In fact, the company launched its “6-Point Action Plan” for COVID-19 prevention in early March, which includes full sanitisation and hygiene measures, strict social distancing protocols, and a fluid employee education programme.

An itelbpo employee uses a hand-sanitising station which displays the company’s 6-point Action Plan (Photo contributed)

“We urge the public to remain calm and level-headed, even at a time when there is so much uncertainty. It’s natural to want to take some control over the situation but closing down the BPO sector is not the answer. It will only deepen the negative impact, not just to the BPO sector, but to the economy as a whole,” Epstein emphasised.

“We need to put more focus on the positive side of things. Look at how many people have recovered, and how many have been able to fight the virus at home without having to be hospitalised. In my eyes, the government has been doing the best job it can to make the right decisions to safeguard the country. As business sector leaders, we must also rise to the occasion in our own companies and sectors while supporting the government and safeguarding our team members, in order to keep the economy going. If we don’t do this together, we will see more deaths by avenues other than COVID-19”.

The largest Jamaican-owned BPO, itelbpo provides essential contact centre services and back-office support to key industries including banking and finance, health care, insurance, telecommunications, utilities, retail, among others.