Job seekers used to consider location and workplace culture when deciding on a company but the coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed the concept of office for many people, said Sykes Asia, Inc. Senior Director Jethsel Salado.

Even when things begin to normalize, office life wouldn’t be returning to what it was pre-pandemic, she added during her talk on the last day of the 2021 Transformation Summit held from July 12 to 15, 2021.

Salado believes the future of office will probably be a hybrid model with some employees working from home and others on site.

“We’re also looking at a home office set-up or a work at home dormitory where homes are made conducive for both working and living at the same time,” she pointed out.

When the lockdown started, Sykes Cebu was very prepared and able to shift its over 5,000 employees to a work from home set-up in a short period. According to her, this is because Sykes Global has long recognized the potential of remote working as a business model of the future and made it a global practice even before the pandemic.

Sykes Asia, Inc. Senior Director Jethsel Salado
Sykes Asia, Inc. Senior Director Jethsel Salado

Reimagining future of office

The health crisis with its accompanying movement restrictions has allowed companies to reimagine what offices would look like in the future, Salado said, adding it might be possible to keep some of the things people love about office work but it wouldn’t return to what it was in normal times.

As businesses consider reopening, it is important to remain nimble and pay close attention to local conditions and changing local government guidelines and practices.

She said they can also consider some guide questions from Harvard Business when they prepare to return to office operations. These include questions on when it is the right time for employees to return, who should go back to the workplace, how best to protect those who come to work, how to meet the mental and emotional health needs of workers, and what is the best way to communicate around the return to the workplace set-up.

The decision to let employees return will also be dependent on considerations like business clients, operational needs, and government regulations.

Optimal productivity

Salado said its Cebu team was able to maintain 99 to 100 percent productivity through the company’s efforts to ensure that workers have complete equipment and the correct bandwidth for their internet connection.

Sykes was able to continue operating all of its seven sites that include five in Manila and two in Cebu. The company made sure that those who reported on site were protected, cared for, and followed the strictest protocols.

In the same way, Sykes made mental health its focus for those working remotely. It did regular home inspection through video calls with employees to find out how they’re doing and to check on their workspaces to determine what they lack to be able to successfully work from home.

Company activities for employees also did not stop, only changed platforms, added Salado, citing that they held bingo and kahoot games, celebrated anniversary parties, held sports fests, and other contests online.

It also launched a vaccination program called Sykes Armor, which offers free vaccines to willing employees. With vaccination rollout, Salado sees an end to this difficult chapter for workers and by then clarity as to what the future of office would be like.

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