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Since the 1918 Spanish Flu, no other disease has affected the world like the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) wherein countries around the world are still struggling to flatten the rise in cases while keeping their economies afloat — a volatile balancing act between humanity and economy.

It is no different in the Philippines wherein after the government lifted the three-month work suspension of non-essential enterprises in June, companies in the National Capital Region and Cebu City — the country’s two busiest economic centers — are struggling to get back on track amid strengthened efforts to prevent the virus’ further spread.

Business process outsourcing companies Synchrony Global Services Philippines and Ingram Micro Philippines were among the companies which made adjustments in order to ensure the health and safety of workers as work-from-home (WFH) arrangements have become part of the “new normal.”

And as both companies were awarded among the five Best Workplaces in the Philippines in 2020 by Great Place To Work Philippines as 1 May, Synchrony and Ingram Micro have took the challenge of making their virtual workplace still ideal for its employees.

Safety first

Synchrony Global Services Philippines, a subsidiary of Synchrony which is the largest issuer of private label credit cards in the United States, had to secure their workplace and make adjustments as they just hired 3,000 employees onsite for its Manila and Cebu offices before the outbreak.

The company’s senior management team wasted no time securing hotel rooms for employees who need to report to work within walking distance from their sites, while financial stipends, transportation and daily meals were also provided.

For those allowed to work from home, 1,000 work-at-home kits containing include computers, headsets, monitors, cables, and prepaid Internet routers were deployed in Manila while 500 were deployed in Cebu.

According to Synchrony CEO Michael Zolin, employees continue working from home and would do so until at least until 7 September 2020. In anticipation for their return, Zolin said the global business group is still working out the specifics.

“We have in the process a Return to Office steering committee to facilitate better the eventual return of our employees to our sites. This is a global initiative being piloted in two of our US sites to finalize our social distancing and in-office protocols,” a company representative said in a statement.

“We’re reconfiguring our physical workspace to spread out teams who must be in the office, going beyond social distancing guidance. We increased cleaning of our sites, deployed additional hand sanitizers throughout our spaces (including shuttle services), promoted proper handwashing techniques, and employed temperature scanning. We continue to be in compliance with local and government regulations for community categories and advisories of Department of Labor and Employment in returning to the office,” it added.

Connectivity strong

For Ingram Micro’s Manila Global Business Services Center, which represents Ingram Micro’s global cloud, mobility, technology lifecycle, supply chain and technology solutions businesses in the Philippines, the business continuity plan to keep its 2,400 employees working has been tempered by the priority to keep them safe from the deadly virus and resulted in having 90 percent of its employees have been able to continue working from home.

Sam White, director of Ingram Micro’s Human Resources team, envisions a “hybrid work arrangement” where some will eventually work in the office while others will continue to work from home.

“This arrangement will continue to impact the way they work, learn, connect with peers, manage teams, and deliver results.” White said.

The new work arrangement would decrease social interaction and proximities and introduce interim changes such as temperature check, the mandatory wearing of a mask, sanitation, closing of meeting rooms and training rooms, visual markers for distancing, limiting occupancy in the bathroom, lobbies and other common areas.

Physical meetings, training, events and recruiting processes will continue to be done in a virtual set-up until that time when it’s safe to do otherwise.

“We leverage on various communication channels to guarantee that employees are updated with our business decisions. This helps us promote transparency, thus encouraging a high-trust culture in our organization, Zolin said.”

Technology and trust

Synchrony has also accepted the fact that it would have to deal with the pandemic on its own corporate strengths — via technology and its well-coordinated tech-savvy people.

With the launch of Synchrony 360 early this month, the company aims to provide employees access to many resources to help them navigate everyday life, whether through parenting, homeschooling, physical activity, virtual teams or building relationships to support their total well-being.

On the other hand, Ingram Micro Executive Director Vigor “Junar” Amador Jr. acknowledges that the success of the work-from-home setup is built on trust between the management and the employees, and the company had been a step ahead even before its employees began to set up their workspaces at home.

“While we were planning for the WFH transition, our associates came to us with ideas on how to enable the new work arrangement, providing us solutions on how they can deliver better results for our customers while they work within the safety of their homes. With trust and empowerment, our associates have actively played a pivotal role in the success of the transition to the new normal without impacting the overall customer and employee experience which they continue to deliver to the best of their abilities,” Amador said.

As what these two companies have shown, this key workplace success trait — trust — seems to be immune to even a deadly global pandemic.