Monday, August 16, 2010

Sex and the (Filipino call center) city - the side effects of outsourcing

I'm working on a post for my Empoprise-IE Inland Empire blog which will talk about the outsourcing of Hilton Hotel call center jobs from Hemet (and other locations) to the Philippines. Normally when people talk about outsourcing, the first country that comes to mind is India. But other countries are trying to dethrone India from its outsourcing lead - some on the basis of cost, and some on other issues.

The Philippine IT Offshore Network (PITON) trumpets the advantages of its home country:

As a former US protectorate for more than five decades, the Philippines is known to possess the closest cultural affinity to the US among all offshore destinations. The country’s schooling, legal, medical as well as business system and processes have been adopted from or patterned after the US system. A recent Gartner research report on “Outsourcing Opportunities to the Philippines” emphasized on the fact that “US customers consistently cite cross-cultural differences as one of the biggest hurdles when engaging with Indian-based firms. With regard to working with Filipinos, this issue is rarely cited. The ability of Filipinos to work with Americans and assimilate to their professional environment, as well as their interpersonal norms of behavior and organizational culture, is often praised by US enterprises.”...

“American” English is the official language in the Philippines making it the world’s third largest English-speaking country. English is the medium of instruction from primary up to post-secondary levels....

The Philippines possesses a considerably large, highly educated and extremely skilled workforce. With an annual output of approximately 400,000 graduates the country is well positioned to support its exponentially growing BPO industry. The literacy rate in the Philippines with over 94% ranks as the second highest in Asia....

And as outsourcing booms in the Philippines, other changes are happening there:

[E]ntire 24/7 service industries -- including convenience stores, bars and fast-food restaurants -- have sprung up around the new office towers to serve the needs of the booming sector.

However there are concerns about the way the industry is reshaping young adult society, as well as the pressures the workers face as they remotely help customers and clients on the other side of the world.

The odd hours, irate clients, tedious workloads and performance demands often drive staff -- particularly call centre workers -- to early burnout.

And perhaps you're among the irate clients that the call center workers encounter.

Cici said one of the hardest parts of call centre work was simply dealing with customers angry at having to speak with someone on the other side of the world.

"One customer said: 'I don't wanna talk to you. I want to talk to an American'... I cried," Cici said.

And apparently when you live, breathe, and eat work, you"sleep" work.

Both Cici and Pau said they had heard similar stories in the call centre office they used to work at, which have beds in rest areas for exhausted staff.

"Our sleeping quarters were for both sexes. Some of my friends told me that there were certain things that happened there," Cici said.

As early as 2009, companies were reported to be taking steps to prevent this.

Stricter dress codes for women are required to make sure that none of them will wear revealing and indecent outfits when reporting for work. The temperature inside the offices is set couple of centigrade lower than usual to make employees wear jackets, therefore covering up exposed skin.

Hidden cameras and CCTVs are also installed around the premises, especially on the areas where employees were caught having sex. These areas include sleeping quarters, fire exits, parking lots and conference rooms.

Why was this necessary?

The social profile of the employees working for call centers is one of the biggest factors of the increasing incidence of sex in call centers. Majority of the employees are young, ranging from 20-30 years old. Most of them are single and a fair lot of them are fresh graduates. People in this age range are at the height of sexual exploration, and working with people with the same age and liberal attitude can lead to bold experimentations with their co-workers right in the office premises.

The financial capabilities of the call center employees are also seen as another major factor. The big salaries allow many of these workers to live away from their parents and do practically everything they want. This exhilarating feeling of freedom makes them adventurous enough to commit forbidden sex in the workplace.

And either because of the workload or because of the extracurricular activities, the call center workers are apparently exhausted. This singer couldn't even stand up to sing his call center song.

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