Surviving Odette: 5 Important Lessons in Disaster Preparedness for Tech BPOs

Last December 16, 2022, a devastating tropical cyclone passed through the Philippines, making 10 landfalls across the central Visayan islands. Typhoon Odette wrought massive damage to the nation’s second-largest urban center, Cebu City, where LegalMatch Philippines centers its base of operations. For nearly a month, residents struggled with the massive shutdown of power, water, and telecommunications. Internet connectivity issues crippled many IT-BPO operations. This in turn resulted in huge income losses and unemployment. 

How did LegalMatch Philippines survive Typhoon Odette? Here are five lessons that we learned in disaster preparedness as a tech BPO. 



1   Prevent Data Loss via Cloud-based Computing and Communications 

As one of the top global destinations for quality professionals for Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing solutions, the Philippines has seen a steady boom of investments in startups and companies in recent years. These companies served clients in the United States, Europe, and Australia, among others. Many handled sensitive or important data for their clients. Tech BPOs took on the development, production, and maintenance of their software solutions and online platforms. Loss of data and work files pose significant impact to client operations. 

In a talk with the LegalMatch Philippines IT systems administrator, he said that it was fortunate that the company had been using Cloud-based data storage and communication channels ever since the pandemic forced them into remote work. By the time Typhoon Odette came through, all the employees had transitioned to working with platforms such as MS Teams and Sharepoint.  


2   Ensure that there is Enough Cash on Hand before the Typhoon Hits 

The super typhoon not only plunged the city into darkness for more than three weeks, it also shuttered many businesses, including banks. Residents lined up at the few ATM machines that were functional for hours on end, at times leaving without cash because it had run out. 

The LegalMatch Philippines finance team faced difficulty in releasing salaries. The typhoon had struck on the day that they were supposed to start processing the payroll. Usually, they just credited amounts to the employees’ bank accounts. But the latter requested that their pay be released in cash. This is because local establishments insisted on accepting only cash. Banks could not cater to the volume of ATM withdrawals daily.  As a disaster preparedness measure, the finance department should ensure that there is enough cash on hand before a potential catastrophe happens.  



3   Explore Options for Power and Internet Connectivity 

The lifeblood of any tech company providing professional services to clients abroad is its employees. But how can employees work without electricity, internet, or even a mobile phone network? For Legalmatch employees in Cebu, this was the scenario in the first two weeks after the storm.  

In less-damaged areas and neighborhoods, remote workers celebrated the return of their mobile network signal, only to discover it gone again in a few hours. Often, the unwitting culprits were government workers clearing fallen trees, posts, wires, and cables.  

LegalMatch Philippines rented out 3 big rooms in a co-working hub that accommodated all of its Cebu-based employees. They were invited to use them up to a month after the disaster. The hub provided fiber internet and individual workstations with electric outlets and ergonomic chairs. To those who were too far from the hub but had access to better telecom signals, portable WIFI modems were purchased and sent.  



4   Give Aid and Support to Staff and their Families 

Aside from the power and connectivity issues that rendered them unable to work, affected employees had to ensure food, drinking water, and other needs of their families. It was especially difficult for those with small children, elderly parents and persons with disabilities. 

Legalmatch Philippines allowed all of its Cebu-based employees, to take paid leaves in the first week after the typhoon to attend to their families. Loans were made available too, ranging from 20,000 to 50,000 pesos per employee. These were payable up to 3-6 months via salary deductions. A 2,000-peso cash gift was also given, which was fitting considering that the storm happened a week before Christmas. 


5   Organize a Disaster Preparedness & Response Committee 

While most company policy manuals contain sections dictating what to do during emergencies, there usually isn’t an internal committee that oversees this. It would be good to organize one, ideally, composed of the leads of departments or work teams. These individuals could assist in expanding or improving the company’s emergency preparedness and response plans, taking into consideration the contexts and needs of their subordinates.  

The Human Resources Department would do well to check if there are employees who have training and experience in first aid and disaster risk reduction management and tap them to lead the committee.  


Planning for Disaster Resilience 

The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. It ranked third in the 2018 World Risk Index and tops the list of the countries most affected by climate change in 2019. In the last decade, no year has gone by without the Philippines suffering the onslaught of Category 4-5 tropical cyclones. Warmer temperatures in the western Pacific Ocean support their formation. 

While rescue and aid are often the focus of counter-disaster planning, time and effort should be invested into disaster preparedness for tech BPOs. The severity of impact is out of our control, but preparing resources, and conducting business continuity planning and training will ensure that we will be disaster-resilient: able to bounce back from the disaster faster, better and stronger than ever. 

How to Stay Fit while Working from Home

How to Stay Fit while Working from Home

Two years into the pandemic, more and more companies around the world have allowed their employees to work from home. This has surprisingly yielded good results for many companies, providing savings in terms of office rental, equipment and other overhead costs. The employees themselves saved on transportation costs and got to spend more quality time with their families. However, one thing that is on the mouths of doctors and medical experts lately is…don’t forget to stay fit at home. 


Pre-pandemic, many young professionals used to go to the gym. With quarantine restrictions closing fitness centers down, getting fit at home seems to be the only option. But why is it that the option to exercise at home remains unpopular? The commonly cited reasons include lack of exercise equipment or machines, absence of a trainer or exercise buddy, or simply having to attend to household chores, such as supervising the online classes of children. Others laugh and just say, “How can I exercise when my bed is waving hello?!” 


So, do you want to invest more time on work from home fitness? Let us give you some tips. 


Doing Desk Exercises is a thing and yes, they can help 



Hardcore fitness enthusiasts may laugh at the idea but doing desk exercises actually is beneficial, more so to those who type away at their computers for say, programming or writing tasks. Here are some that you can try: 

  • Finger exercise – hold up your hands in a fist with your thumbs up. Slide your fingers up and down, stretching as far as they can go. Repeat at least 10 times.  
  • Wrist exercise – position your elbows at a right angle to your body. Alternately rotate your palms upward and downward to the most extreme that they can. Repeat at least 10 times. 
  • Forearm exercise – position your elbows the same way as with the wrist exercise but this time put your palms together. Rotate them down until you’ve stretched them to the most. Repeat at least 10 times. 
  • Neck exercise – sit straight up. Tilt your head to one side towards your shoulder until you feel it has stretched to its limit. Hold this while counting to 10. Do this for the other side. Repeat at least 10 times. 
  • Shoulder exercise – sit up with your back firmly against your chair. Move your shoulders in a circular motion. Repeat at least 10 times. 
  • Back exercise – hold up your arms with your fingers interlocked. Stretch to one side and count to 10. Repeat for the other side. Do this routine 10 ten times more. 
  • Leg exercise – while sitting up straight, lift your left leg up and stretch. Hold this position while counting to 10. Repeat 5 times for each leg. 
  • Ankle exercise – lift your left off the floor and stretch it up and down while counting to 10. Repeat 5 times for each ankle. 


Go outside and walk 



Brisk walking is an underrated exercise. Jogging seems to be touted as better. But if you’ve not been doing a lot exercise at home, walking could be a better option. You don’t need to go far from home. A walk around the neighborhood will do. If you have a pet dog or cat, taking them with you for a walk will also give them their much-needed exercise. Start with a modest 5-minute leisurely walk around a fixed route, slowly raising your speed as you go. When you feel your sweat coming out and your heartbeat has raised to a higher tempo, that is a sign to stop for the day. Many smartphones offer health apps that monitor the number of steps you make per day. Make use of them. 


Try dancing or aerobic workouts 



For those who love to dance, Zumba could be a good option for WFH fitness. Zumba has gained popularity in recent years thanks to YouTube and Tiktok. According to health experts, 75-150 minutes of Zumba per week can help reduce weight and strengthen your heart. There are many video tutorials offering guidance. You can opt to upload your videos too, not only for a healthy ego boost but also to inspire your friends and family to get on board with home fitness. 


Are you a gamer? Do Exergames 



Therapists have long been endorsing “exergames”, defined as video games that offer exercise with a competitive twist. An emerging trend among health buffs, exergames have been dubbed as the future of fitness. With jobs at home also becoming more the norm, these video games are convenient for us who cannot go to the gym or sports centers. There are many apps available on both Google Playstore and Apple Appstore that offer exergames for kids and adults alike. Among the popular exergame apps are 3DDX, Dance Dance Revolution, Dancing Stage, and Para Para Paradise. 


Exercising for Mental Health 



Most of us work from home as part of the pandemic-imposed restrictions and have been here for nearly two years now. That being said, getting fit at home is often overlooked as another way to keep us sane. While helping to reduce blood pressure, manage weight gain, and improve blood circulation, exercising is essential to our mental health. The World Health Organization recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity on a weekly basis. Muscle-strengthening activity should be done at least 2 days a week. Exercising with your partner, sibling or parent will strengthen your bond and save you from potential arguments! 


Stay Fit beyond the pandemic 



Even if the pandemic will end with the Omicron variant or not, starting a home fitness program now will help you establish a routine. As they say, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. You may think that you are not a fitness enthusiast, or that exercising is not your thing, but it may surprise you (pleasantly!) to realize that once you get used to it, it will become almost like second nature. And for the long-term, it will benefit you immensely. It will give you more energy to do your work at home tasks, while ensuring that you will live longer to spend time with your loved ones.