Thursday, April 6, 2017

Long work days caused by siesta

Palms in the plaza
Siesta is still part of Spanish way of living which you do not see in the touristic areas of Barcelona. However siesta is very visible in the areas outside of the city center. This means that shops are closed during the hottest time of the day for two to three hours from 14 to 17 o'clock. The long brake in the middle of the day means that the work day ends late around 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening. The long siesta/lunch brake is not a problem if your work place is nearby home but if you do not live close to the work place, a long siesta brake can be a burden. Siesta in between makes the work day seem longer as your free time in the evening gets shorter. I can imagine that lifestyle with siesta is nice in a small town where commute is short, but in a big city where long commuting is needed siesta does not fit equally nicely in the day.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

What makes people work abroad for the long term?

Anella olimpica
This is the third post about BPO/SSC and I will focus how it is to move abroad for work. The earlier posts are here and here. In the BPO/SSC foreigners are often needed to cover for language dependent processes. Moving abroad for work can be challenging and may mean starting a totally new life in a new city. In this post I will write about the importance of social life to make foreigners stay abroad and not to return back to their home countries.

The company can facilitate the arrival of employee and make the beginning easier for employee in many ways. A good welcome starts with flight to the destination, arranged transportation to the first accommodation from the airport and providing help to arrive easily to the workplace on the first day. Usually foreigners need to deal with the local officials to get local id number, social security number ETC. Dealing with the officials can be difficult if you do not speak the local language therefore providing tutor who can help with bureaucracy is a big help.

Warm welcome does not make employees stay for the long term. If the company wants the people hired from abroad to stay it is essential to facilitate their adaptation to the new country. I have considered the factors that make employees stay working abroad long term. The company can offer accommodation as a part of the work contract. Especially sharing a flat with or living in close proximity with other new comers makes forming social circles easier. Also organizing activities during the work day and after work day facilitates socializing. Learning the local language facilitates the adaptation and therefore offering language lessons for the employees is a good idea. I think that companies should hope their single employees to find a partner to make them stay for the long term.

After all the big reason why many people keep working is to pay their mortgage. Paying mortgage ties the employee to work life for many years. The barrier to take mortgage abroad is higher than in your home country therefore the mortgage is not tying foreign employees similar way as many of the local employees. It is hard to imagine foreigners taking a mortgage abroad unless they have decided to form a family.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


Calçotada served
Today we went to enjoy calçotada which is a Catalan gastronomic feast. It is a rural feast to enjoy long shaped onions called calçots which are prepared in barbecue until they turn black. You peel of the burned layer, then dip it to the romescu sauce and enjoy. The menu is typically eaten by hand and it is messy. Therefore you are given an aprin and plastic glowes. We took calçotada menu for 31 euros which included calçots and alcahofas with romescu sauce, bread with tomatoes and garlic, barbecued meat, beans, potato, wine, a dessert and nuts. At the end we were given a special bottle of very sweet kind of wine called moscatel which you pour straight to your mouth from the bottle. With this menu everyone will get full.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The background of people working in outsourcing

Last month I wrote about the high turnover of personnel in BPO/SSC.  EU has given chance for many people to go work abroad. On the other hand EU has made it possible for corporations to centralize activities in service centers in one country and moving activities from many different countries under one roof in one country. This has created demand of people speaking different languages. I will shed some light to the backgrounds of people who work in language dependent outsourcing activities.

The workforce in BPO/SSC is female dominant. Even 70 % of the personnel are females. Outsourcing of language dependent activities have given a chance for language students to enter corporate jobs. Therefore you can find many locals with the background in studies of humanities. As the language skills is the most important criteria there are the native speakers with different kind of backgrounds who move from their home countries to work abroad with their native language. Some people do not have any degree after high school studies, some have changed from other field to corporate work and others have just started their career.

Finding people who speak big European languages like Spanish, French and German is easier than finding speakers of small European languages like Finnish, Swedish and Dutch. Hiring person from another EU country is easier for paperwork wise than hiring someone outside of Europe but as finding someone inside Europe can be challenging some companies are ready to hire also from outside of Europe. One friend of mine who works in HR of BPO/SSC said that "We would hire a monkey if it spoke the required language"

Sunday, January 15, 2017

High turnover of personnel in BPO/Shared Service Centers

I have been working for three years in BPO/Shared Service Center environment. I have paid attention that the turnover of the personnel is fast. My desk has been in an open office space with around 50 other employees. My feeling was that almost every week there was a farewell gathering around someones desk who had decided to quit. High turnover is considered a challenge in BPO/Shared service centers (Ruppel et al. 2013). I started to wonder the reasons why people were leaving the company. I do not have any collected data about the turnover of personnel in BPO/Shared Service Centers but I found a research made by Juho-Erik Kolehmainen regarding the turnover in one HR Shared Service Center in Philipines which provides service for companies in USA.

The decisions to leave a company were classified to internal and external reasons in the research of Kolehmainen. I have observed the same reasons contributing to the high turnover of personnel in Poland as well in Spain. The top external reasons for leaving a company was career development (38 %), salary & benefits (28 %) and personal reasons (28 %) like starting studies or moving elsewhere. The top internal reasons for leaving a company were work environment (25 %), management (19 %), job tasks (19 %), career development (16 %) and salary & benefits (16 %).

The most of the service in Poland is provided to other European countries and therefore the work environment with night shifts caused by time difference between continents is not an issue like in Philippines where the service is provided mainly to the companies in USA. Though there is also service provided to outside of Europe in Poland. In Poland as in Philippines there is competition between the companies for the qualified work force. Many of my friends changed their job as another company could offer them better salary & benefits.

There are  many foreigners working in the BPO/Shared Service Centers to perform language dependent activities with their native language in Poland. I have seen many foreigners coming to work in Poland with the attitude to stay one year working abroad and then moving back to home country. Career development might not be as attractive to foreigners as you might lose your language bonus if you get a promotion. You might end up having the same salary despite the promotion. Also your team leader might be against your promotion or moving to another department as it can be difficult to find a replacement with your language skills.

I have observed also issues in the job tasks which leads people quitting. It might be that before the "go-live" you are barely having any work and some people quit before as they get too bored before the actual work even starts. The cultural differences affect a lot how activities are performed in different countries and that makes estimating the needed work time challenging. I have seen that within the same department some people have too much workload as some have work just for few hours each day Even though job tasks are simple some people struggle to perform the tasks and get laid off while others get bored and quit the job.

This was opening article to my observations in BPO/Shared Service Center environment. I am planning to write some more in the coming months.

  • Kolehmainen Juho-Erik (2015) Employee turnover and reasons for the turnover. CGI Global HR Shared Services, the Philippines, Master thesis
  • Ruppel, C., Sims, R. & Zeidler, P. (2013). Emotional labour and its outcomes: A study of a Philippine call centre. Asia-Pacific Journal of Business Administration, Vol. 5, Issue 3, 246-261

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Homeless sleeping

Shelter for night
You can see beggars in Barcelona like in Madrid. During the daytime the temperature might be around 15 degrees in Barcelona in the wintertime but during the night the temperature gets close to zero degrees and it is cold. In the summer time you can spot some homeless people sleeping on the benches of parks but in the wintertime they search warmer places. One common place where you can spot homeless spending night is by the ATM inside. Banks have placed ATMs in the lobby which are open 24/7 and available for anyone to enter. The bright lights are on so you will need a good mask to block the light to be able to sleep inside.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

My moment in fame and reactions

Screenshot from Facebook page of on 11.12.2016 published an article about me moving from Finland to Spain on Friday 9th of December. In the article I brought up adversities/difficulties like broken pipe in my flat, summer heat and the price differences in groceries. The reporter naturally added some dramatic tone to make the article stir up reactions. The article received good amount of attention, 360 reactions, 96 comments and 44 shares in 2 days. Naturally I was interested in to see the reactions of people and read the comments. It was interesting to see that many got angry to me because I mentioned negative things about Spain. Some were feeling sorry for me and saying that I should have brought my mom to support me.

The most liked comment (105 likes) by Olli Elovaara was saying that my article was propaganda because the depopulation of Finland is so high that it is necessary to convince Finnish people to stay every other day by saying that it is not so great abroad. Then there were people who could relate to me as they had had also faced difficulties in Spain or in Finland. Despite of possible difficulties there were still people saying that it is worth going to Spain as Finland is depressing. I already published an article of more extreme difficulties what a family can face in Spain because I felt that the positive point of view staying abroad was emphasized too much in the media. I wanted bring some realism to the picture and I can say that speaking Spanish has helped me a lot dealing with the issues.

Then few corrections to the article. My rent is 580 EUR/month and not 680 EUR/month like mentioned in the article. The article also misleads that I have to pay annually agency fee of 816 EUR but in reality it is paid just once when you sign the rental contract.

Working in Barcelona is a different kind of experience than living in a Finnish community in Costa del sol.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Top Posts 2016

Fountain in Parc Ciutadela
This year I returned to Spain and wrote an article about me. Below I have listed the top articles from this year.

1. This article stirred up nice conversation in Finnish expat group.
2. Grocery basket in Finland is not as expensive as people might think compared to Spain.
3. Housing law protects tenants in Spain which gives opportunity to live for free
4. Not everyone sees tourism positive in Barcelona
5. Read what you can experience in Macao

Top posts from previous years 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Spanish third division match

l'estadi Narcis Sala
Today I went to see 17th round match of Spanish third division. The match was Sant Andreu against Vilassar de Mar. The entrance was for free but still the crowd was small. The capacity of the stadium Narcis Sala is 18 000 but there was only around 2 000 spectators. The match itself was not very entertaining as there was only one goal and very few chances to score. Both of the teams were focused on playing with short passes on the ground. Even though the third division football players are not professional the level was good and not far away from the level of Finnish league. Some third division players are getting offers outside of Spain to live by playing football. For example some players get recruited to united states of america or Australia and get paid 1 500 - 2 000 EUR/month.

My previous football match report is from Georgia.

Sunday, November 27, 2016