Air Conditioning Lifts Telus International’s Back-to-Office Plan

Telus International Cda Inc. sees most of its roughly 50,000 employees returning to “traditional work styles” in offices this year, according to its top executive. In some cases, it’s the heat that’s driving them.

The digital services company, which is controlled by Canadian telecommunications firm Telus Corp., has operations in more than 25 countries. Extreme temperatures in some locations are pushing staff away from remote work “because our offices have air conditioning while their homes do not,” Chief Executive Officer Jeff Puritt said, citing Guatemala and El Salvador as examples.

“I think realistically before the end of the year we will probably be looking at circa 80%, 75% return” of employees to their usual workplaces, Puritt said in an interview. “It varies significantly by geography.”

More than 3.3 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide but there are big gaps between countries, adding complexity to post-pandemic work arrangements for companies like Telus International. While almost half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, rates are considerably lower in other countries in which it operates, including India, which has only about 5% fully vaccinated, and the Philippines, with 2.7%, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Telus International, which went public earlier this year, announced this week the purchase of Playment Inc., a Bangalore-based company that turns images and videos into data that can be used in artificial intelligence applications. Last November, the company announced the acquisition of Lionbridge AI, which at that time was in talks to acquire Playment, Puritt said in the interview.

One application of Playment’s so-called “computer vision” AI technology is to help farmers examine soil conditions and identify potential problems in their crops. “The intensity of the climate change and the pressure that puts on scarcity of food production for our species makes the potential applications of these capabilities much more compelling,” said Puritt.

The company continues to look for acquisitions, including in artificial intelligence. “There’s clearly other countries where we could be bigger and better and more scaled,” said Puritt.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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