An anonymous reader shares a report: For two weeks in June, Nawshin Khan, a marketing and content management strategist at Dhaka-based outsourcing firm Datacrete, struggled to stay awake and alert at work. As Bangladesh experienced its longest heatwave in decades, temperatures in Dhaka soared to a 58-year-high of 40.6 degrees Celsius (around 105 degrees Fahrenheit). The capital city faced severe electricity cuts as power plants fell short of meeting a surging demand. Some areas reported load-shedding, or controlled power blackouts, for as long as 10 hours at a stretch. With no power back at her apartment, Khan could barely get any sleep at night. The 28-year-old didn’t even have the option of sleeping next to an open window “because the air was so hot outside,” she told Rest of World. Despite the sleep deprivation, going to work felt like a respite because “at least there was a generator [in the office] that operated the fans.”
Khan works in Bangladesh’s business process outsourcing (BPO) sector. She is one of around 70,000 workers in an industry to which companies around the world outsource entire business functions — from marketing and payroll to human resources. The BPO industry in Bangladesh has been expanding, with jobs in the sector growing steadily in recent years, according to the Bangladesh Association of Contact Center and Outsourcing. According to local media reports, there were at least 350 BPO firms in the country as of March 2023, with an annual revenue of $700 million in 2022. They support real estate companies, health-care facilities, and law firms in the U.K. and U.S. But the foot soldiers of this industry — BPO workers — are now staring at a disconcerting future as global temperatures continue to rise.
Several told Rest of World they’re already weary and exhausted. Five hours from Dhaka, in Chattogram, known for its balmy summers with frequent spells of rain, 27-year-old BPO worker Naima Shirmen said the heat has felt like “living hell” this year. “I’ve never seen heat as bad as this in my whole life. I get headaches everyday. I feel sick. I’m not able to sleep at night properly,” she told Rest of World. “And as you know, if you can’t sleep properly, you can’t do work.” Shirmen provides remote marketing support for foreign clients of BPOs in Dhaka. “The [heat] is so bad this year that when we switch on the fans, it makes no difference,” she said. “It’s like there’s no air in the room. It’s like the fan isn’t working at all.