Why the Necessity of Changes Arose
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. Many companies have switched to work-from-home mode within days and aren’t going to come back. However, both employers and employees faced many challenges when working remotely. The most severe one is a communication gap. In the office, it takes minutes to have some questions answered or problems handled. In remote mode, you need to text and wait for a reply.
Another challenge is isolation. It is hard to feel that you are part of the team when you work remotely. Collaboration tools, video conferencing, and even so-called virtual water coolers - chats where employees can have informal conversations - all these means of communication can’t fully replace real office environments. That’s why company executives aren’t prepared to completely abandon the office space. According to a recent PwC US remote work survey, only 5% of executives think that employees don’t need to be in the office to maintain company culture. Another 29% of respondents think that employees should be in the office at least 3 days a week. 21% of executives don’t believe that a purely remote working setup is possible and speak up for a 5-day workweek. As for employees, they are less eager to return to the office. The survey shows that 55% of them want to be remote at least three days a week once pandemic recedes.
What about contact centers? The recent survey from Calabrio shows that 9 in 10 contact centers have at least half of agents working remotely and 85% are going to continue flexible hours long-term. They try to maintain a hybrid working setup and follow sanitation and hygiene regulations (masks, social distancing, lesser number of people in the office, etc). The pandemic made them review their hiring, onboarding, and engagement policies. On the one hand, remote work has given contact centers access to a larger pool of candidates that makes it easier to hire the agents that are a good fit for them. On the other hand, it makes employers update all the job descriptions, implement multi-level interviewing and thorough background checks. To learn more about hiring, onboarding, and engagement of remote agents, check out our article.
How Does Remote Work Influence Productivity?
As the PwC survey shows, work from home makes employees more productive. At first glance, it may seem nonsense. Home environments are so relaxing and distracting! How could it be possible to work productively when sitting in a pajama and sipping morning coffee? Or is it real to stay focused on work when your children distract you every three minutes? Well, for someone a remote work isn’t an option. However, it’s still possible to maintain a proper work-life balance. 34% of respondents said they’re more productive than they were before the pandemic (a previous survey in June 2020 showed 28% of such respondents). The number of executives who agree with that has increased as well: from 44 to 52%.
Remote work requires that businesses should go to great lengths to improve employees’ performance. However, employers and employees grade this support differently. For example, while 81% of executives think that their company is successful in extending benefits for childcare, only 45% of employees think so.
How to Organize the Workflow in the Office of Future
Now let’s try to outline what you need to pay attention to in 2021 when organizing your workflow.
Define the purpose of your office
Decide what your employees are expected to accomplish when working in the office. Who needs to be there? Who can work remotely without causing any difficulties for your company? It’s also important to keep in mind that employers and employees see the purpose of office differently. When surveyed by PwC, executives chose such options as increasing employee productivity, providing a space to meet with clients, enabling employees to collaborate effectively, and enabling company culture. In contrast, employees put collaboration first. The other chosen options were: collaboration, secure access to equipment or documents, meeting with clients and colleagues, training, and career development. Take this into account when planning the workflow in your office.
For call centers, the main factor that should be considered is security requirements. Some industries simply can’t have remote contact centers because they have to store customers’ data on-premise. If it’s not your case, you are free to decide if you need a fully remote call center or a hybrid workplace where only a part of the employees works in the office.
Be prepared for changes in the jobs market
Only 17% of the US executives surveyed by PwC said they want to get back to the office as soon as possible. Other respondents are heading to some form of the hybrid option. What does it mean for you? You can attract talents who want more flexibility in their workflow by offering them working remotely 2-3 days a week. Also, a hybrid workweek may help you to retain such employees if you already have them.
Review your real estate strategy
The overcrowded open spaces became a thing of the past. Now companies need to have more square footage per worker to keep social distancing so you have to design your office space based on the number of employees who will be in the office every day. New reality has influenced call center office space requirements as well. You need to think out call center room design. It may mean more space between agents’ workplaces, good ventilation, regular sanitation of surfaces, air humidifiers, etc. If your call center has to be on-premise only, it means scheduling more work shifts as well.
How to Manage a Remote Call Center Team
Whether your call center is fully or partially remote, you need to take some steps to manage those employees who work from home. We’ve tried to outline several steps that will help you to build a successful telesales or customer service team.
Create your ideal agent’s profile
List all skills and personality traits that are must-have for your potential employees. Specify and update job descriptions, requirements, and policies. It will help your agents to understand your expectations better from the start.
Reorganize your training and coaching process
Even experienced employees need to put more effort to adapt to remote work. That’s why you should deliver more detailed training for newbies. Offering them a 3-month trial period can also be a good idea. It will allow them to learn how to use virtual call center software properly and confidently.
Maintain a sense of community
A lack of a sense of community and connectivity is one of the most common challenges businesses face when switching from office to work from home. Remote workers may feel disconnected from the team that affects their productivity. Use tools that help them to feel they are not working alone: video conferencing meetings and online team-building activities.
Leverage technologies (quality assurance and reporting tools)
To set up a remote call center, you need to use cloud-based technologies. Not only it allows you to monitor remote agents’ performance in real-time but it also reduces your call center expenses. Our cloud-based call center solution allows your managers to join the live dialogue in three different modes (call center barging, hidden mode, call whispering). Customizable scoring cards enable them to assess the quality of conversation and attach a relevant call recording. It also provides you with comprehensive reporting tools that give you total information on each agent’s performance as well as monitor the change of agent statuses during the day.
Give and receive feedback
In work-from-home mode, feedback is even more important than in the office. Receiving feedback your virtual agent who works from home understands what to improve and feels appreciated. It is important to you as well. When your employees are free to discuss the aspects of their work with you as a leader it gives you a tremendous opportunity to improve business processes in your organization.
To learn more about remote team management, read our article Scattered but Connected: How to Manage a Remote Call Center Team.
Offices of the future should become places of collaboration that allow more flexibility and space for employees. Overcrowded open spaces are gone. Now the office is a place where employees can feel that they are a part of a community that shares strong company culture.