October 18, 2018 by Siobhan Climer
The rise of portable and collaborative technology has completely changed the structure of work globally. Employees no longer need to be in the office to attend meetings or share data. Collaboration tools like Cisco WebEx Teams and Microsoft Skype for Business enable employees to work across-teams or with outside partners or clients with ease.
While some contact centers have been hesitant to consider a call center flexible work model, the evidence shows that the increased flexibility of remote work models – when used strategically as part of a contact center roadmap – can reduce attrition and improve contact center culture. So, how can you create and implement a call center flexible work model?
Step 1: Start With A Plan
It might seem obvious, but just announcing that people can work at home whenever they choose doesn’t usually work extraordinarily well. Setting expectations and boundaries is an important element of implementing a call center flexible work model, and that takes planning.
Start by examining current business processes. Ensure you have buy-in from the full C-Suite and those managing any flexible employees. Then, develop a set of protocols around work from home, everything from quantitative measurements of employees’ productivity to communication procedures.
Once you have a plan in place, then you can begin to train and educate management and staff. When you do roll out your call center flexible work model, everyone will be prepared.
Step 2: Standardize Communication Protocols
Communication, communication, communication. It’s the not-so-secret sauce to an effective call center flexible work model. Without it, your work at home program will likely fail.
And there is no reason communication can’t happen in flexible work models. Tools abound – Cisco WebEx and WebEx Teams, Microsoft Skype for Business, BYOD solutions, SIP trunking – and your employees benefit from the routine these bring to the workplace.
Standardizing the expectations for is also essential. Whether it’s a morning check-in, bi-weekly on-site meetings, or a monthly team coffee hour, putting expectations in place helps ensure your employees know what they need to do and helps you ensure work is getting done.
Step 3: Flexibility Requires Flexibility
Not everyone is successful in a work at home or flexible work environment. Some employees rely on the office environment to focus, while others simply can’t help doing laundry and washing dishes at home during breaks. Still other employees prefer the hard break between the office and the home, so they can ensure they leave their work behind them. Whatever the reason, when you begin to implement a flexible work model it is important to offer flexibility and choice in how teams utilize that offering.
In the event you are attempting to move to a fully remote work model, be sure to tailor your interview questions to identify those candidates who would be most successful in a work at home model.
Step 4: Training And Testing
Managing flexible workers is not like managing on-site employees. Without daily interactions, it can be more challenging to measure progress, identify issues early on, and develop rapport; however, the benefits of work at home models are still attainable given the right management structure.
Finding new ways to communicate daily is essential. Schedule regular check-ins with all staff and differentiate management for your different employees. Some might be more productive with less intrusion, while others might require more managerial motivation.
Part of the training should involve a pilot program, to test out the new policies, garner employee feedback, and make any changes before a company-wide roll-out. Testing out your call center flexible work model on a single department for 3-6 months gives leadership ample opportunity to review the results and preempt larger concerns before becoming company policy.
Step 5: Assessment
Company benefit vs. employee benefit. Consider both perspectives during your assessment. Are the cost savings measurable? Is agent retention up? Is recruiting easier? Are employees more satisfied and productive?
Ensure you examine both quantitative and qualitative measurements. And remember, give your policy time to percolate. Some benefits may take time to come to light but will shape your company culture for years to come.
Call Center Flexible Work Model Benefits
- Engage new labor market
- Find more skilled employees
- Increase agent retention
- Discover flexibility begets flexibility
- Improve the customer experience
- Reduce costs
- Increase scalability
- Enforce a “greener” work model
These are just some of the benefits that come from implementing a call center flexible work model. Broadly, contact center leaders can pull from a wider variety of employees with a broader range of skills, and the increased flexibility means you can provide more flexibility to your customers, scaling to their needs. Finally, by reducing infrastructure costs (office heating, parking, etc.) and commuter traffic, you reduce business costs and carbon emissions. Win-win.
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About The Author
Siobhan Climer, Science and Technology Writer for Mindsight, writes about technology trends in education, healthcare, and business. She previously taught STEM programs in elementary classrooms and museums, and writes extensively about cybersecurity, disaster recovery, cloud services, backups, data storage, network infrastructure, and the contact center. When she’s not writing tech, she’s writing fantasy, gardening, and exploring the world with her twin two-year old daughters. Find her on twitter @techtalksio.