Setting up for Success – Three keys to successfully navigate the Work@Home environment
To say Covid-19 has changed the way we work is an understatement. Everything done in the Contact Centre sector has and will continue to evolve from the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ approach. It is estimated that between 40% to 60% of employees will be working from home permanently in future. This means organizations must rethink and revise processes to create an environment of success for those working virtually. Recognizing the uniqueness of a virtual environment is a key first step as long-established ‘brick and mortar’ (B&M) processes may not be effective in the future.
Here are three keys to successfully navigate the Work@Home environment:
- Not everyone is suited for the Virtual environment
Hiring employees in a virtual environment is not as easy as it may seem on the surface. Remember that you are hiring into an environment you do not control. We all test for internet speed, but what about others in the household (aka the workspace)? How does their internet usage affect employees? Did the applicant consult with the household members to gain an agreement; compliance; and respect of the work area? The decision to work from home is NOT a singular event; it requires a keen understanding by the applicant of expectations, but also, and more importantly, it requires agreement of the household. Take special care to prepare applicants and allow them a complete view of the expectations/journey. Use elements such as visual representations of a typical work area; provide expectation checklist that can be shared within a household. In short, take extra time and effort to outline the journey and all aspects of the physical work area.
Besides the physical space, organizations must now ensure the mental wellness of employees is not compromised by working in a virtual/isolated environment. Human beings are social animals and as such not only crave social interactions, but many cannot function without it. The hiring attributes are no longer just the skills, but rather together with skills we must hire for an ability to function in the environment. Look and test for attributes that contain the word ‘self’. These will go a long way to establish ability to work at home. Terms such as ‘self-confidence’, ‘self-motivation’, ‘self-discipline’ are all integral to understanding the ethos of the employee.
In short, the extra effort required to ensure virtual compatibility will pay off in the end with improved retention and efficiency/results.
- Support from a similar environment
Work@Home environment is unique with nuanced situations that require in many instances, first-hand knowledge of the situation. A support staff who has never had to adjust equipment setup, troubleshoot an internet issue, or have a difficult conversation with household members about work boundaries will not be effective in resolving employee issues. Supporting virtual staff with virtual staff ensures those who have encountered common issues are resolving them for others.
The amount of ‘white noise’ and distractions in a B&M site is not realized until you are home, where the silence is deafening! B&M resources supporting Work@Home, given the amount of distraction, can cause delayed or distracted responses. Supporting staff in a similar environment enables a more fluid and responsive interaction and ensures the laser focus of any support staff is the virtual employee.
A mature Work@Home program will seed future leaders from those at home today, it makes perfect sense to promote those that understand the environment and have proven their communication and adaptability in that environment. A B&M resource with no experience working from home will not be as effective as a leader. This strategy will also create a robust innovation eco-system where continual improvement ideas and adjustments are being promoted from those at home, which is critical to longevity.
The most important aspect of any Work@Home program is how effectively and efficiently we communicate with our staff. The old adage ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is a situation that will not only cause attrition, but also affect the mental health of our employees. Working in an isolated environment is difficult and the future of working from home will depend on how well organizations interact and ensure their employees are managing well in this environment.
Support staff must be well trained to look for signs of potential issues as they relate to working in isolation; they must be trained on how to effectively communicate both positive and not so positive messages. Creating a governance model that mandates the frequency, purpose, method, and anticipated outcome of conversations is critical to success. We cannot assume conversations are happening and happening in an effective manner. Given the significance of the Work@Home future, an organization must create and grow the communication strategy.
The future of Contact Centre work is Home Agent. We must realize our efforts and support structures will need to change to care for the new Environment, one that is an unknown to many and one where our B&M strategies are not be effective. As the journey progresses, look for more Hybrid models to be incorporated to care for the social aspect of employees.
In summary, hire the right employees to succeed in the virtual environment, support them with leadership from a similar environment and adapt your communication strategy to create a successful joint outcome in your journey.