My Homeworking Story (Episode 1): The Journey To Work

In the first of a new six part series, Sensée Training Manager Sam Goldney explains the steps she takes when getting ready for work.

The Journey To Work

Sam GoldneyAfter ten years of working from home I’d like to think I’ve got my morning journey to work routine finely honed. I see the children off to school on the school bus and then go for a good yomp through the fields with the dogs before grabbing a coffee and heading upstairs. My computer’s already turned on, so I load my systems and am ready for the day in a great frame of mind after a healthy dose of family and fresh air.

But it hasn’t always been as easy as walking the dogs and negotiating my two young children to get dressed and eat breakfast. I spent years sitting on the motorway on my commute from leafy North Warwickshire to central Birmingham and then driving frantically round the car park looking for a parking spot… before running into the office to ensure I arrived before my learners.

It took the life changing act of losing my best friend to cancer to make me realise that there was more to life than this. Leaving my amazing job was a brave step but one of the best I ever made.

Starting my workday in a happy, healthy frame of mind ensures that both my employer and family get the very best out of me.  Here are my 6 tips for getting ready to work:

  1. Get showered and dressed: The act of getting dressed psychologically switches your work mindset on
  2. Don’t get distracted by home tasks when you should be working: You’ll only feel guilty unlike the washing up which won’t mind waiting until your lunch break for you
  3. Have a dedicated workspace: Walking up the stairs to the office is my daily commute and I switch from my role as Mum and Wife to Training Manager as I close the office door
  4. Get your PC switched on early: Avoid sitting at your PC watching the spinning circle of Windows updates being installed through clenched teeth
  5. Make sure you have what you need for the day: Have a glass of water to hand or an extra coffee in a thermos flask
  6. Have a clear working space: If necessary, clear everything to the other end of the dining table (if that is what you are working from these days)
    ‱ Write yourself a list of what you want to achieve, then break it down
. must complete, need to complete, useful to complete, bonus task
    ‱ Look at your diary for the day and plan time for a break. You are far more productive if you step away and return with a fresh perspective on a problem
    ‱ Say good morning to your team. Check in on them and their loved ones and use your webcam to see what people are saying as well as listening to them

(Flexible working e-meeting) The Great Debate: Gig Working vs The Employed Model

Thursday 29 October at noon
Chair: Leigh Hopwood, CCMA
Gig working spokesperson: TBC, Limitless
Employed status spokesperson: Mark Walton, CEO, Sensée

As contact centres grapple to determine a future operating model on a backdrop of increased homeworking, the attitudes of a new generation of workers and a desire to find a better work-life balance are driving contact centre leaders to start thinking differently.

The Great Debate will focus on two alternative approaches to flexible working ‘Gig Working’ and ‘The Employed Model’ pitching SensĂ©e, the contact centre business renowned for its successful homeworking operations, against Limitless, a business that has deployed a gig workforce to deliver contact centre capabilities.

How it will work

We plan to have some fun! SensĂ©e will open the debate and propose why flexible working is appropriate in most settings, the ethics behind it and the security it provides. Then we’ll hear from Limitless who will oppose this approach and present how gig working can meet the needs of both customers and colleagues.

You will be invited to share your comments and questions through the Zoom platform, which will be shared live by our Chair of the debate, Leigh Hopwood.

After closing comments from both the proposer and the opposition, you will be invited to vote on the statement: Flexible working is appropriate in more settings than gig working.

What are Gig Workers?

Gig workers are independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers and temporary workers. Gig workers enter into formal agreements with on-demand companies to provide services to the company’s clients. They have high levels of flexibility and autonomy.

Agenda

12:00 Welcome – Leigh Hopwood
12:05 Proposition: Employed Model – Mark Walton, SensĂ©e (6 mins)
12:11 Opposition: Gig Working – TBC, Limitless (6 mins)
12:17 Response: Employed Model – Mark Walton, SensĂ©e (6 mins)
12:23 Response: Gig Working – TBC, Limitless (6 mins)
12:30 Comments and questions from the floor (prepared by Leigh, Mark and Limitless)
12:45 Closing comments: Employed Model – Mark Walton, SensĂ©e (2 mins)
12:47 Closing comments: Gig Working – TBC, Limitless (2 mins)
12:50 Vote on the statement: “The Employed model is a more appropriate way to achieve flexible working in a broad range of settings than gig working”

To register, please visit the CCMA Event Registration Page

 

(e-meeting) Creating a positive homeworking team culture

11.30am – 13.00pm
Thursday 22nd October
Chair: Jayne Davies, Chair, CCNNI

At this e-meeting in partnership with the Contact Centre Network Northern Ireland (CCNNI) we will discuss the ‘people’ side of running a busy work-from-home contact centre operation, with particular focus on building and sustaining team culture in a sustainable homeworking operating model.

The e-meeting will cover key aspects of people and team management including:

‱  Employee engagement
‱  Team culture
‱  Recruitment and on-boarding
‱  Flexible working and life/work balance
‱  Health and wellbeing of remote workers
‱  Motivation and reward
‱  Performance management and quality
‱  Sustaining company ethos and values with homeworking

The virtual meeting will include a presentation, insight and extended discussions with Sensée Customer Experience Officer Rob Smale, Sensée NI Sourcing Manager Annamarie Quinn, and Sensée Team Leader Marie McClenaghan, with opportunities throughout for attendees to ask questions around their contact centre homeworking challenges.

Agenda

11.30 – 11.35: Introduction (Jayne Davies, CCNNI)
11.35 – 11.55: Presentation “Homeworking – the People Challenges” (SensĂ©e)
11.55 – 12.35: Breakout Discussions (around homeworking experiences and challenges)
12.35 – 13.00: Feedback from Breakout sessions and general Q&A

To register your place, please visit the CCNNI Event Registration Page

 

 

SensĂ©e’s homeworking achievements recognised at 2020 industry awards

2020 has been an extraordinary year for homeworking and a landmark year for Sensée.

In recognition of the company’s impressive recent growth, and role in helping other organisations transition to homeworking during lockdown, we have been shortlisted at a number of major 2020 industry awards.

Sensée has been named as a Finalist at the prestigious European Contact Centre & Customer Service Awards in the Outsourced Contact Centre of the Year category, as well as in the Most Effective Homeworking Programme, and Best Outsourcing Partnership (with BUPA) categories.

At the Northern Awards, we’ve been shortlisted for Best Outsourcer, Best Homeworking Programme During Covid-19, Frontline Team of the Year (with Allianz Partners), and Customer Service Advisor (Jenny Bate, SSE). And at the South West Contact Centre Awards, we’ve been named as finalists for Best Outsourcer, Best Homeworking Programme During Covid-19, Customer Engagement Team of the Year (with Allianz Partners), and Customer Service Representative (Jenny Bate, SSE).

“We’re delighted to have been recognised in this way” said Mark Walton, CEO of SensĂ©e. “We’ve come a long way in the last 12 months and a big thanks to all our 1300 homeworkers for making everything we’ve achieved possible.

“Congratulations in particular to the Allianz Partners’ team and to Jenny from our SSE team who have been shortlisted at two separate Awards events – an amazing achievement. Best of luck to all our finalists!”.

(Online Workshop) Creating a Complete Homeworking Ecosystem

Date: Wednesday 7th October 2020
Time: 11.30am to 13:00pm
Chair: Sandra Busby

It’s often said that to effectively manage a contact centre homeworking team your business needs to adopt a virtual mindset across everything that it does: from recruitment & onboarding to communications, resource scheduling, managing health & well-being, and info security.

In this virtual meeting we’ll discuss how to manage homeworking teams in both 100% home and hybrid home/office environments.

The discussion will cover people & operational issues as well as the technology elements required to create and deploy an end-to-end homeworking ecosystem.

To reserve your seat simply email lucinda@wccf.uk

Once registered you will receive a link to join the meeting a few days prior.

Sensée Puts the Fizz into Virtual Events

Looking to say thank you to the people who have supported your business through the tough last few months?

Last night, Sensée, the work-from-home contact centre specialists, teamed up with Bubbledogs to meet its clients, partners and friends online for a novel Grower Champagne Tasting virtual event.

Ran entirely virtually via Zoom, the event featured an educational session on Grower Champagne from TV sommelier and presenter Sandia Chang, a fun champagne quiz, and the opportunity to sample two amazing grower champagnes. Guests also received a hot dog home kit so they could create Bubbledogs’ most-loved hot dogs from the comfort of their own kitchens.

“Conducting business effectively in a virtual world has been a learning experience for everyone” said Mark Walton, CEO of SensĂ©e. “It calls for a virtual approach to everything that you do, and that includes how you recognise the value of those that are the vital to the success of your business. We felt that the event was a big hit. Sandia and the Bubbledogs team were very professional and entertaining, and it was a great way to say a big thank you to clients and others that we work most closely with.”

(Online Seminar) Contact Centre Homeworking in 2021

ONLINE SEMINAR: Wed 14 Oct 2020, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Over the last few months the vast majority of UK contact centres have operated on a work-from-home basis and, for most, it’s been a steep learning curve.

Initially, concerns about connectivity and the health and well-being of remote workers dominated. Then management and performance issues took centre stage, with many centres experiencing severe challenges as sickness levels increased, and both productivity and staff engagement fell.

Now, contact centres must decide on the way forward. Will it be 100% homeworking or hybrid office/homeworking? How will staggered rotas work? Will work-from-home be voluntary, compulsory, or both?

For this online seminar, the CCMA has invited Sensée to share its experiences of managing homeworking teams.

Topics to be covered include:

  • The importance of creating a complete end-to-end homeworking technology ecosystem
  • Why your Virtual Workplace must, as closely as possible, replicate the physical office environment
  • Employee engagement in a virtual world
  • Remotely managing performance, productivity and quality
  • Monitoring the health and well-being of homeworkers
  • Infosecurity in a virtual world
  • Should you treat your homeworkers and office-based staff the same – or differently?
  • The benefits of homeworking: a real life case study of how homeworking has increased productivity & CSAT and reduced cost & attrition
  • Great tips and advice on managing homeworking teams

Sign up today to find out how your business can get more from homeworking – and get answers to your burning issues from SensĂ©e’s experienced Consultants, Operations Managers and Team Leaders.

 

 

Planning For Hybrid Homeworking: 6 Things to Consider

Planning ahead when the future is as uncertain as it is today is difficult. But you’ve got to start somewhere. So how about with a list of objectives, and a list of ‘highly probable’ circumstances and conditions under which you are likely to operate in 2021?

When it comes to running customer contact operations, your objectives for 2021 may well look similar to those this year. For example, to deliver excellent customer experiences and create positive outcomes. To improve customer satisfaction & loyalty. To keep your people engaged, motivated and happy, while looking after their mental health & well being. To cut costs…. and so on.

The problem comes when trying to define the circumstances and conditions that will prevail next year. For the truth is we simply don’t know. Social distancing and staggered rotas look set to remain, and with a strong possibility of future Covid-19 spikes, no-one can confidently base their planning on the likelihood of having open and fully populated offices. We also don’t know what effect a subsequent Covid-19 spike would have on the nature and volume of customer contacts, people’s ability to travel, or on employees’ mental health & well being.

So where does that leave contact centre planning? Well we know (if you believe the research) that the majority of businesses are planning to open their bricks and mortar (B&M) contact centres in 2021. Indeed when asked ‘What Will Your Working Environment Mainly Look Like in 2021?’ 57% of UK contact centre leaders interviewed as part of the Call North West/SWCCF/Talkdesk Post Lockdown survey said that they expected it to most closely resemble a Socially Distanced B&M Centre, with 35% expecting it to look like a Work-from-Home centre, and only 7% a Normal Contact Centre. And if that’s the case then the vast majority of contact centres are highly likely to be operating hybrid models in 2021 (i.e. part B&M centre working and part homeworking).

If you are considering a hybrid model, here are six things to consider:

  1. Homeworking isn’t for everyone: The public debate around homeworking during lockdown has often focused on whether homeworking is a good idea or whether office workers are more productive. But is that the right question? I would say that it’s more important to ask ‘When would homeworking work effectively for us?’ and ‘Who would make an ideal homeworker?’ If you’re operating a hybrid model, prioritise those who WANT to work from home as full or part time homeworkers, not those who don’t want to or those who are less productive working-from-home.
  2. Flexible scheduling is key: Almost three-quarters of contact centre homeworkers choose to work-from-home to have a better work-life-balance (WLB) according to the 2020 UK HomeAgent survey, with 44% saying that they can self-select their working hours. Flexible hours is a key benefit of homeworking especially if it means people can fit work in around their other daily priorities. So consider flexible scheduling as an incentive to encourage people to homework, including the use of split shifts. 49% of Employers responding to the 2020 UK HomeAgent survey said that they currently allow their homeworkers to work multiple shifts on a single day.
  3. Don’t just assume your in-house technology and systems are suited to homeworking: Just because your technology is cloud-delivered doesn’t mean that it’s optimised for homeworking. Does your workforce scheduling technology enable homeworkers to self-schedule and work split shifts for example? Does your training platform support virtual training? Does your communications technology provide a virtual community workspace for homeworkers with live chat and team rooms? If not, you may benefit from a technology ecosystem that’s purpose-built for homeworking.
  4. Pay particular attention to people’s well being: Anxiety/Mental Health has been the biggest concern for organisations operating work-from-home centres during the current crisis according to the Call North West/SWCCF/Talkdesk Post Lockdown survey, with 66% of contact centre leaders stating that it had been a signiïŹcant or very signiïŹcant issue. Only 25% of leaders saw Anxiety/Mental Health as being less of a challenge across their entire estates in 2021, with 30% seeing it as more of a challenge.
  5. Treat homeworkers and in-house personnel the same (wherever possible): If you are operating a hybrid model it’s important that you don’t penalise employees for choosing to work-from-home or work from the office. While it’s not always possible to deliver the same advantages to both sets of workers (e.g. you can’t lay on free fruit, coffee and games machines for homeworkers), it’s important that you set similar expectations when it comes to contact handling quality and performance.
  6. Recognise the uniqueness of the work-from-home environment: As many organisations have found to their cost in recent months, if you simply lift employees out of a contact centre, ask them to work from home, and then not give them the right tools then the move can be counterproductive, leading to lower productivity, lower morale, high instances of absence, mental health issues and lower revenues/profit. Do it properly, and there’s plenty of evidence that homeworking can boost productivity, reduce absenteeism/attrition, cut costs and generate huge work-life-balance benefits. Recognise the uniqueness of the work from home environment and ‘overcompensate’ and ‘overcommunicate’ if appropriate!

Long term homeworking on the rise as city dwellers escape to the country

According to Rightmove, the number of City residents contacting estate agents to buy a home in a village rose by 126% in June & July 2020 compared to the same period last year.

This increase in buyers looking to move outside cities began in April according to the company and is continuing, with the uplift in village enquiries most notable among people living in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Birmingham & London.

Rightmove’s announcement mirrors our own experiences.

“The current crisis has led to a lot of people re-evaluating and re-prioritising various aspects of their work and home life” said Mark Walton, CEO of SensĂ©e “and it is no surprise to read that some are opting for a simpler life away from the cities.

“The rise of homeworking over the last few months will have played a part in decision-making as many people have not only come to realise that they can work from home but also that they can do so effectively.”

74% of long-term homeworkers say that a better work-life-balance is a key benefit of work-from-home according to The 2020 UK HomeAgent Survey.  86% say that they incur no travel-to-work costs, and 81% that they have removed time wasted travelling to work.

(Pic) SensĂ©e homeworkers – some views from the office window. Top row L-R: Tracey (Menai Strait, Gwynedd, Wales), Nicola (Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan); Bottom row L-R:  Cherie (Looe, Cornwall), Beverley (Snowdonia National Park, Wales), and a cycle ride after work with Hannah (Wasdale, Lake District)

 

 

 

(eBook) Contact Centres in the Fast Lane: The Rise of a New Operating Model

Contact Centres in the Fast Lane CoverCaught in a wider organisational response to the pandemic, contact centre leadership is busily responding to the demands of customer, employee and organisation.

Their combined impact is starting to redesign the way that contact centres work.

Imagination has been liberated as new responses are urgently demanded.

Many outstanding ambitions such as digital first engagement, omni-channel effectiveness, actionable insight, AI fuelled decision making, front line empowerment are now in production and being scaled.

This eBook explores why the contact centre is likely to remain in a state of accelerated change and what it might look like as part of a broader digital first capability that now underpins most organisational transformation.

View here (no need to register)