Companies Need Flexibility To Handle All Unforeseen Circumstances – Even A National Rail Strike

Throughout the Covid pandemic there was a constant debate in the media and on business platforms, such as LinkedIn, around when workers would return to the office. It was an ongoing debate around how much has changed or will change with workplace culture and traditional practices – such as commuting.

McKinsey said that companies would need to embrace the ‘next normal.’ They believe that working practices have fundamentally changed. Many analysts starting calling the post-covid work environment a new normal, but I think that McKinsey were more insightful by declaring that there will be a change, but this will then lead to further change.

When McKinsey asked employees all over the world if they wanted to return to a traditional 9-5 shift from Monday to Friday in a corporate office almost 9 in 10 people said no (87%). All these people insisted that their experience throughout the pandemic has led them to believe that working from home is viable and preferable.

Naturally, many leaders have tried to opt for a third way – the hybrid. This is when the company retains their offices, but mandates that employees must attend the office occasionally. The guidelines on this differ from company to company, but it is becoming clear that a large number of companies are now allowing home working on Mondays and Fridays with an expectation that employees will commute to the office for 2-3 days a week.

But arranging this hybrid option also creates new difficulties. If the purpose of spending some time in the office is to meet with colleagues then the office and home days need to be aligned. It takes away the flexibility of a hybrid option if the company starts mandating the days when workers must attend the office, but what is the alternative?

The reality is that many workers are now returning to the office only to find that their office day does not match with colleagues so they are commuting just to spend all day on video calls they could have done at home.

It feels like companies embracing this hybrid model are fearful of a completely remote model. They talk about ‘water-cooler moments’ in the office that can ‘spark innovation’ and yet even before the pandemic most business experts were advising leaders that the office environment kills productivity through constant interruptions.

The review company Yelp has faced this challenge. They used to have mostly office-based employees and went entirely remote throughout the pandemic. They tried to move into a hybrid post-pandemic model, but the CEO has called it ‘hell.’ Yelp doesn’t believe that hybrid work really functions and is led mostly by executives that want to keep using the office they paid for. 

Yelp is closing down offices and doubling-down on an entirely remote work culture. The CEO indicated that employees can work for the company from anywhere indefinitely. Yelp believes that there will be considerable savings from their office closures and this is being reinvested into new staff perks. The company does plan to organise in-person events that will allow teams to meet and socialise, but there is a complete focus on remote work being the future of the company.

The kind of flexibility this will give to Yelp is impressive. It’s something that more British companies may want to embrace. The UK is a smaller country than the US and it has a comprehensive rail network so employees based anywhere can get together for events fairly easily.

But speaking of the UK rail network, look at the recent headlines focused on a national strike affecting service for over a week. Commuters facing misery. Employees told to work from home. More strikes may follow… just imagine if your entire team was not relying on the rail network because they were already working from home.

There are many different situations where a remote work from home strategy can help a company to remain agile and productive. Why would any business leader want to return to the days of a long commute and dependence on transport networks and office landlords? There is another way, the next normal.

Sensée’s Jo Hodge named Outsourced Contact Centre Manager of the Year

Sensée Service Delivery Manager Jo Hodge has been named the Gold winner in the ‘Outsourced Contact Centre Manager of the Year’ category of the 2022 UK National Contact Centre Awards (UKNCC Awards). 

‘Outsourced Contact Centre Manager of the Year’ recognises Managers that have demonstrated key leadership skills in the last 12 months which had an impact on their team, team performance, or the relationship with their client.

The UKNCC Awards winners were announced at a gala awards dinner at Old Billingsgate, a prestigious Central London event venue on Monday night.

At the event, Sensée Team Manager Emma Gunner was also recognised as a finalist in the ‘Rising Star in a Large Contact Centre’ category.

The Awards event was organised and operated by the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA), an organisation that has been bringing contact centre leaders together to share best practice and experiences for over 25 years. The UKNCC Awards, in its 27th Year, is the longest running contact centre awards programme in the UK.

Simon Hunter, CCO, Sensée, commented, “Huge congratulations to Jo. She is an awesome and very hard working leader and all Sensée colleagues are delighted with her success. Very well deserved! I’d also like to congratulate the CCMA for putting on such a wonderful event, and all the winners and finalists for their achievements and amazing stories.”

How Green is Your Work-From-Home Household? (The Winners – Part 2)

Yesterday, we highlighted two of the winners’ stories from our recent ‘How Green is Your Household’ internal competition, showing how committed many of our homeworkers are to protecting the environment and reducing their carbon footprint.

Here are two more.  These are Victoria and Jasmine’s stories….

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“When I think about how green my home is I think about all the small things that make a difference.

We recycle our paper, plastic, glass and tins, we use reusable glass containers which we take to the fill station at our local supermarket for things like sugar, flour and rice.

Victoria collage

We upcycle our old furniture instead of buying new to match our rooms. Furniture manufacturing is one of the planet’s biggest causes of greenhouse gas omissions so just simply painting old furniture can make such a difference.

I have chosen not to drive and I can’t justify the impact on my carbon footprint. And of course working from home has a huge benefit on our environment. Using smart meters to manage my energy consumption is not only saving money but lowering carbon footprints – every little thing adds up.

I am at heart an environmentalist. I believe education is worth its weight in gold, so during the first lockdown I started and ran a local wildlife group, the Rossendale Wildlife Group which now has over 2000 members. We share images of our amazing wildlife to educate people on why it is so important to care for the world we live in.

We work in conjunction with our local civic pride group to provide street cleaning services where volunteers pick up rubbish, maintain community gardens, install bird nesting boxes and much more. The group brings attention to environmental issues locally and on a global scale and we provide information for our members to do their bit for the world.

Wildlife photography is big part of my life capturing the amazing flora and fauna we have to inspire people to get out and about and see what they can see themselves. I am very lucky to live in a beautiful part of the country and I want it to stay beautiful.”

Victoria

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“I have actively been trying to live a more sustainable life and have made both small and big changes. I:

  • Drive less and walk more 
  • Consciously consider purchases if they contain single use plastic and make sure to try and re-use packaging if I don’t have any other option
  • Don’t buy plastic containers and opt for glass options, when out I make sure I always have my bamboo cutlery as well as reusable bags
  • Make my own body soaps, creams and shampoos to help reduce the number of plastic bottles within our household and also gift this to friends and family
  • Frequent beaches quiet often and also take my gloves and do a cleanup, this started when I once was on holiday and shocked at the litter, after filling up 2 bags very quickly I made it a habit to clean areas I visit

Jasmine collage

  • Am part of a local community group where you can exchange and offer items you no longer need. I also post items I no longer need and offer them on to someone else who might (as this may save them purchasing new and stops an item reaching landfill so quickly)
  • Have recently started growing my own vegetables, starting with tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, chillis and peppers 
  • As a rule of thumb I try really hard to follow this rule: reduce, reuse, recycle…. with each decision I make”

Jasmine

 

How Green is Your Work-From-Home Household? (The Winners – Part 1)

Every working day Sensée employees play their part in helping the environment….. by avoiding the daily commute.

But for many colleagues, their commitment to the environmental goes a lot deeper.

Here are two of the winners’ stories from our recent ‘How Green is Your Household’ internal competition.

These are Donna and Rachel’s stories….

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“In our home we really enjoy finding ways to support and help our lovely world. We recycle all the usual suspects (paper, glass and plastics), clothes and toys and share with friends and local charities.

We also buy eco-friendly household products whenever possible and the odd box full of fruit and veg (a brilliant scheme set up to stop hundreds of thousands of tonnes of fruit and vegetables going to waste).

Donna Collage 2

I’ve just started an etsy shop called Pops Vintage Home where I sell vintage furniture. I love the process of taking something that’s about to go off to the tip and giving it some love and care ready for someone else to use and enjoy. I use eco-friendly and natural products whenever possible when working with the furniture.

Finally, we recycle old magazines to make collages/life boards filled with inspiring quotes and images. It’s fun to create and lovely to stop and look at and the images and words afterwards. They help us stay positive and focused.”

Donna

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“My garden was an uneven overgrown space and I‘ve transformed it with recycled materials.

I posted on social media asking for free scrap metal, wood, plants and anything odd that people had hanging around. I had a great response and this is what I’ve done with it all……

  • I’ve taken some old radiators and placed a threaded rod through them to make railings. The structure doubles up as a climber for my passion flower (Donated by a random old lady!)
  • Acquired an old gate (from a skip) and supported this by 2 lock cheeks that were donated by the Canal and River Trust
  • Taken an 8ft old pole from someone’s garden, topped it with a glass skull and filled it with solar fairy lightsRachel pics
  • My next door neighbour was throwing out a BBQ. I chopped it up and mixed it with some wood and metal scraps to make a very strange planter
  • Old Belfast sink and strange glass thing from a local school science lab (I did make a donation!). Not sure what I am doing with it yet but it is attached to my veg growing bed that is made out of recycled decking boards
  • A donated bird station that I upgraded to include a walking rail, water funnel and emergency tap
  • Self-made pond from donated sleepers, a concrete step and donated plant cuttings. In 2 years, I now have frogs, crested newts and a paddling pool for Buddy!
  • I refurbished some old tractor lights with Leds and hard wired them for ambient lighting… for when one has friends over for drinks and nibbles

Rachel

(Contact Centre Webinar) Addressing Today’s Key Homeworking Challenges 

Thursday 30th June 2022, 12:00 – 1.00pm

Chair: Jane Thomas, South West Contact Centre Forum and Call North West

In this webinar, we’ll discuss the key homeworking issues facing businesses today, including:

• How to better manage the consequences of cost of living increases
• Dealing with vulnerable customers
• Overcoming recruitment challenges with a WFH/hybrid model
• Addressing ‘time to competency’ concerns
• Employee engagement in a WFH/hybrid setting
• Retraining team leaders to better manage/communicate with homeworkers
• Bursting the bubble of WFM misconceptions
Using WFH resources to overcome imbalances in consumer demand

Who should attend

This online workshop is targeted at Senior Directors and Managers who are currently reflecting and strategising on the current and future challenges for quality service delivery, as well as Team Leaders involved in the day-to-day management of home and hybrid working teams.

Jane Thomas will be joined by experts from Sensée, the work-from-home and hybrid workplace specialists: Dan Philp (Service Delivery Director) and Jo Mallalieu (Team Leader).

Register for the webinar

Airbnb Demonstrates That Work Has Changed Forever

The CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, recently sent an email to employees of the company all over the world. In the message he explained that Airbnb wants to hire and retain the best employees. The company sees the idea of only hiring people near to an office as a hard limit on finding the best talent.

Mr Chesky announced a five-point plan to his employees:

  1. You can work from home or the office
  2. You can move anywhere in the country you work in and your compensation won’t change
  3. You have the flexibility to travel and work around the world
  4. We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings, off-sites, and social events
  5. We’ll continue to work in a highly coordinated way

Many companies have been charting a course into how they will function in a post-pandemic business environment, but few have created such a well-structured plan as this one from Airbnb.

Why does this simple plan contain more thought than most hybrid work plans?

First, it offers employees the choice. There are no mandated days when you must be in the office. It accepts that some people need the workspace that an office provides, but many others have learned over the past two years how to be highly effective when working remotely. Employees are given the choice to manage where they work without coercion.

Compensation is based on a job, not a work location. In the UK there is still a ‘London weighting’ in many jobs to reflect the higher cost of living and this is similarly applied in regions like California. Airbnb is discarding all these ideas about paying people more if they live in a different region and just saying ‘this is the rate for the job’ – it doesn’t matter where you live.

Employees are encouraged to travel and work remotely from their home country. This may appear normal for a travel company, but most companies steer clear of this flexibility because employees always need a home base where they pay taxes and other payroll benefits can be calculated. Airbnb is allowing complete flexibility for 90 days a year – so you will still be paid in your home country even if you spend three months working from a beach.

The last two comments are also very interesting because it shows how the company is embracing work from home and making it integral to corporate culture. Regular social events and team meetups are encouraged so team members can meet their colleagues, but meetings and off-site events will all be planned to ensure that people will be available to participate – there is no free-for-all that would allow an office culture to develop that is distinct from those working almost exclusively at home.

Airbnb has designed one of the most comprehensive and simple post-pandemic work strategies. They are taking care to avoid differences in status linked to office attendance and they are offering autonomy to employees.

Most of all, the first few lines of the email from Mr Chesky describe why the company is doing this. They had the most productive two-year period in the history of the company throughout the pandemic – remote working helped Airbnb to be more successful. 

Any company that is not embracing remote work and greater flexibility will struggle to retain their people and attract new employees. Airbnb is setting the bar high, but many other companies will follow. As this flexibility becomes the standard, just imagine a new employer asking you to be in an office at 9am every day of the week.

In May 2022, many months after a ‘return to normal’ for British workers, the average office in London is at 25% occupancy. The world of work has changed forever and remote work is now a key part of the flexibility employees expect from employers.

(Online workshop) Does WFH work? Does it make business sense?

Chair: Sandra Busby, Welsh Contact Centre Forum
Date: June 8th 2022
Time: 10.00 to 11.30am

Many people criticising work-from-home (WFH) are missing the point. No experienced WFH practitioner will ever tell you that it works for everyone.

However it does work brilliantly for some people and the key for organisations going forward will be to identify those people for whom it does work, and then to devise/implement the recruitment, management, scheduling, security, training and other strategies required to make those people engaged and productive.

WFH headlines

This online workshop will focus on the business case for WFH and how to create an effective WFH/hybrid model.

Sandra Busby will be joined by experts from home and hybrid workplace specialists Sensée – Paul Whymark, Chief Operations Officer and Homeworking Team Leader, Sarah Benkalai.

During the session, we will ask:

  • How do you get people in your organisation to recognise the value of WFH and hybrid working?
  • How can organisations measure the effectiveness of WFH and hybrid versus bricks and mortar?
  • Should WFH be a right or a reward?
  • What strategic and tactical plans will best ensure everyone is on the same work mission?
  • What should go into your homeworking strategy?
  • Who should be involved in its preparation?
  • Understanding the homeworkers’ journey: Why do people choose to WFH?
  • What behaviours/characteristics are associated with the best homeworkers?
  • How do you go about recruiting this profile of person?

Register for the online workshop

 

 

 

So… did Work From Home Lead To A Nation Of Slackers Watching Netflix?

In the early days of the pandemic there was a wave of fear that worried managers all over the world. Would their team be slacking off and enjoying daytime TV instead of working from home during the lockdown? If the team is filled with people that are happy to avoid the supervision of managers, then what would happen?

In 2020, Fortune magazine ran a story suggesting that both managers and the employees being managed were both in danger from home working. The managers would fret that the team is watching Netflix all day, but the reality was often that a 5pm finish became 9pm because without a commute to define the end of the day it just carries on.

Many companies, such as Sensée, have been facilitating work from home for years now. If you look back to the Harvard Business Review a couple of years before the pandemic started then it is filled with advice on how to ask your boss for the right to work from home. It’s well documented that home working can be just as productive as in-office work.

The HBR advice sounds almost charming after the experience everyone has had over the past couple of years: “If you’re proposing to work from home a single day per week, try for Wednesday. This way, your boss won’t perceive your request as a means to elongate your weekends, Nicholas Bloom says. ‘Wednesday is not a slacker day,’ he says. ‘It’s the middle of the week, and it’s a day for concentrated work, like detailed analysis.’”

Professor Bloom of Stanford University is well known globally for his work on research into modern working practices. His research into the Chinese travel agency CTrip has been cited as the classic example of how working from home can function well.

But even Nicholas Bloom was advising people how not to look like a slacker for wanting the flexibility to work from home. This idea of spending all day scrolling the Netflix menu is interesting because of exactly how wrong it was. When the pandemic happened, and most office-based workers had to start working from home, a subtle shift in managerial power also took place.

Working remotely, people need to be judged more on their deliverables, on what they are actually doing. There is far less scope for a manager to have favourites or team members who create a lot of noise in meetings, but then deliver very little. The typical “office politics” of being visible and yet doing very little doesn’t work when output is being measured transparently.

An RTÉ podcast from Ireland takes on the point directly: “When you are working remotely, people see the product and not the process. If your usual work process is to sit at your desk playing Solitaire (or Wordle) on your computer, this will not work out so well when working remotely. One of the early myths about remote work was that everyone would be a slacker. The data suggest almost the opposite, that remote work has probably made slacking less likely and less problematic.”

It’s a valid point that companies need to apply some systems and measurement to ensure that output is being measured fairly and transparently, but this isn’t difficult. It’s what most companies should be doing anyway and it can be done without the sneaky “spy software” that some companies have reverted to using. Monitoring deliverables doesn’t mean covertly spying on people at home using their webcam.

If this structure is in place then a great deal of workplace toxicity can be removed. A work from home team can actually feel more like a team than one that is physically together in the office. The slackers we all know from the office have nowhere to hide when their deliverables are monitored – for most people that’s a positive outcome from the pandemic experience.

Sensée to showcase its Contact Centre Outsourcing and SaaS solutions at BIBA 2022

Sensée will be demonstrating its Cloudworks™ technology platforms – including LiveDesk™ and TeamTonic® – and highlighting the company’s full range of Contact Centre Outsourcing solutions at BIBA 2022.

The BIBA Conference 2022 is the UK’s largest insurance broking event.

Book a meeting with a Sensée consultant at BIBA 2022 by emailing us today

 

 

How Is WFH Seen Around The World?

When Covid arrived, the world of work changed, with huge pressure on businesses to embrace work from home (WFH). And what we soon discovered was that the barriers facing businesses looking to transition to WFH were much more significant in some countries and regions than in others.

In highly developed countries, like the UK, moving from the office to home was an unusual challenge, but one made easier by the fact that most people had an internet connection at home and some space in which to work – even if it was just the kitchen table.

Compare that with India and the Philippines, two countries very popular as destinations for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). The latest research on popular BPO locations by Ryan Strategic Advisory places them at number one and two respectively. So how did they cope during the pandemic and what is the attitude to WFH now in these countries?

There were many challenges in the Philippines. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) rated internet speed the slowest in the entire region. There are only three broadband subscriptions for each one hundred people – compared to around 41 in the UK. The UN Broadband commission ranks the Philippines very poorly for access to the internet.

Unbelievably, some companies in the Philippines sent their employees home and then fined them for not having good enough broadband to be able to effectively work from home. Many companies in the customer service sector were forced to partner with local telecoms players leading to a situation where it was only possible to initiate a WFH strategy if all employees had high quality broadband at home.

India faced similar challenges. While BPOs could ensure that internet quality in the office was always effective, it was much more difficult to guarantee good connectivity with people working from home. India has even less access to broadband at home than the Philippines, with just 1.6 connections per 100 people.

As late as November 2021, around three-quarters (72%) of Indian employees that were working from home said that their internet speed was not good enough to create an optimal working environment.

The Philippines government has insisted on BPO employees all being back in the office from last month – effectively delivering a government ban on any WFH customer service work. This is not because of the poor quality infrastructure, it is because many BPO companies accept grants and tax rebates to locate their offices in specific locations – if everyone is working from home then all these financial incentives are pointless.

Now how do all these employees feel now the pandemic is more than two years old?

In the Philippines the message is clear, 9 out of 10 employees want to either continue working from home or expect to be able to some of the time. In India, just one in five employees would prefer to work from an office and 91% want more control over their work location and hours in future.

So what’s the message we can take from this? It’s clear that popular BPO destinations, such as India and the Philippines, really struggled with the transition to WFH. With few homes connected to high quality broadband it often required support from the telcos to facilitate the transition.

But now people in these locations have upgraded their internet connection and had experience of WFH it seems remarkably similar to locations such as the UK and US. These employees want more flexibility and more control over their working hours and location.

This may be a challenge if companies have a strong culture that is based on being present in the office, but executives need to pay close attention to these preferences. Any company that wants to be seen as an employer of choice now needs to offer more flexibility as standard. This is how you will attract the best talent. Even the Wall St banks have now acknowledged this. 

It’s going to be difficult in regions like the Philippines, where the government is telling workers to all get back to the office, but eventually the message will be clear – people want more flexibility at work and WFH is an important lever to achieving this.