(CCMA Online Seminar) Managing Health & Wellbeing in a Hybrid Working Contact Centre

Date: Thu 16 Sep 2021
Time: 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

A November 2020 report from McKinsey showed that 62 per cent of employees globally considered mental health issues to be a top challenge during the COVID-19 crisis, with higher reporting among diverse groups. The same report painted a picture of employers that are scrambling to meet the moment: 96 per cent of companies globally provided additional mental-health resources to employees, but only one in six employees reported feeling supported.

As part of the CCMA Hybrid Series, this online seminar will look at the strategies, measures and tools that organisations should consider to better manage health and wellbeing in hybrid contact centres.

Hosted by Leigh Hopwood, CCMA’s CEO, the event will feature:

Steve Mosser: Sensée’s Founder, and CEO and CIO of Cloudworks

Abigail Hirshman: Director Workplace Programmes (Mental Health and Wellbeing), The Charlie Waller Trust. A leading consultant in mental health & wellbeing at work, and former Head of Workplace Mental Health and Well Being at ACAS.

Abigail and Steve will be discussing:

  • How mental health and wellbeing issues experienced amongst homeworkers are often different to those experienced by office workers – and must be handled accordingly
  • The importance of creating Digital Workplaces for hybrid and homeworking communities that mirror the communications processes and resources that people have come to expect from office-based working
  • The vital role of the Team Leader in monitoring and dealing with mental health and wellbeing issues amongst frontline workers
  • Why flexible working and work-life balance are crucial to better health and wellbeing, and therefore to the success of home and hybrid initiatives.

Abigail Hirshman

Abigail Hirshman leads Charlie Waller’s highly experienced team of mental health trainers and consultants in their mission to help make a real and sustained difference within workplaces.

With an MA in Psychotherapy an MSc in Psychology Abigail has over twenty-five years’ experience in mental health and wellbeing at work from a clinical, research and delivery perspective.

Abigail is an active member of several mental health at work advisory groups, has sat as the workplace expert for the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on mental wellbeing at work and is regularly invited to chair and present at national conferences

Abigail joined the Charlie Waller Trust from Acas, the independent national advisory body for employers and employees, where she was Head of Workplace Mental Health and Wellbeing.

Abigail has established relationship with global brands from the public, private and third sector and has significant experience in providing consultancy support on the development and implementation of pragmatic tailored strategies to support mental health in the workplace.

Steve Mosser

Steve is the Founder of Sensée, and the CEO & CIO of its Cloudworks division. He is a homeworking and HomeAgent solution architect for contact centres of all sizes and industries. Steve is passionate about designing, building and deploying solutions that truly provide added value, are sustainable and fix problems, not just mend them.

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(Webinar) Building a Sense of Togetherness in Hybrid (Home/Office) Teams

Chair: Sandra Busby, Welsh Contact Centre Forum
Date: Sept 8th 2021
Time: 10.00 to 11.30am

In this interactive Q&A panel session, we will discuss how to optimise communications and team management to build team morale in the new world of hybrid (home/office) working and 100% work-from-home (WFH).

  • How do you replicate the ‘team office’ feeling for homeworkers?
  • How do you build a Digital Workplace where workers on the same work mission can be together (regardless of whether they WFH or from the office)?
  • How do you facilitate and manage social interactions between work colleagues?
  • What special skills do WFH managers and Team Leaders (TLs) need (and how are they different to their office-based equivalents)?
  • How do you ensure home and office-based employees receive the same training?

Sandra Busby will be joined for a Q&A panel by experienced Sensée managers Jo Hodge (Service Delivery Manager), Sam Shields (Team Leader) and Sarah Birch (Head of Business Development).

Agenda:

10.00 – 10.05: Introductions and agenda (Sandra Busby)
10.05 – 10.15: How has the contact centre industry adapted to hybrid working post lockdown (Mark Walton, CEO, Sensée)
10.15 – 10.45: Q&A panel
10.45 – 11.30: Open Floor Q&A session led by Sandra Busby

To attend, please register here

Work and career expectations are changing forever

The Washington Post recently published a study revealing that a third of all American workers under 40 – and a significant 22% of all US employees – are now seeking a new career challenge.

For some it’s because they, or a close family member, were taken ill during the pandemic. For others it’s because lockdown has led them to re-evaluate what’s really important and they’ve decided they want something different from both their work and their career.

As one law firm employee put it: “If you come out of the pandemic the same as you were, you’ve missed an opportunity to evolve and grow as a person, I just realised I needed to do better.”

The Post claims that the pandemic has created a ‘carpe diem’ effect where people have become acutely aware of how short life can be and are now questioning their life choices. In other words, Americans are fundamentally re-imagining their relationships with the workplace.

Research by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) takes this observation a step further, suggesting change is manifesting itself in a number of ways:

  • Workers feel more powerful than ever: They want better conditions, better jobs, and better pay – they mostly want more flexibility from employers.
  • Housing costs are higher: In particular, locations where it’s possible to live away from major cities and still have access to them when needed.
  • E-commerce has exploded: growing three times faster in 2020 than previously experienced.

MGI predicts that over a quarter of all office-based workers will now spend some time at home as workers come to expect greater flexibility. And it is not just in the US where attitudes are changing.

Just last week in the UK, for example, there was much debate about civil servants taking longer to return to the office than Government officials expected – with many workers claiming they don’t want to return, and that 2020 proved the business case for work from home (WFH).

When the 2020 UK HomeAgent Survey asked long term homeworkers why they work from home they gave three main reasons:

  1. To achieve a better work-life balance by fitting work hours around their other daily commitments 
  2. To eliminate time wasted commuting 
  3. To eliminate the cost of commuting 

The survey was conducted prior to lockdown. 

WFH is not the same as flexible working but they are often very close. Indeed, people who choose to WFH often do so because of the flexibility they gain to work the hours they want around their other daily commitments.

But for most employers who genuinely wish to embrace ‘flexibility’ it goes beyond just offering flexible hours. It’s about the culture of the organisation. It’s the ability to take a day off without needing to fake an illness. It’s about feeling that you are valued as a team member and knowing that the work you are doing is helping other people.

It’s not that American workers are throwing down their tools and having an existential crisis because they feel their work has no value. In many cases it’s probably because they would be happy to continue in their job, but now want the ability to balance their family life and commitments with work and to feel genuinely valued by their employer.

The kind of ‘forced WFH’ we saw at the start of the pandemic was far from flexible. In this situation, employees were expected to match their normal office hours from home – a solid 8-hour shift from the living room. WFH is an important component of the flexibility that many employees are now looking for, but it’s not the complete answer.

Employers Should Not Penalise Employees Who Want To Retain Flexibility After The Pandemic 

The UK government has now scrapped the advice that anyone who can possibly work from home should stay at home – the Covid restrictions and lockdowns are finished.

Many commentators referred to the lifting of restrictions as a time to celebrate – ‘we are regaining our freedom’ was an often-repeated statement, but the reality appears to be more complex. In Glasgow, only 8% of office-based employees have returned to their office.

One area of the economy that cannot just switch back to normal overnight is the large number of people that continue to work from home. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, led government comments by saying that his career could not have taken off if he was working from home. Mr Sunak even went so far as to warn young people that not returning to the office now would damage their career.

There was an outcry when unnamed UK government ministers were quoted as saying that civil servants who refuse to return to the office should face a pay cut. The media has not named the ministers involved, but it has been acknowledged that these opinions came directly from the cabinet. The Prime Minister has strenuously denied that there are any such plans.

However, there is an issue. The Department of Health and Social Care reportedly abandoned plans for its civil servants to be back at their desks between four and eight days a month from September. The department was already offering what some might argue are flexible terms – one or two days a week in the office – and yet after a year and a half without commuting, these employees don’t want to return to the office, even for reduced days. This experience has also been reflected in the private sector in several recent examples too.

This is certainly not a partisan, or strictly a political, issue. Any government would now be struggling to encourage their civil servants to snap back to how things were in 2019. This is because every employee, in the public or private sector, has now seen that there is an alternative to that long train ride, trudging through the rain, and an awful coffee machine followed by a fixed number of hours at desk.

Some private sector employers have started exploring how they can integrate home-based working on a permanent basis. Google has created a formula that calculates the discount to your salary if you stay at home and it appears that Google employees have accepted this.

However, we should be careful to compare Silicon Valley to the rest of the world. Even inside the US, the region around San Francisco is an extremely expensive place to live. If you can get a well paid job at Google and live in a lower cost city, or even another state, then the work-from-home pay reduction is probably acceptable.

This may not apply in the UK, but many companies are already asking the question – as the debate within the civil service indicates. A ‘London weighting’ salary premium is usually paid by employers in London and this salary boost may be at risk for employees who don’t want to return to the daily commute.

This is a debate that we will see playing out in the coming months as employees start deciding how they want to work after the pandemic. Even someone living fairly close to London, such as in Windsor, needs to spend around £3,500 a year on train fares and will spend 454 hours on a train – assuming there are no delays. Many employers will start questioning the need for London weighting and how much the employees are saving by not commuting.

Lawyers suggest that it will not be easy to slash contracted salaries, but I believe there is a bigger picture here. In all these stories about cutting salaries for home-based employees there is an implication that they are working less, or should feel lucky they are not commuting, or may be getting away with an early finish because their manager is not watching. Organisations that feel they need to enforce different salaries and other working conditions may in fact just be creating a two-tier workforce. 

At Sensée, working from home is how we all work. Offices have their purpose and they can play a useful role in helping teams work together, but it is possible to be a valuable member of a team when working from home. It’s not just a theoretical possibility that needs to be proven – we knew it even before the pandemic.

There is a place for workers based in the home and for workers based in the office. As Mr Sunak suggested, for those starting out in their career it can often be useful to have knowledgable colleagues just a desk away, but with imagination much of the connectivity and networking we value in offices can be replicated in a home-working environment. Plus, some people just don’t want to work in an office. 

This debate needs to explore the positive aspects of working from home. The additional time that families can spend together. The greater control over working hours. The reduction in presenteeism and office politics. The idea that employees who want more flexibility should be penalised isn’t how any twenty-first century employer should behave. We need a wider range of voices contributing to this debate – even office landlords are accepting that they may need to change – so why aren’t more employers?

Building A Culture Of Communication That Facilitates Better WFH

Our CEO Mark Walton recently featured as a guest on an episode of the CX Files podcast. You can follow the link to listen to the entire conversation, but I’d like to follow up on one of the areas that Mark discussed with the podcast host, Mark Hillary. This was around the technology required to make work-from-home (WFH) really operate effectively.

Mark explained that a remote and distributed team can be connected using tools such as Microsoft Teams, but you still miss out on the dynamics of being together in the office. Even something as simple as an agent waving to a team leader to indicate that they need help is more complex, unless you have tools that can build these bonds and reinforce teamwork. You need comms that are always on, not just for meetings.

Our platform, called LiveDesk, delivers an always-on digital workplace for homeworkers as well as office-based workers that are ‘on the same work mission’.

If you think about twelve people working on a team in the office then they are probably all seated close together – perhaps on a long table or pods that are next to each other and clustered in one physical space.

Twelve people working remotely is slightly different – it’s harder to think of them as a team. It feels more like twelve people working alone in their own little silo.

This is where LiveDesk helps. It’s always on and creates a virtual workplace where everyone within the distributed team can work together in a single place. Your managers are there, all the subject matter experts are there, you can access the IT and HR teams there, and you can also use the same tool to chat socially with colleagues. It truly is a virtual representation of the office. It brings the entire team together.

Sensée team members use (at least) two screens. One is for their main work tasks, such as the CRM or contact handling system. Another is for LiveDesk. This means that their communication platform is always running and always visible.

When the Covid lockdowns started in March 2020, many companies sent their employees home and asked them to continue working remotely but without this kind of communication infrastructure. Calls on Teams or Zoom are usually pre-arranged meetings, not like calling across to a team member and asking if they can help you with a customer question – right now!

LiveDesk allows team members to work remotely without many of the problems experienced by companies forced into homeworking during lockdown.  Such as the sense of isolation and inability to have more casual meetings and social interactions without first needing to book calls.

Add in the Sensée TeamTonic solution, which enables flexible working by allowing people to self-select the shifts they work, and one is looking at a comprehensive environment that supports an improved better work-life balance as well as supporting a work environment that is as close to the office as possible when working remotely.

In many respects, it’s easy to make a case for saying that work from home using LiveDesk and TeamTonic is preferable to working in the office. You don’t need to commute or handle the distractions that are normal in an office, and you may create a better work-life balance.

In addition, and what’s often overlooked, is that you can also establish a really strong sense of teamwork and an ability to talk to anyone whenever needed. Remote teams can be every bit as tight as office-based teams – you just need the right communications and scheduling platforms to make it happen.