Bringing Teams Together: The Challenges And Opportunities Of Hybrid Working

Our recent survey on Hybrid Working in the Contact Centre has been published as a free e-book you can download here.

The survey found that hybrid is increasingly being adopted as ‘normal’ practice across the industry, generating benefits for both employers and employees.

When asked what they saw as the main benefits of homeworking, Directors/Managers said:

  • Happier and More Productive Employees (cited by 72% of respondents)
  • Lower Carbon Footprint (61%)
  • Additional Business Continuity (52%) 
  • Traditional Recruitment Barriers Removed (45% of respondents). 

These benefits immediately stand out. Three quarters of Directors/Managers say that their teams are happier and more productive. Now imagine how that translates into improved customer experiences and reduced attrition.

Likewise, almost half of respondents point out that homeworking removing many of the traditional barriers to recruitment (such as physical location). So now picture how much easier it becomes to find the best talent.

Homeworking can clearly have a huge plus side. But it’s important to recognise the challenges too. Pastoral Care (68%) and Communicating Effectively (66%) are the two issues cited most often by the respondents as key hybrid working issues. These issues really focus on the mental health concerns of some workers if they feel isolated at home and the ability for managers to operate in a completely remote environment.

We can see where some of these issues may originate. Under half (48%) of respondents think that their organisations have given Managers and Supervisors sufficient training and advice to manage, train and support their work-from-home teams.

This is an immediate red flag. It suggests that companies have embraced home and hybrid work without fundamentally changing how their managers work and communicate with teams. During the pandemic this was understandable as it was a period of crisis but in 2023 it is inexcusable.

Managers need to be equipped for this workplace. They need to adapt to a working environment where people are measured more by what they deliver than their ability to always be seen at their desks. 

This question of managers not being ready to manage remote workers feeds back into the pastoral challenges that team members are facing. If someone is hired into a WFH role then they will expect to work from home. This is very different to the pandemic situation where office-based people were sent home as an emergency measure. So the isolation and issues faced during the pandemic are now less of a direct issue.

The WFH Manager must also be a great communicator. Managers that are not familiar with the management and communication processes required to lead a large remote team may end up leaving some of the team feeling isolated and without any focus.

This often comes down to having the processes – and tech. Our own teams use a tech platform called LiveDesk that enables all colleagues to function together in a virtual environment as if they were really together in person. This can be a game changer for both advisers and managers. It allows people to really feel they are a part of a team and it allows managers to communicate more effectively.

These issues of communication and employee care are repeated in most studies of home and hybrid work but many of the solutions are surprisingly simple. It just requires a mindset shift. You can’t manage your @home colleagues as if they are a group of isolated individuals.

Bring everyone on the ‘same work mission’ together as a single team – regardless of whether they work at home, hybrid or in the office – and then manage that team as a whole.

The ebook is a fascinating insight into UK contact centres, with all new survey data from the end of 2022. For more information, and to download the complete ebook, please visit our website.

Are businesses trying to do hybrid working on the cheap?

The Economist magazine called hybrid work the worst of both worlds. The Eat Sleep Work Repeat podcast with Bruce Daisley suggested that companies are confused about which days people should be at the office. The Guardian suggested that inequality in the workplace is further enhanced by hybrid work.

The common theme here is confusion. Companies went from 100% in-office to 100% work-from-home (WFH) during the pandemic and now can’t seem to manage a blend that embraces the best of both worlds. And some businesses are losing patience. Amazon has said that hybrid should be treated more like office-based with some flexibility – so the majority of time should be back in the office. But if you look at employee surveys taken over the past couple of years, the prevailing sentiment is clear…. most employees want to WFH (for at least part of the working week).

Is the problem really that companies are trying to do hybrid on the cheap?

Take a look at who is commenting on WFH and hybrid issues in the media. It is almost always the Human Resources (HR) leaders, with the debate focusing heavily on things like: the health & wellbeing of employees, potential hybrid working obstacles and contractual issues (such as employers’ potential liability for workplace health and safety), how to connect colleagues to each other (and to their managers), and what ‘skipping the daily commute’ really means from an HR perspective.

While unquestionably important, are these the main issues companies should be concerning themselves with?

For example, what about the question of whether businesses need to change the way they manage remote teams. Whether career progression plans need to be re-designed. How managers should measure and improve the output of WFH colleagues. Whether tech can be used in new and exciting ways to help businesses communicate more effectively with their remote teams. Homeworker security and compliance. Or how teams and individuals can be scheduled to better deliver business efficiency and an improved work-life-balance.

Are these operational and tech issues – many of which are at the heart of WHY businesses and individuals are interested in WFH and hybrid – equally, if not even more, important?

Embracing WFH and making it really work, even if your company is only moving to a hybrid model, requires a lot more than just a daily Zoom call to check in.

Contact centres that sent all their people home during the pandemic managed that crisis by adapting business processes and extensively using tech tools like Teams, Zoom, Slack and WhatsApp (most of which were originally purchased for a different purpose). It was never ideal but had to work because there were usually no alternatives.

Looking forward, does it make sense to build your shiny new future on the same makeshift tools and processes… especially when there is now much more time to sit down and consider built-for-purpose solutions?

The answer is clearly ‘no’.  It’s time for companies to unequivocally recognise that the work environment has changed completely… and change both the processes they use to manage, and the tech they use to support their people. If executives continue to manage remote workers as if they are still based together in an office then we will just see this cycle of confusion continuing endlessly.

Creating Digital Workplaces is a great example. Sensée has long argued that businesses need Digital Workplace platforms (like its own LiveDesk) to connect people together into teams whether they are in an office, in a shared workspace, or at home – so that they can collaborate as quickly and effectively as if they were sitting alongside each other. These new platforms are not just about better internal management, they are also proven to improve CX, quality, productivity and enhance employee engagement.

Another watershed moment will likely come when companies take shift self-scheduling seriously and give their employees the tools needed to better manage their workdays around other daily priorities.

Changing a few HR policies isn’t going to make hybrid work – this is about culture, process, and action. Arguing about whether Wednesday is or isn’t an office day isn’t going to make hybrid work. Sending endless invitations to status updates on Teams isn’t going to make hybrid work.

Hybrid will only truly work well when managers realise that it requires a new approach to work processes and tech – embrace this and the future is yours. You really can’t do hybrid on the cheap by pretending that nothing has changed except the commute.

(Webinar) Hybrid and Home Working – A Guide for Team Leaders



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


Think you understand what it takes to be a great Team Leader (TL)? Well think again… because the switch to home & hybrid working is starting to bring about major changes in the way organisations view the role.

  • In an office setting, TLs must be managers, supervisors, motivators and enforcers (!) – as well as providers of practical support (especially when it comes to problem solving, knowledge and delivering emotional support)
  • In a work-from-home setting, all those qualities still apply. But, in addition, TLs have an even more important role to play in employee engagement, communication, health and well-being support, and building team culture (WHEREVER people work

Join our webinar, speak to experts, and share your experiences of what it takes to be a great WFH and hybrid working Team Leader. Jane Thomas will be joined by specialists from Sensée.

Register your webinar place

(Free eBook) Hybrid working in the Contact Centre Survey Results

Hybrid working is here to stay!

According to our survey of 102 UK contact centres, two-thirds (66%) believe that 50% or more of their advisers will be working from home (at least part of the time) by the end of 2023.

The ‘How successfully has your contact centre embraced hybrid working?’ market survey is the most comprehensive study of the hybrid working plans of top UK companies conducted post lockdown.

Conducted by Pitch Marketing Surveys and supported by Sensée, the Welsh Contact Centre Forum and SuccessKPI, the survey was conducted in Nov/Dec 2022.

Read the full Survey Results eBook (no need to register).