74 per cent of contact centre employees who homework have a better work-life-balance says new survey

HomeAgent PicThe UK’s largest contact centre homeworking survey “The 2020 UK HomeAgent Study” reveals that more and more UK contact centres are turning to homeworking as they discover its huge potential financial and productivity benefits. The survey was conducted between November 2019 and the middle of March 2020, prior to the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK.

The 2020 survey was managed/published by the UK Contact Centre Forum and sponsored by Content Guru, Sensée and SYKES. It is the second time the survey has been run, the first was in 2016. 300 Managers/Directors and HomeAgents took part in the 2020 UK HomeAgent study by completing online questionnaire surveys.

When comparing work-at-home with office-based contact centre operations, 75 per cent of organisations responding to the survey say that Attrition is lower, 61 per cent say Productivity is better, and 54 per cent say Absenteeism is better. By comparison, in the 2016 study, the figures were 42, 46, and 58 per cent respectively.

As well as delivering significant advantages to businesses, homeworking is also delivering huge benefits to agents. 74 per cent of HomeAgents say that they have a better work-life-balance. 86 per cent say they they have no travel-to-work costs, while 81 per cent say that they have removed the time wasted travelling to work. By comparison, in the 2016 study, the figures were 65, 73, and 68 per cent respectively.

Other key findings from the 2020 survey include:

  • 75 per cent of HomeAgents are aged 35 or over; 61 per cent have over 10 years experience in customer contact roles
  • 71 per cent of HomeAgents say that they are happy (at least some of the time); 65 per cent are proud to tell people where they work
  • 50 per cent of organisations allow HomeAgents to work multiple shifts on a single day
  • 97 per cent of HomeAgents experience virtual training; 70 per cent of these think it is just as effective as office-based training
  • 59 per cent of HomeAgents supply/buy their own laptops; 76 per cent supply their own broadband/internet
  • 79 per cent of HomeAgents meet colleagues once a month or less

“Our survey results reveal that interest in homeworking has never been higher” said Trevor Butterworth, CEO of the UK Contact Centre Forum. “Compared with our 2016 Survey, an even greater number of HomeAgents are reporting that they’re enjoying a better work-life-balance, have no travel-to-work costs, and have removed the time wasted travelling to work, with Employers reporting greater gains in terms of lower Attrition and Absenteeism, and higher Productivity.

“Subsequent to this research concluding, Covid-19 has changed the homeworking picture significantly. Recent research from ContactBabel/Channel Doctors indicates that 84 per cent of UK contact centres are now mainly home-based*. However, this doesn’t change the significance of our research. In fact, quite the opposite. As companies emerge from lockdown, they need to make tough decisions about what the ‘new normal’ will look like, and where homeworking fits in. This research can provide them with the confidence that homeworking is a sound option from an ethical, financial and employee engagement perspective.

“It should come as no surprise that an April 2020 UKCCF webinar poll of 156 organisations revealed that 47 per cent of contact centres that have introduced homeworking in response to Covid-19 see it as a longer term strategy rather than just a short term measure.”

To download an Executive Summary of the 2020 UK HomeAgent survey, please go to https://bit.ly/3jJPIkF

 

Sensée creates Strategic Framework for Successful Homeworking

Sensée has created a Strategic Framework to assist organisations in migrating employees to homeworking, and optimising their strategies.

Rob Smale photo copy

Delivered by Sensée’s experienced operational consultants, the Strategic Framework has six Core Pillars:

1. Selection Of Model Homeworkers
2. Workforce Flexibility and Planning
3. Data Security and Compliance
4. Employee Contracts and Policies
5. Virtual Management
and Training
6. Employee Engagement and Support

“According to a recent poll*, 47 per cent of UK contact centres that implemented homeworking (for the first time) in response to the Covid-19 crisis now see it as a long term strategy” said Mark Walton, CEO of Sensée.

“However, they shouldn’t underestimate the size of the task. When asked about their biggest homeworking challenge, 23 per cent of poll respondents said Pastoral Care (i.e. isolation/mental health), 22 per cent Motivation/Productivity, 17 per cent Telephony/Technology Services, 14 per cent Communication with Remote Workers, and 12 per cent Staff Management.”

“The current crisis has opened the eyes of the world to homeworking” said Rob Smale, Director, Sensée. “However, organisations are quickly discovering that the real challenge of setting up effective operations is a lot more complex than just getting people connected.  The more difficult job is to optimise homeworking – not just from a technology perspective but also from a recruitment, on-boarding, management, training, scheduling and communications perspective.  Our 16 years’ experience of operating contact centre homeworking has shown that all six points within the Strategic Framework need to be considered in order to manage a successful transition”.

Details of the Sensée Framework, and how Sensée’s Operational Consultants can assist your organisation create and implement a long-term homeworking strategy, can be found at https://bit.ly/2zip4Oi

* The online poll was conducted amongst 156 UK contact centres in April/May 2020

Pic: Rob Smale, Director of Professional Services

Work-from-home to be part of the new normal for over 50 per cent of UK contact centres

Work-from-home could be the post Covid-19 lockdown norm for the majority of contact centre workers according to a new online poll.

The poll, conducted in April and May 2020 amongst a total of 156 UK contact centre professionals, set out to discover the state of contact centre homeworking during the Covid-19 crisis.

86 per cent of poll respondents revealed that they had introduced homeworking in response to the Coronavirus crisis – with 53 per cent of these seeing it as a short term measure, and 47 per cent a long term strategy.  12 per cent already had homeworkers, and 2 per cent either had no plans to introduce homeworking, or hadn’t yet implemented homeworking plans.

When asked about their biggest homeworking challenge, 23 per cent said Pastoral Care (i.e. isolation/mental health), 22 per cent Motivation/Productivity, 17 per cent Telephony/Technology Services, 14 per cent Communication with Remote Workers, and 12 per cent Staff Management.  Training, IT Security, and Recruitment were also identified.  Only 2 per cent of respondents thought that they ‘had homeworking nailed’.

“Contact centre homeworking has been around for over 20 years but only recently, and under the most difficult conditions, has it become a reality for the majority of contact centre workers” said Mark Walton, CEO of Sensée.  “What our poll shows is that it not only provides an effective short term business continuity solution but is increasingly being seen as a lot more.  Over 50 per cent of UK contact centres are now looking at homeworking as part of their longer term strategy.”       

(eBook) Managing Contact Centre Homeworkers: 20 Quick Tips

20 Tips Homeworking Management eBook

 

Finding it difficult to support your remote teams?

Unsure how to motivate and boost work-at-home productivity?

Struggling with information security and compliance?

 

 

 

Read our new eBook and learn how to get on top of these and many other remote management issues.

View here (no need to register)

Homeworking: A New World of Work

(This feature, written by Sensée’s Group CEO Steve Mosser, was originally published on contact-centres.com and is republished with permission)

So, amidst the chaos aSteve Mossernd panic launched by the Covid-19 crisis, you’ve managed to get your staff to continue working by enabling them to do their duties from home? Good.

As a fervent advocate of homeworking for the last 20 years, we feel the first part of our mission is finally hitting home (pun intended): homeworking is not a nice to have, it’s a must have for any business serious about Continuity.

However, as most businesses are now realising, the challenge wasn’t really in getting someone able to login and work remotely. The real business challenge is how to you resolve visibility, control and security, and critically, how do you keep your people engaged and thriving.

How do you know what’s expected of your management in this new world of work? A simplistic and improvised “9 to 5” approach won’t cut it.

Homeworking can certainly be virtuous on many fronts: studies show people are generally more productive when working temporarily from home. Homeworking also often leads @home workers to lose sense of boundaries between private (home) and work life. In time, this leads to staff over-working, and eventually putting themselves under too much pressure and spells dangers of burnout. I mean: how do you know what’s expected of your management in this new world of work? A simplistic and improvised “9 to 5” approach won’t cut it. Particularly, in households with children, the need for their care and the opportunities for disruption are now at an all-time high at all times of the day.

This raises the challenge of sustainability of working from home. A sustainable homeworking system has to take all the realities of making home the workplace into account and have solutions at the ready.

A Scheduling Service Fit for Homeworking

As a 100% virtual enterprise with over 800 employees working entirely from home – whatever their function – Sensée has had to create solutions to ensure that people are productive, secure and most importantly, happy. At the heart of our ecosystem is TeamTonic, a scheduling service which enables our 800+ employees to self-roster (aka self-schedule) their work time against their private lives. This means that they are empowered to decide when they are working and manage their household accordingly. In essence, it enables our people to build work around their lives, rather than vice versa. Not only does this create stability, it is essential to @home employee well-being, and their own sustainability of working from home.

Without staff in line of sight, you need a systematic solution that is “cheat-proof” and drives positive behaviours without establishing a Big Brother state.

For our enterprise clients, it means they are clear when work starts and stops for each employee, and the TeamTonic tracking system means that if/when there are interruptions in work, this is automagically updated into their performance management and payroll systems. Kids streaming 4k content on YouTube chokes and kills the VPN used for work? TeamTonic automatically updates downtime and productivity loss. Trying to do so manually may work for a handful of individuals, but anything beyond will create management and HR chaos. If ignored by (over) trusting, it could lead to abuse. We all know that in contact centres, the opportunities for work avoidance are high, and unfortunately, are often attempted and successful. Without staff in line of sight, you need a systematic solution that is “cheat-proof” and drives positive behaviours without establishing a Big Brother state. TeamTonic strikes a balance between privacy and work monitoring through automation.

Security and BYOD

Which leads us to the final, and perhaps most critical piece: Security. In this time of business improvisation in mass deploying staff at home, the opportunities for data leaks, loss and theft are at an all-time high. It’s a hacker feast right now. Whether it’s equipment you’ve provided or not, the risks to your customer data are real.

We’ve long promoted a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) architecture as it removes the burden of supplying and supporting equipment (as well as the liability of it failing and having to continue paying your staff until it’s fixed).

Our solutions add up a complete technology ecosystem …….  that today not only manages complex operations for over 800 Sensée HomeAgents but also thousands of client staff in well-known UK organisations.

However any Infosec person will tell you it’s not for the fainthearted and it creates a realm of IS nightmares: how do you ensure the machine is clean, free of viruses, spyware, malware etc? Our SafeOS solution enables you to turn any Windows machine into a secure thin client with 2 Factor Authentication, Schedule Access and encrypted connections. It’s not only the best security money can buy, it’s actually more secure (and scalable) than providing your own equipment to your staff.

Together, our solutions add up a complete technology ecosystem that’s purpose built for homeworking. An ecosystem that today not only manages complex operations for over 800 Sensée HomeAgents but also thousands of client staff in well-known UK organisations.

So, the dawn of homeworking is finally here. Perhaps forcibly so, but we should now take this opportunity to identify and address its implications on management, security and employee-wellbeing. A world-class homeworking solution is one that raises the bar across these three areas so that everybody but the hackers thrive. We call this Homeworking 2.0.

Will home working be the new normal in 2021?

In a recent LinkedIn post, CX specialist Peter Massey looks forward to What’s After Covid?

He asks what lessons organisations have learnt during lockdown, and what the ‘new normal’ will be when everything returns to business-as-usual.

“Now is the time to redesign your future state with the best of your breakthroughs” he advises “and don’t just take it for granted you’ll go straight back. Ask your staff what they think of homeworking – you might be missing a trick if you don’t!”

Bill Price, a US-based colleague of Peter, also offered his thoughts on home working within the post. They include:

“More than 50% of contact centres will not re-appear (after lockdown) but be replaced by work-from-home and better digital self service.”

“Work-from-home will remain a much bigger part of contact centre operating models.”

“(Organisations) will break free from workforce management (WFM) tools with standard time shifts…. the new normal will have far more options that suit agent needs.”

“Knowledge bases and communities need to be properly resourced in real time to provide up-to-date information or be replaced by simple tools for knowledge sharing.”

“The shift to cloud technology was well underway… but will accelerate even more.”

If Bill’s prediction that over 50% of US contact centres are shortly to be replaced by work-from-home and digital self-service is correct, then the industry is in for its biggest transformation since the first call centres appeared on the scene back in the 1970s.

The reality for the UK industry may be somewhat less dramatic.  In an April 2020 poll conducted as part of a homeworking webinar, we asked ‘have you introduced contact centre home working in response to Coronavirus?’. The responses were:

No. We already had work-at-home agents -10%
No. We are planning to, but not started yet – 1%
No. We have no plans – 2%
Yes. As a short term measure – 46%
Yes. As a longer term strategy – 41%

112 contact centre professionals responded to the poll.

While, many poll respondents saw work-at-home as a short term crisis measure, over 40% saw it as a longer term strategy. That is clearly a huge step forward for home working advocates, as well as for pioneers such as Sensée that has been operating a 100% home-based model for over 15 years.

With 97% of contact centres in the poll operating work-at-home agents during the Covid-19 crisis, few can question its suitability as an emergency response mechanism. But what about for business-as-usual?

In this regard, Bill’s points about organisations urgently needing to adapt operating models and technologies for WFM, communications, and real-time knowledge sharing are spot on – and mirror our own experiences. You can’t just take a contact centre team out of a bricks and mortar set-up, send people home with a phone and a computer and expect the team to operate the same way as it did in the office.

To successfully operate a home working operation calls for a different mindset. A ‘virtual mindset’ that extends from how your centre recruits the right people to how you onboard, train, communicate, monitor, manage and schedule them. Sometimes in-house tools and methodologies can be adapted for remote working, sometimes new solutions will be required. And that’s particularly true when it comes to creating flexible/split shifts for home agents, and enabling support and communications in a live ‘real time’ environment.

But be in no doubt, contact centre home working is here to stay.

Managing Homeworking Teams…. tips from our experts on the Sensée frontline: Week 2

Over our last three weeks we’ve brought you a selection of work-from-home tips and advice from the Sensée frontline.  We hope you’ve found them useful.  In this final post of the series, we’re pleased to bring you a selection of management tips from our Team Managers.

How do you:

Ensure your team thinks and acts like a team (when people are sometimes living hundreds of miles apart?)……

“Create friendly competition between teams by comparing KPIs and QA scores.  Encourage a team orientation rather than concentrating on individual performance”.

David, Sensée Team Leader

Support team members with stressful situations……

“We use weekly coaching sessions to identify stressful issues that team members may face and put the necessary support in place. That could range from catching up more often, through to reaching out to HR.”

Sarah, Sensée Team Leader

Support team members struggling with complex customer questions…..

“The use of breakouts within Team Rooms is very helpful as you can screen share and talk through issues to give a better understanding.”

Kelly, Sensée Team Leader

Bring a sense of fun and togetherness to the working day….

“Regularly send out emails to your team to update them on performance. Call out any special achievements and give praise where people are excelling. Mirror this in the Team Room with regular praise and encourage new advisors to lean on more experienced advisors for support”

Kelly, Sensée Team Leader

Make virtual training sessions more fun and engaging…..

“When designing group coaching/ training sessions use lots of open questions so that everyone has the chance to speak. Use microphones so that everyone can talk rather than type. Some team members are naturally quieter than others so make sure you have a good mix for each session.”

Steph, Sensée Team Leader

Maintain effective communications with team members….

“Always acknowledge receipt of a request. While I always aim to respond to emails the same day, it is still important for remote team members to know that I’ve received their question and am working on a response.”

Sarah, Sensée Team Leader

Show trust to people working remotely….

“Ask different team members to deliver training sessions. It’s not always easy to give extra responsibility in the homeworking environment so anything where that is possible is really useful in creating mutual trust and respect.”

Kelly, Sensée Team Leader

Support people through the (sometimes difficult) first few months of their homeworking journeys….

“Put together a library of short training videos to deliver refreshers for new starters on systems, procedures and processes.”

David, Sensée Team Leader

Enhance job satisfaction……

“Ensure there are plenty of opportunities for progression from providing support on the Sensée live desk, to call listening, providing feedback to other advisers, to become a deputy team leader with increased responsibility.”

Sarah, Sensée Team Leader

Run activities designed to help stem potential isolation….

“At this time of uncertainty, I’m running more group coaching sessions. A recent one focussed on wellbeing. Every team member was able to share their thoughts and feelings and many team members sent feedback that it was really useful to hear that other members on the team were having the same concerns.”

Steph, Sensée Team Leader

Managing Homeworking Teams…. tips from our experts on the Sensée frontline: Week 1

For the last two weeks, we’ve been running home working tips from Sensée’s front line Advisors.  This week, we’ve turned to our Team Leaders for tips and advice on how to manage work-from-home teams and individuals.  We hope you find them useful.

How do you:

Ensure your team thinks and acts like a team (when people are sometimes living hundreds of miles apart?)……

“Engage and interact positively with colleagues within a virtual Team Room environment.  Within our Team Room, everyone has their pictures up so you can put a face to a name. This also helps create the team vibe. Encourage competition amongst teams and members, and positive reinforcement, with KPIs.”

Kelly, Sensée Team Leader

Support team members with stressful situations……

“Use a buddy mentoring system where more experienced team members can virtually sit beside new advisors and act as mentors.”

David, Sensée Team Leader

Support team members struggling with complex customer questions…..

“When faced with tricky or complex problems, it’s vitally important that advisors can get real time support from managers and colleagues – which they can within our Sensée Livedesk environment.”

David, Sensée Team Leader

Bring a sense of fun and togetherness to the working day….

“Hold small group coaching sessions, regularly changing attendees so that each team member gets the chance to speak. Include pictures, GIFs etc. to add in something fun. The team Yammer group also helps bring a sense of fun and togetherness.”

Steph, Sensée Team Leader

Make virtual training sessions more fun and engaging…..

“Involve the participants! Ask team members to give their thoughts and observations, and always ask lots of questions for them to respond to via chat. Use a combination of Powerpoint slides, photos and videos to make the sessions visually stimulating.”

Sarah, Sensée Team Leader

Maintain effective communications with team members….

“Say good morning every day and encourage an open door policy where advisors feel you are approachable. Human is key.”

Kelly, Sensée Team Leader

Show trust to people working remotely….

“Give team members the space to work on their own tasks, while monitoring the use of non-call taking statuses. Ensure you maintain the right balance between giving the team trust and freedom while ensuring they meet (and hopefully exceed) KPIs.”

Steph, Sensée Team Leader

Support people through the (sometimes difficult) first few months of their homeworking journeys….

“Ideally, have a catch-up on the first day a new starter comes across to the account. Introduce yourself and let them know how they can ask for help, when their first coaching session will be, and other essential information.

Sarah, Sensée Team Leader

Enhance job satisfaction……

“Celebrate the little things 😊 In their annual reviews, team members are asked to set goals for the new year. During each monthly review, we then talk over how things are progressing and celebrate the victories. When daily/ weekly stats are emailed out, I personally follow up with an email to any team member who has achieved a sea of green”.

Steph, Sensée Team Leader

Run activities designed to help stem potential isolation….

“Run social events with plenty of fun games and competitions. We’ve run everything from Movie Bingo to Christmas & Easter competitions, and webcam dancing. We run polls within our Livedesk environment to get people’s preferences on what activities they’d like and to encourage participation.”

Sarah, Sensée Team Leader

Homeworking Tips…. from our experts on the Sensée frontline: Week 2

Thanks for the excellent feedback to last week’s work-from-home tips and advice from our Team Managers and Advisors.  Here’s some additional tips.  Hope you find them useful.

How do you:

Separate your home and work life……

“My office (the spare bedroom) is my work life. When I leave it, I treat it as if I’m leaving work.”

Petra, Sensée HomeAgent

………. organise your workspace?

“Workspace is very important to me. It has to be clear of clutter and in the right place in the office. I move my desk to suit the seasons: Summer I sit facing the window, Winter I sit next to the radiator under the window.”

Ginny, Sensée Co-ordinator

………. maintain your health and fitness?

“In nice weather I sit in the garden or have a potter around the block. I live in the Lake District so am lucky because I get to enjoy a wilderness walk within 5 mins of my house. In the Spring I can watch the lambs being born at the bottom of my garden.”

Janet, Sensée Services Adviser

………. not end up snacking all day!?

“Get fruit and vegetables. Cut apples, oranges, carrots etc. into small pieces so that you can snack healthily during the day” 😄

Izabela, Sensée Services Adviser

………. motivate yourself?

“Finish work at 2, in the garden by 10 past 2 (usually asleep in the sun by 2.15), no time wasted on commuting, now that’s motivation for you 🙂.”

Zoe, Sensée Services Adviser

………. optimise your working environment (chair/desk/lighting etc.)?

“Eliminate desk clutter, arrange screens at prime viewing angles, and have relevant equipment handy on hooks within easy reach. Preferably use 100 watt equivalent lightbulbs.”

Jacob, Sensée Services Adviser

………. improve your work-life-balance?

“I use to commute two hours to London each day, and back again, so my work day could be as much as 12 hours. Working from home, I’m working 8 hours, zero travel….. can’t be bad 🙂”

Bev, Sensée Services Adviser

………. manage distractions?

“Working at home has always been easy for me but a lot has changed in the last few weeks with my husband now working from home, and my daughter needing to do her school work.  It has reinforced the importance of having a separate office area and not working in your living space. It’s also important to plan a schedule for the day/week to provide structure and get dressed so you can tell yourself you mean business!”

Amanda, Sensée Team Leader

………. decide what to wear?

“Getting properly dressed for work – even into baggy and comfy stuff – helps headspace.” 

Kimberley, Sensée home-based Adviser

………. and what do you do during your breaks, and at lunch?

“During lunch and breaks I catch up on housework, eat meals and relax. I minimise screen time to give my eyes a rest.”

Jade, Sensée Services Adviser

MORE TIPS TO FOLLOW NEXT WEEK!

Homeworking Tips…. from our experts on the Sensée frontline

Coronavirus is forcing organisations to rapidly change and adapt to new disciplines and business models.  Amongst the most significant of these is home working.

In a new weekly feature, we’ll be providing topical tips and advice from Team Managers and Advisors on the Sensée frontline to help organisations make a success of home working.  We hope you find them useful.

How do you separate your home and work life…..

“Journey to work is not just a physical distance to travel but a mental one too. Allow enough time before your shift to prepare for the day ahead.”

Jennifer, Sensée Services Adviser

…… organise your workspace?

“Make sure your office area is a nice place to work. Decorate with bright colours, flowers etc. You are spending a lot of time there so it needs to be bright and comfortable.”

Bev, Sensée Services Adviser

…… maintain your health and fitness?

“Even though I work from home I still ‘walk to work’. So I leave my front door every morning – which ensures no jimjams – and take a brisk mile or two walk around the block. I then arrive at work oxygenated and ready to rock.”

Nick, Sensée Services Adviser

…… not end up snacking all day!?

“Bring snacks! There is nobody else in the ‘office’ to steal them!”

Ryan, Sensée Services Adviser

…… motivate yourself?

“If you are honest, with a good work ethic, then home working will pose no issues.  If you use work for ‘social’ then you may struggle. So ensure you are part of chat groups to keep up with news, gossip etc.”

Sharon, Sensée Services Adviser

…… optimise your working environment?

“Have plants in the office. I have a venus flytrap called Audrey.  Taking care of her is part of my daily routine.”

Janet, Sensée Services Adviser

…… improve your work-life-balance? 

“I have a separate desk in a separate room in a quiet part of the house.  I get up, get showered, dressed and put on a wee bit of make-up (can’t do anything without my lippy!).  I leave the kitchen after brekki and off to the office.  Blu tack a ‘do not enter’ sign to the office door (important to let the family know my shifts and my breaks so they are respectful and quiet whilst I’m on shift).  When it’s time for a break I am pretty much guaranteed they’ll meet me in the kitchen with a coffee and a toastie.  A tik tok dance with my daughter ensures I definitely switch off for a wee while at lunchtime!”

Alison, Sensée Services Adviser

…… manage distractions? 

“If you now find yourself with other family members in the house, work out a solution for internet access that won’t interfere with your work. We are using an old android phone as a wifi hotspot with a pay-as-you-go SIM.  It gives my son sufficient broadband to do his school work and video chat with his friends.”

Denise, Sensée Services Adviser

…… decide what to wear? 

“I look in the wardrobe for something that speaks to me.”

Gill, Sensée Services Adviser

…… and what do you do during your breaks, and at lunch?

“Breaks are a great time to fit in the household chores that you usually save up all week. Hoovering, preparing the tea…. anything really so that when you finish work you have nothing to do.  It makes you organise your free time more effectively.”

Zoe, Sensée Services Adviser

MORE TIPS TO FOLLOW NEXT WEEK!