Inspiring Productivity Among Remote Workers

In this piece, journalist Ana Steele discusses ways that organisations can help their people get more from homeworking.

Homeworker 8

The rise of remote work is perhaps one of the most welcome changes brought about by the pandemic. About two-thirds of UK adults are now working from home, and it is expected that this setup will last for quite some time. But while it is indeed the safer and more convenient option for companies, it isn’t always the easiest for workers to stay productive. With that, here are a few ways you can help your remote worker colleagues be more productive:



Equip them with the right tools

If your company doesn’t have the online tools to stay connected and work efficiently yet, now is the time to provide them with it. Sensée’s LiveDesk platform, for instance, provides contact centre homeworkers with a full suite of communication and collaboration tools, enabling them to communicate with colleagues, and receive online support from managers and experts, just as they would in a bricks and mortar centre. With LiveDesk, managers can create bulletins and alerts to immediately keep everyone up to speed with important events. Polls can also be made for quick feedback regarding anything — from team satisfaction to checking if important information has been read. For project management, Asana can handle large projects and complex teams. It even utilises Gantt timelines and has a project dashboard that shows tasks by status, priority, and assignee.

Encourage them to work ergonomically

Working at home should give your employees more control of their work environments – and you can point them in the right direction by suggesting they make their work spaces more ergonomic. An ergonomic workspace should be comfortable enough for them to work in but not too relaxing that they might slack off like they would on their couch. Aside from the usual ergonomic chairs and tables, you can also encourage them to use ergonomic accessories — such as the right keyboard and angled mouse to ease the tension from their wrists due to typing all day. It may seem like a small change, but it can help prevent more serious problems like carpal tunnel syndrome, which will most definitely discourage them from being productive.

Set proper work hours

A key reason many people choose to work from home is to have a better life-work balance by fitting in work around their other daily priorities. If they don’t plan for homeworking effectively though, the lines between work and personal life can get blurred, sometimes leading to employee burnout. Effective planning tools are therefore essential. Homeworkers must set proper work hours to maximize their days and fully clock out afterwards. Sensée’s TeamTonic helps make this possible by enabling contact centre homeworkers to self-select their workday hours (within parameters set by the centre) to achieve their desired life-work balance – while ensuring organisations can precisely meet customer demand without wasting resource.

Have a virtual co-working space

With entire days spent alone and in front of the computer screen, the feeling of isolation can definitely creep in for many remote professionals. Creating virtual co-working spaces however can lessen this feeling of loneliness. In addition to being a platform for supporting, training and providing guidance for homeworkers, Sensée’s LiveDesk is also a collaborative workspace with private chat areas where homeworkers can socialise during breaks. With colleagues visible online at all times, homeworkers know that they’re not alone. Employees may not get the experience of physically working together, but they are able to get a sense of community in these spaces. Other ways to improve the sense of community is to organise virtual games nights or give virtual shout-outs, so that all employees feel appreciated.

Coping with distractions is hard enough, but continually working when you’re away from your peers is sometimes harder. However, these tips can help encourage your employees to stay productive.

Sensée Scoops Three Winners Trophies at 2020 European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards

Work-from-home specialist Sensée was recognised with three winners trophies at the 2020 European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards’ (ECCCSA). The Virtual Awards evening took place on Tuesday 16th March 2021.

Silver winner for Most Effective Homeworking Programme, Sensée was also named bronze winner for Outsourced Contact Centre of the Year and for Best Outsourcing Partnership (small) with Bupa.

Sensée has a homeworking team of over 1200 Customer Service Advisors, Trainers, Team Leaders, Managers and support personnel and manages customer contacts for leading brands such as Bupa, ageas and Allianz Partners as well as for several Government departments.

The European Contact Centre and Customer Service Awards (ECCCSAs) recognises organisations across Europe that are leading the way in delivering exceptional service to customers.

With entries from 26 countries – competing across 36 categories – the ECCCSAs celebrated its biggest ever awards evening during its 20th edition with over 2000 people attending the Virtual Awards Evening from 30 different countries. The awards were hosted by Sally Gunnell, OBE.

ECCCSA 2020 winners included Allianz Direct, EA, Hitachi, Home Group, HSBC, NHS Business Authority, Shell Energy, Telefonica, Very Group, Vitality and Virgin Experience Days.

“We’re absolutely thrilled to pick up three trophies at such a prestigious event as the ECCCSAs” said Mark Walton, CEO, Sensée. “Our teams have put in a tremendous effort throughout lockdown and this is fabulous recognition for their efforts.”

“Winning an ECCCSA is something Sensée can be very proud of. They have been through a vigorous judging process, meeting highly experienced judges that can recognise ‘the best’ from our industry. Congratulations!” Ann-Marie Stagg, Chair of the Judges, ECCCSA.


ECCCSA20 Homeworking Sensee - Silver

How Sensée’s LiveDesk enhances communications for ageas’ work-at-home teams

“LiveDesk has been a real eye opener for our teams in ageas especially as it’s so versatile and user friendly. They love it. It provides an instant overview of all the teams, who is working at any given time and which managers are there, ready to support our consultants.

“Controlling the system is really simple. It is easy to join a room so that IT, trainers, consultants and managers can get together. And it’s great for communication: for asking questions, training, quick de-briefs and collating information from live chats to highlight training gaps and areas that may need more focus.

“If Team Leaders or Managers need to deliver comms to the whole team they can go into breakout rooms with screen sharing capabilities and run Q&As. This is ideal for demonstrating new processes to the team and supporting those struggling with something. With consultants having quicker access to information, hold times are reduced and customers have a better experience.

“All our teams that have worked on LiveDesk have thought it is fantastic, it brings the team closer together and supports our purpose of making insurance easy.”

Andrew Edwards, ageas

My story: Sean

After serving an apprenticeship as a software engineer and then working in the catering trade, making his way up to head chef, Sean decided on a change of career.

“I wanted to retrain and gain a professional qualification but that’s difficult when you’re working full time and commuting two hours a day” explains Sean.

After successfully applying for a role at Sensée in July 19, he has been working with the Allianz Partners team while at the same time studying part time at the Open University for a law degree.

“Flexibility is a huge factor in why working from home is ideal for me. I can log off for the day and be straight into my studies without wasting any time.

Working for Sensée has also helped me massively with my study discipline and I use the same rules that I follow for work towards my studying (set hours for studying, phone in the other room, nobody in my office – and no distractions!).

My story: Linda

For 9 years Linda worked as a software architect in the telecoms industry designing and building call centres. The job involved a lengthy daily commute to work. 

However in 2014 Linda was diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a condition that affects the body’s collagen, creating joint issues and causing ligaments to tear easily.  Commuting to work became emotionally difficult as well as painful and exhausting.  

A change of lifestyle was required and Linda decided to move to the countryside.  However this made the commute even trickier.  With the country bus service quite unreliable, she turned to cycling but that just added to her stress – worrying all the time about what the weather would be like the next day.

Things improved for Linda when her employer have her the opportunity to work from home. Unfortunately though she was made redundant and started to become really worried about finding another role that would allow her to homework.

In March 2019, Linda came across Sensée and applied for a work from home role on the Bupa account.  When she heard her application was successful, she felt a weight removed from her shoulders. “Not having to stress about commuting has massively helped my physical and mental health” she explains. “and the support I’ve received from my Team Leader and colleagues has been outstanding. I’ve not felt pressured in any way and have never met two companies that are so good, and so understanding, when it comes to mental health.”

“Flexibility is key to why it works for me.  While I work for 30 hours a week I can’t work more than 4 hours at a time because of my joints aching.  So I’ll typically work from 9 till 1, then have a break and work from 2.30 – 4.30.  If I can’t make a planned schedule then there’s nearly always a colleague that can step in who is happy to do a shift swap.  In the future I’d like to move on to do some virtual floor walking duties and longer term to possibly get back into training, and maybe a Deputy Team Leader role.  It’s fantastic that such opportunities exist in a homeworking role.”

My story: Jade

In October 2019, Jade saw an advert on an online recruitment site for customer advisers to work on the Sensée Bupa account and successfully applied. She has never looked back.

In her previous job working in the call centre of a large telecoms company, she struggled with a culture she found intimidating and distracting.  “It was like working in a school playground” she says “and it started to affect my mental health”.

Things have been very different since joining Sensée though.  “There’s no gossip culture and I’m more relaxed, meaning I’m more enthusiastic, focused and helpful. I love virtual floorwalking and helping out colleagues. Working for Sensée has also afforded me the time to study part time for a Psychology with Counselling degree while holding down a full down a full time job.  I work 35 hours Monday to Saturday but try and dedicate Tuesdays to studying.  Working for Sensée has been a saving grace!”

(Online workshop) Building Systems and Processes to Communicate More Effectively with Homeworkers

Date: 18th February 2021
Time: 10am to 11.30am
Chair: Sandra Busby, Chair, Welsh Contact Centre Forum

 

Are you having problems with absenteeism and attrition? Engagement and productivity? People isolation and motivation? Team Leader and adviser training? Worried that these problems are getting worse rather than going away?

You’re not alone. In a recent study of over 100 of the UK’s largest businesses, 74% said they thought that ‘communicating effectively with homeworkers’ would be just as big a problem in 2021 as it was in 2020, while 66% thought similarly about ‘employee engagement/motivation’.

In this online workshop, we examine what communications systems & processes are necessary to create an effective work-from-home (WFH) environment. The workshop will cover:

  • The Recruitment, On-Boarding and Induction Training Process
  • General WFH Communications (Team Leader-to-Adviser, Adviser-to-Adviser, Corporate Comms etc.)
  • The Resource Scheduling Process
  • WFH Communications Security and Compliance

Agenda

10.00 – 10.05: Introductions and agenda (Sandra Busby, WCCF)
10.05 – 10.20: The benefits of homeworking (Mark Walton, Sensée)
10.20 – 10.40: Demo: Building a WFH Comms System that’s Fit-for-Purpose (Steve Mosser, Sensée)
10.40 – 11.30: Question and Answer session (Sandra Busby, WCCF: Mark Walton, Sensée; Steve Mosser, Sensée)

To register your attendance simply send your name, email, company and job title to Lucinda Butler at the Welsh Contact Centre Forum lucinda@wccf.uk

Lucinda will send a Zoom link and joining instructions to registrants a week before the online workshop.

When will it be safe to go back to the office?

Today’s BBC investigation into Covid within the office workspace highlights a major problem facing organisations right now.

According to the BBC 5 Live Investigations team, data from Public Health England reveals more than 500 Covid outbreaks, or suspected outbreaks, in offices in England in the second half of 2020 – more than in supermarkets, construction sites, warehouses, restaurants and cafés combined. Plus, there have been over 60 suspected outbreaks in English offices in the first two weeks of the current lockdown.

Contact centre operators face a particularly tough challenge. In its article, the BBC team highlighted the continuing struggles of one particular contact centre that has stayed open throughout the pandemic – and there have been many other examples.

In April 2020, it was reported that 44% of workers on one floor in a South Korean contact centre contracted the coronavirus. In July, it was widely reported that a Test & Trace centre in Glasgow recorded a number of positive cases. And in December, the PCS union claimed 500 workers had contracted the virus at a DVLA centre in Wales.

It’s no surprise that call centres are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks as this floor plan, published by Business Insider Australia, illustrates http://bit.ly/39u30j3

Bricks and Mortar contact centres are, by their very nature, heavily populated, and personal space has always been an issue. Pre-Covid guidance from the Health and Safety Executive recommends that personal space should be as follows:

“The total volume of the room, when empty, divided by the number of people normally working in it should be at least 11 cubic metres. In making this calculation a room or part of a room which is more than 3.0m high should be counted as 3.0m high. The figure of 11 cubic metres per person is a minimum and may be insufficient if, for example, much of the room is taken up by furniture etc.”

Many contact centres however clearly don’t adhere to the 11 cubic metre guidance and, besides, that recommendation was issued pre-Covid.

So what are centres expected to do in the absence of a new ‘acceptable number’? Nick Floyd, the Managing Director of callcentrefurniture.com, a space planning and furniture supply business, advises companies above all to be sensible.

“If pre-lockdown there were 30 people working in a large room, post-lockdown that number needs to come down, maybe to half” he says, “and organisations need to install high perspex screens between people. It’s also not just a question of just what employers want to do any more. What employees are comfortable with is more important than ever.”

There’s no doubt that some people are desperate to get back to the office. However the old office can’t be the new normal. Greater social distancing will necessarily mean less people able to fit into the same space – and that means more homeworking for the foreseeable future for most centres.

The question is ‘what will that look like?’ Will it be 100% work-from-home (WFH) or some version of hybrid homeworking, whether that be 100% WFH for some and 100% office for others, part-time WFH for all, or the appointment of a third party homeworking outsourcer to supplement office-based personnel to maintain service levels. The end of lockdown will not be the end of the office versus WFH debate.

To access the Government guidance on “Social distancing to make your workplace COVID-secure” go to https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/social-distancing/index.htm