UK businesses have been slow to move back to the office says new poll

A poll conducted by online contact centre and customer service magazine Call Centre Helper and home and hybrid working specialist Sensée, reveals that UK businesses have been slow to move back to the office post lockdown. It also indicates that a single clear model for optimising hybrid (home/office) working has yet to emerge. 213 business professionals responded to the October 2021 online poll.

43 percent of people responding to the poll said that between 0 and 25 percent of their employees had returned to the office since lockdown ended – with just 20 percent of respondents stating that between 76 and 100 percent of employees had returned.

“According to our poll results, the return to the office seems to be a lot slower than many commentators predicted” said Mark Walton, CEO, SensĂ©e. “What isn’t clear though is why? Could it be because of concerns over employee welfare? Operational difficulties relating to maintaining social distancing? Employees’ desires to continue to work-from-home? Or indeed a combination of all these, plus other factors.”

The poll suggests that there is no single winning template for organisations when it comes to establishing a best-in-class hybrid operation. When asked: “How does your business currently operate hybrid working?” the most popular answer was “Flexibly between home & office (with employees deciding where they work on any day)”. This was selected by 33 percent of people. The second most popular answer was “Set days at home and set days in the office”, selected by 21 percent of respondents. But no hybrid model seems to be the overwhelming winner at this time.

The third poll question asked: “What is the biggest issue you’ve faced since moving to hybrid ‘home/office’ working’ post lockdown?” 41 percent of people indicated issues relating to “management/comms/training” while 34 percent pointed to “pastoral care (mental health concerns, isolation worries etc.)”.

And finally, when asked: “What is the biggest benefit you expect to realise from hybrid ‘home/office’ working?” 36 percent of respondents said “Better employee engagement/productivity” while 29 percent said “Reduced attrition/absenteeism”.

“The picture of hybrid (home /office) working painted by the poll is very mixed” continues Mark Walton. “A move back to the office has started, albeit slower than many people predicted. The hybrid models used by organisations are many and varied. And the most common hybrid challenges to date relate to management/comms/training and pastoral care. Yet the poll shows that many organisations see hybrid working as a way to improve employee engagement/productivity and reduce attrition & absenteeism. While operational cost is clearly a concern, ‘people’ issues – from employee engagement to recruitment, attrition, absenteeism and mental health & well being – appear to dominate organisational thinking when it comes to implementing hybrid strategies.”

View the poll results infographic

SensĂ©e launches ‘The SensĂ©e Forest’ with aim of achieving carbon neutrality

Home and hybrid working specialist Sensée has announced a three-year partnership with Treedom, a global web platform for planting trees and forests worldwide.

The partnership is part of a broader SensĂ©e programme to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and become the first 100% work-from-home business to achieve certification for carbon neutrality. SensĂ©e, established 17 years ago and with no physical contact centres, already has an estimated 90% lower carbon footprint than a typical office-based contact centre.

The SensĂ©e Forest will contain nearly 3000 trees, each gifted to permanent SensĂ©e employees over the next three years – with each person able to select their own tree species, in the territory of their choice, using the Treedom web platform. Initially, these choices will include Tephrosia, Grevillea, Coffee and Cacao trees with the territories available including Madagascar, Kenya, Tanzania and Ecuador. Each tree will have an online page and be geolocated and photographed, with regular updates posted in an online Tree Diary for tree owners to follow the progress of the project.

The Treedom tree planting scheme is the latest in a line of initiatives designed to reduce SensĂ©e’s overall carbon footprint and encourage energy efficiency, recycling and other eco-friendly activities amongst its homeworker population.

“Over the last 18 months, many workers have re-evaluated their relationship with the workplace and come to appreciate the many benefits of homeworking” said Andy Rosser, Transformation and Innovation Director at SensĂ©e. “Eliminating the time and cost associated with the daily commute is one of the top benefits that work-from-home brings…. plus it brings a major benefit for the environment too in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“SensĂ©e is committed to environmental and social sustainability and this latest initiative, The SensĂ©e Forest, is our way of saying a big thank you to our colleagues within the SensĂ©e Family, and doing something good for the planet together. We are proud to support an initiative that’s delivering genuine environmental and social benefits, and enables our colleagues to become part of that journey.”

Sensée Creates 500 New Work-from-Home Contact Centre Roles

Sensée, the work-from-home specialist, is creating 500 new permanent and temporary positions to meet the growing demand for homeworking staff.

The vacancies are for Customer Contact Advisors, Team Managers and back office staff to work for new and existing clients. Start dates are immediate.

Applications from people of all backgrounds, levels of experience, gender and age are welcome. Contact centre experience is preferred but not essential. Customer service and other job-specific training is provided.

SensĂ©e is the UK’s only 100% work-from-home contact centre specialist with fully-employed homeworkers. The company has 17 years experience of operating and refining its homeworking model and manages customer contacts on behalf of many household brands as well as a number of Government departments.

“We are delighted to announce these new permanent and temporary roles in response to the growing demand for work-from-home personnel” said Paul Whymark, Chief Operating Officer of SensĂ©e. “A vast number of people have experienced the benefits of homeworking during lockdown and many are now considering their options as organisations contemplate a full time return to the office. We predict a major surge in demand for full and part time homeworking careers where people can balance work with their other daily tasks and priorities.”

Candidates can apply today for the new roles at www.sensee.co.uk

LiveDesk named ‘Remote Team Communication and Collaboration’ innovation of the year

SensĂ©e is delighted to announce that its LiveDeskℱ Digital Workplace Creation Tool was named Remote Team Communication & Collaboration innovation of the year at the 2021 National Innovation Awards. The winners were announced at a virtual gala event on 11th May.

About LiveDesk

LiveDesks are user customisable Digital Workplaces for communications and collaboration. They unify home and office workers on the same work mission, ensuring everyone is on the same page, by having access to the same information, knowledge, care and support wherever they work from.

LiveDesks are easy to create and manage. Managers have a range of LiveDesk ‘pods’ at their disposal to build tailored workspaces best suited to their needs and work mission, including features such as:

  • Intelligent Chat: enabling advisers to quickly get help from team members, subject matter experts and virtual floorwalkers, tracking Q&A trends.
  • Bulletins & Alerts: keeping advisors updated on major service issues, ensuring everyone is on the beat (and thereby removing reliance on email).
  • Mood & Engagement Pulse: tracking engagement of users across home and office.
  • Social Spaces: enabling private chat rooms for breaks and socialising for engagement.
  • Digital Workplace Dashboards: tracking users frequency, complexity and trends of questions and knowledge needs to have clear capability flightpaths.
  • Teams / Meet / Zoom Facilitation: helping users organise and manage sessions etc. with webcams, voice and screen-sharing.

LiveDesks are always-on but only open during work hours and when managers (key holders) are logged in. They effectively level the hybrid office operating field.

LiveDesk is part of Sensée Cloudworks, a technology ecosystem for hybrid workplaces that comprises unique and innovative homeworking solutions for remote recruitment & onboarding, resource scheduling, communications & collaboration, and security/compliance.

About the National Innovation Awards 2021

The theme for 2021 was ‘technology innovation that improves Work From Home capability, productivity and experience’.

The judges received over 300 submissions. Other 2021 Awards winners were: Noetica & Avoira, Intradiem, Blue Prism, NICE inContact and Medallia.

Jon Snow, Chairman of Directors Club United Kingdom and Convenor of Judges for the 2021 Awards, commented: “Working from home or anywhere is the operational legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic. These 2021 awards set out to highlight the technology developers who are making the distributed workforce not only possible but high performing. One reason the UK National Innovation Awards are respected so widely, is the way they are judged. All our judges are senior business leaders from the organisations that would benefit from the technology innovations being judged. All categories are judged on the quality of the business outcomes that the innovations deliver.”

“We are a 100% WFH business and have been designing, creating and managing hybrid workplaces with our partners since our humble beginnings 17 years ago” said Steve Mosser, CEO and CIO, Cloudworks. “The last 12 months have been the most significant in our history. We’ve had the opportunity to work with many of the UK’s top private and public sector organisations, helping them understand and embrace the opportunities that homeworking can deliver. The adoption of purpose-built technology solutions is absolutely key to work-from-home being established as a viable long-term option for employees and organisations. We are delighted that LiveDesk has been recognised by contact centre industry leaders at these Awards.”

Double success for Sensée at the 2021 Forum Awards

Work-from-home specialist SensĂ©e has won an Innovation and Transformation Award for ‘Engaged Homeworking’ at the 2021 Forum Awards. The company also received a Highly Commended Partnership Award for its groundbreaking homeworking partnership with Bupa at the gala awards evening on Friday 23rd April.

The Innovation and Transformation Award recognised the transformational impact that SensĂ©e’s LiveDeskℱ and TeamTonicÂź homeworking solutions have had on SensĂ©e’s contact centre outsourcing operation, as well as on the customer contact operations of clients including Ageas, Utility Warehouse and Bupa:

  • LiveDeskℱ Digital Workplaces unify people, wherever they are, so that they are on the same work mission. LiveDesk provides macro-collaboration and communication tools so people are highly engaged, well supported and continuously informed.
  • TeamTonicÂź is a self-rostering Scheduler that empowers @home staff to schedule work around their home lives and obligations. By keeping clear of home life work disruptions people are free from conflicting shift anxiety while employers can be confident that they are focused, productive and adhering to schedules.

SensĂ©e’s partnership with Bupa started with a simple homeworking pilot in 2014 and has grown into a comprehensive and multi-faceted outsourced service that today involves 180 contact centre advisers. SensĂ©e advisers not only provide high quality service but handle customer contacts very cost effectively – with highly efficient HomeAgent scheduling key to the cost savings generated. Homeworking lessons learnt through the partnership were instrumental in Bupa making a swift and highly effective transition to homeworking within its own operations at the start of lockdown.

The Awards event was organised and operated by the Forum, a professional community for best practice and professional development in customer operations. The Forum comprises four separate forums for: Planning & Resourcing, Analytics & Insight, Customer Experience, and Strategy & Leadership.

Other winners at the 2021 Forum Awards included North Yorkshire County Council, Hoist Finance, Serco, Capita, Loop, NHS Business Authority, Click Mechanic, Lloyds Banking Group, Domestic & General,

“Well done to the Forum for putting on a fantastic and highly entertaining event” said Mark Walton, CEO, SensĂ©e. “We are very proud of the hard work and dedication of our homeworking teams during the lockdown period and delighted that their achievements have been recognised with these Awards.”

“Over the past year, many organisations have introduced working from home, without embedding homeworking. SensĂ©e has demonstrated how homeworking is done, both sustainably and at a high level of performance, engaging employees and driving operational insight” said Phil Anderson, a Director at the Forum.

New Survey Paints Positive Picture of Employee Engagement During Lockdown

– Homeworking is here to stay say top UK contact centres –

Throughout lockdown, business leaders have debated the tricky issue of how best to engage and support their people while working from home.

However, according to a major new industry survey “The 2021 Contact Centre People Engagement Survey”, 81% of Agents/Advisers – and 56% of Directors/Managers – say that People Engagement in their Contact Centres is not a problem.

322 UK Contact Centre Directors, Managers, Agents and Advisers took part in the online study conducted by trade bodies the South West Contact Centre Forum and Call North West. Survey responses were collected between January 11th and March 12th 2021 and participants came from a broad range of Contact Centres from different industries. Separate detailed questionnaires were run for Directors/Managers and Agents/Advisers. The survey was supported by homeworking specialist Sensée.

The “2021 Contact Centre People Engagement Survey” provides valuable insight into the current state of People Engagement within the contact centre industry – at a time when the predominant workplace is the home office.

70% of Agents/Advisers responding to the survey say that they mainly worked in bricks and mortar contact centres prior to lockdown and have now switched to mainly working from home….. and the majority feel that the switch has gone well.

Despite media headlines suggesting organisations have struggled to manage their colleagues in a work-from-home setting, most Contact Centre Advisers say that their Managers have adapted well to the switch: 57% say Very Well and 29% say Well.

And there’s more good news when it comes to the current state of ‘manager-employee’ and ‘team’ engagement.

85% of Agents/Advisers Agree or Strongly Agree with the statement “Communication between senior leaders and employees in my organisation is good”…. with 83% of Directors and Managers concurring. In a similar vein, 94% of Agents/Advisers, and 99% of Directors and Managers, Agree or Strongly Agree with the statement “My manager/contact centre team and I have a good working relationship”. Virtually nobody disagreed.

Mental Health

Concerns over the impact of employee isolation on mental health while people are working-from-home have frequently been aired over the last 12 months.

However our survey reveals that Agents/Advisers are generally happy with the efforts their employers are making at supporting their needs. When asked “Do you think your organisation adequately addresses the Mental Health & Well Being concerns of its employees?”, 73% of Agents/Advisers say yes and only 8% say no.

The survey also revealed the breadth of measures employers were taking to address concerns. When Directors/Managers were asked “How do you monitor Health & Well Being within your teams?” 36% cite Formal Questionnaires, 29% Video Checks and 40% Occupational Health reports. But the most common approach is simply to talk. 89% of Directors/Managers cite Informal Conversations to discuss Health & Well Being concerns and 71% Formal Conversations.

Ethical Business

Finally, our survey reveals a growing recognition amongst employees of the role that their employer plays in broader society.

90% of Agents/Advisers Agree or Strongly Agree with the statement “My organisation has taken steps to ensure that it acts as a responsible member of society” as did almost all Directors/Managers (i.e. 99%)

Likewise, 96% of Directors/Managers Agree or Strongly Agree with the statement “My organisation is dedicated to diversity and inclusiveness”, together with 91% of Agents/Advisers.

And the future?

Perhaps not surprisingly, work-from-home is expected to continue to play a significant role in the contact centre industry for the foreseeable future.

Only 43% of Agents/Advisers believe they will be 100% returning to the office. 57% therefore believe they will be homeworking, with the majority of those splitting their time between their home and the office.

Intriguingly, when asked what percentage of their adviser population would be working from home in 2022, 60% of Directors/Managers say that they expect 50% or more to be working full or part time at home, with just 4% predicting a full return to the office.

“It’s great to report that colleagues in the contact centre industry feel so overwhelmingly positive towards People Engagement issues – especially after the last 12 months” said Jane Thomas, Managing Director of the South West Contact Centre Forum and Call North West. “Our survey shows that progress is being made in key areas such as mental health support, building team cohesion and running ethical, inclusive and socially-responsible business. However, while organisations can take credit for these achievements, the job is far from complete.”

“The survey results are extremely interesting, particularly as they counter many of the negative perceptions about People Engagement in the age of ‘forced’ homeworking” said Mark Walton, CEO, SensĂ©e. “Moving forward, the challenge will not be so much about making homeworking work – organisations have had a year to do that – it will be about defining long term strategies. Who will work from the office and who will work from home? How will we manage, communicate, schedule, train our ‘hybrid’ workforces? What new technology platforms will we need? We maybe entering an era of extreme uncertainly but there’s never been a better time to take a step back and make meaningful changes to modernise and transform UK business.”

To view the “The 2021 Contact Centre People Engagement Survey” eBook, please go to

https://www.sensee.co.uk/resources/eBooks.aspx?eb=power-of-engagement-final

The eBook is best viewed in 2 page (i.e. side by side) view, and there is no need to register.

Sensée announces 200 new UK work-at-home contact centre jobs

Sensée is recruiting immediately for 200 new work-from-home roles.  

The vacancies are for permanent, salaried Customer Contact Advisors to work for new and existing clients. Work hours range from 20 to 40 hours a week. Start dates are immediate.

Sensée is welcoming applications from people of all backgrounds, levels of experience, gender and age with all interviewing conducted remotely. Contact centre experience is preferred but not essential. Customer service and other job-specific remote training is provided.  

“We are excited to announce these new job vacancies as the demand for customer service homeworkers continues to rise” said Paul Whymark, COO of SensĂ©e. “The roles enable employees to work flexible hours so that they can enjoy the work-life balance benefits that work-from-home can offer with no commuting.”  

Candidates can apply today for the new roles at www.sensee.co.uk

Sensée named Small/Medium Outsourced Contact Centre of the Year at the 2020 Contact Centre Network Northern Ireland Awards

Sensée was named Outsourced Contact Centre of the Year in the small/medium sized centre category at the 2020 Contact Centre Network Northern Ireland (CCNNI) Awards last Thursday.  

The Sensée Northern Ireland (NI) Homeworking Team is made up of 100 Customer Service Advisers, Trainers, Team Leaders, Managers and Quality Analysts and manages customer contacts for leading brands such as Bupa and Allianz Partners as well as for several Government departments.

The annual CCNNI Awards is a celebration of contact centre excellence for businesses operating in the region. Other winners at the Awards included BNP Paribas PF, Danske Bank, Santander and Ulster Bank. 

As the UK Homeworking specialists, Sensée also sponsored and helped judge the Best Homeworking Programme Award which recognised the transformational changes made by businesses in NI during 2020 in response to the COVID19 pandemic. Congratulations to Santander and Firstsource Solutions as joint winners in this category. 

“Well done to CCNNI for putting on a fantastic evening in very testing times” said Rob Smale, Chief Customer Officer at SensĂ©e. “The event was fitting recognition for the tremendous work of contact centre professionals in Northern Ireland over the last few months, continuing to put the customer at the heart of everything that they do.  We are very proud of the hard work and dedication of the SensĂ©e Homeworking team and delighted that their achievements have been recognised with this Award.”

CCNNI Awards 1

Pic: Annamarie Quinn, NI Sourcing Manager, Sensée

Sensée Puts the Fizz into Virtual Events

Looking to say thank you to the people who have supported your business through the tough last few months?

Last night, Sensée, the work-from-home contact centre specialists, teamed up with Bubbledogs to meet its clients, partners and friends online for a novel Grower Champagne Tasting virtual event.

Ran entirely virtually via Zoom, the event featured an educational session on Grower Champagne from TV sommelier and presenter Sandia Chang, a fun champagne quiz, and the opportunity to sample two amazing grower champagnes. Guests also received a hot dog home kit so they could create Bubbledogs’ most-loved hot dogs from the comfort of their own kitchens.

“Conducting business effectively in a virtual world has been a learning experience for everyone” said Mark Walton, CEO of SensĂ©e. “It calls for a virtual approach to everything that you do, and that includes how you recognise the value of those that are the vital to the success of your business. We felt that the event was a big hit. Sandia and the Bubbledogs team were very professional and entertaining, and it was a great way to say a big thank you to clients and others that we work most closely with.”

Sensée announces 1000 new UK work-at-home contact centre jobs

Sensée is creating 500 new permanent and 500 new temporary positions to meet the growing demand from its clients for work-at-home staff.

The vacancies are for Customer Contact Advisors, Team Managers and back office staff to work for new and existing clients – including Bupa and Hastings Direct – as well as for a number of Government departments. Start dates are immediate.

Sensée is welcoming applications from people of all backgrounds, levels of experience, gender and age. Contact centre experience is preferred but not essential. Customer service and other job-specific training is provided.  

“We urgently need new home workers to help our clients support their customers through the current crisis” said Mark Walton, CEO of SensĂ©e. “Over the coming months, homeworking will have a crucial role to play in ensuring business continuity for private sector firms, as well as the effective management of citizen and business enquiries within the public sector.” 

Candidates can apply today for the new roles at www.sensee.co.uk