Authored by Vishal Agrawal, MD, Avaya, India & SAARC
As the Covid-19 crisis persists, enterprises across the globe have been making every effort to safeguard employees by following regulations and recommendations laid out by governments while trying to maintain business continuity. Social distancing and self-isolation measures have promoted the need for a holistic transition of the workforce to the work-from-home model.
Whether you are planning to deploy remote workers, including contact center agents, or are already doing so, learning from others' experience can enhance the success of your program. The following recommendations emerged from interviews with companies that use remote workforce extensively.
Best Practice #1 — Document Remote Work Policies and Procedures
A written policy should already be in place that governs remote workers with clear and uniform rules. This policy should also make clear that all company policies apply — in addition to those specifically for remote workers. With each remote worker, including contact center agents, the manager should review the policies and procedures together. Focus on job responsibilities, organizational and departmental goals and objectives, customer impact, and employees' work performance.
For all workers transitioning from traditional in-office roles to a remote basis, even if temporary, reinforce your policies and practices regarding protection of customer sensitive information. This is especially important for employees in customer-facing and customer support roles.
Best Practice #2 — Select the Right People for the Job
Some employees are good workers but may not be best suited to work at home. Personality is only one aspect of this. Most remote workers may have access to customer-sensitive information, such as financial or health information. For these reasons and more, make it a part of your selection process to do background checks. You should also be open to organizational changes, monitor performance, and promote the people who thrive in the new remote environment.
Best Practice #3 – Equip Remote Workers to Succeed
There are several hardware, software and connectivity factors that play a vital role in effectively empowering your employees to work remotely. Remote workers generally need a hard phone or headset and a computer. If your company provides the PC or otherwise enforces system requirements up front, your Help Desk will thank you later.
On the software side, remote workers need the same access to applications, tools, and peers as they do when in the office and this can be facilitated by the right communications and collaboration tools. For example, contact center agents working from home will require the same access to supervisors as in-office agents while supervisors working remotely need access to their contact center management tools for their agents.
The ability to collaborate is key but there can be significant upfront and ongoing costs associated with regular fixed-line or cellular calls. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) effectively addresses these costs but keep in mind that these solutions may require either SIP voice connectivity via the internet or virtual-private network (VPN) support, depending on your country's rules and regulations.
When equipping your employees with remote working tools, it is advisable to provide them with easy-to-use documentation and job aids regarding password policies, or how to log into remote network services like VPN, or telephone services.
Best Practice #4 – Make Experts Readily Available
Remote workers need access to the same subject matter experts and support as if in the office. "Presence" is a technology that is familiar to users of instant messaging, where a list of names is accompanied by icons indicating whether each person is logged in. When presence is incorporated into an enterprise, finding an expert is just as easy for the remote worker as for the in-office worker.
Best Practice #5 – Manage and Monitor
Remote workers need to meet the same productivity goals as in-office workers. Predictable management check-in times are reassuring to remote workers. In addition, remote employees need to be included in team meetings and events so they can stay connected socially and culturally. Remember to keep training and mentoring remote workers, and reward good performance.
While remote working is proving essential in the ongoing effort to contain and control the spread of Covid-19, there is no doubt that is also has the power to forever transform and enhance the way organizations operate. Gartner forecasts that by 2023, fewer than one-third of digital workers will choose the office as their preferred place to work. The remote workforce investments businesses make today in their people, policies, procedures and technologies will serve to benefit them greatly – both in the near and long term.