Why Your Work From Home Plan Is Only Partway There
For many, the daily commute to the office was as integral to their work routine as the proverbial water cooler chat or grabbing lunch with a colleague. However, in March 2020, COVID-19 redefined the workplace within the blink of an eye. The rapid adjustment from being in-office to working at home wasn't an easy shift. But in spite of most organizations being unprepared for mass migration to a home office, those early teething problems soon became a thing of the past.
Working remotely soon became the new norm. And as the months of quarantine wore on, it became a dichotomizing subject for those still stuck inside. Nearly three years into the pandemic, we are only now recognizing the imperfections of the digital workplace. Moving forward, companies must ensure it’s not just connectivity we have from home, but guidance, camaraderie, and all the other values we left in the office. Essentially, we must now fix what has not amended by simply “being connected” to a company’s system.
Reimagining the Call Center
The brunt of these digital difficulties occur within the contact center. Contact volumes have increased despite chat bots and self-service automation taking some of the heat, which leaves the toughest calls for agents to handle. Contact centers are seeing huge turnover rates of 58%, according to ICMI, whereas other sources are publishing figures of 80% or higher. The “Great Resignation” is further empowering dissatisfied agents to either seek employment elsewhere or quietly quit while still claiming their paychecks. As a result, contact centers who don’t actively prioritize employee experience will suffer immensely in the future. Stabilizing the contact center will not just be a technology shift, but a fundamental change in the way we complete basic operations like onboarding, training, upskilling and so on.
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Where the Digital Workplace Falls Short of the Physical
Contact center workers aren't the only ones who are struggling. According to an article by Rednax Recruitment, it takes an office worker three to six months to feel comfortable in a new role. This is a generous estimate. Having a team or colleague to build rapport with or lean on for support may be difficult to find through a screen. The ability to easily find answers through knowledge bases, process flows and intuitive systems may also be hindered by the digital workplace. Most organizations have found that both systems and processes are not exactly optimized, but before the pandemic they at least had human support on hand. This deficiency only came to light before working from became a possibility and since then, job swapping has ensued.
The current batch of new hires are now experiencing first-hand the lack of industrialized work from anywhere processes and procedures. Many have had to turn to Google to learn what they are no longer being taught from employers. ChatGPT is the next support blanket that the technology industry has unknowingly supplied to employees looking to learn on the job. Although this system can be beneficial, it forces the employee to learn in isolation and with potentially incorrect information.
A study of 15 million workers by Gallup noted that an employee who has a work best friend is seven times more likely to be engaged on the job. This leads to stronger business outcomes, increased profitability, safety, inventory control and retention. Building that type of rapport from home over Zoom — often in group settings — just isn’t easy. We must now reconsider employee engagement: could this be one of the reasons we are seeing the rise in quiet quitting and widespread resignation?
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A New Way of Thinking Required
For many organizations, the current work from anywhere setup is representative of providing a car with a destination, but no navigation system to help the driver get there. If you want to thrive in current times, you need to provide directions and make them easy to digest and reroute when things aren’t working properly. A good mix of process, technology and patience will be required as the world of learning how to work on your own catches up to the instantaneous connectivity thwarted by the pandemic. If you have ambitions on being an employee-centric leader and making your company a place to stay long-term, you need to play the part of the employee: know what it is like to join your company, complete your work and become accomplished in your role under today's digital restrains.
Companies are quickly recognizing the new norm comes with many additional challenges, but thankfully, potential solutions are catching up. Technology can solve some of this, but your processes and ways of doing work will need to solve for the rest. Review your processes through a new lens. Ask things like "Does this work remotely? If not, what needs to change?" Presume you know nothing and need to find answers — are you able to intuitively find them in your knowledge bases, SharePoint instance, etc.? Do your documents need to be updated to deal with these digital-only methods of engagement? Different isn’t always better, easier, cheaper or faster. Recognize, review and repeat.
Our current normal needs a lot of new thinking.
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About the Author
Wayne Butterfield is a Partner at Technology Advisory & Research firm ISG. Originally based in the UK, but now based in the US, he’s spent the last 20 years working in and around the contact center, holding contact center leadership roles in both Telefonica and British Telecom where he digitally transformed and automated large numbers of customer and agent interactions through the use of AI. Connect with Wayne Butterfield: