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The last 3 weeks have been some of the most challenging of my career working in the contact centre and CX industry.  Our priorities have been ensuring the health and safety of our agents whilst maintaining business continuity for our clients and we have partnered with our customers to migrate over 31K of our employees to a secure, work-from-home environment. And TTEC is not the only global company; Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Hitachi, Apple, Amazon, Chevron, Salesforce, Spotify, from the UK to the US and Japan to South Korea, these are all global companies that have, in the last few weeks, rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies amid the spread of COVID-19.

And it’s realistic to assume that shifting to the ‘home office’ will become the new normal for many of us for a while. With some employees working from home for the first time, which means figuring out how to stay on task in a new environment that may not lend itself to productivity. But there are ways to deliver results from setting up a good workspace to the way you talk to your team.

Ensure you keep your culture front and centre & communicate extensively
Working from home for any length at time, it can be easy to start to feel cut off from the company especially when employees are used to working in a busy office or contact centre.

Communicate your culture and values through regular “feel good” messaging.  Just because they are remote does not mean that they won’t appreciate a text or email reinforcing the values and how much they mean to your organisation.

Encourage an environment of open communication and feedback.  We run 9.30 am WhatsApp coffee mornings and our team leaders run work out sessions for agents and their children.  Psychologically this can help to achieve the right mind set.  The same applies if anyone is struggling in that we suggest going for a walk in the fresh air. Psychologically these are all things that can help to achieve the right mind set.

The key to a successful work at home team is clear communication – so you know exactly what they expect of you and they know exactly what is expected.

Last year, a study of 2,500 remote workers by online brand development agency Buffer found that loneliness was the second-most reported challenge, one experienced by 19% of respondents. Loneliness can make people feel less motivated and less productive.

One of the solutions to this is to include as much face-to-face interaction online as possible through video calls, regular manager check-ins – especially to those employees who live alone and might feel more isolated – and regular meetings with no agenda, like grabbing coffee or a drink.

If your culture includes a social and fun element then create a social platform where employees can upload funny videos and share photos. We have created our own platform to cater for a range of languages that can be easily translated.  It is a great time to hear from different people in different countries and share tips or advice.

It’s essential to maintain morale and togetherness during this crisis – on a business and human level.

Use technology to bring people together & structure the day
One thing has become very apparent and that is people like structure. Just as you would normally manage a daily business routine it is important you work together to create a few “new norm” routines that include taking coffee breaks, going for a walk to get fresh air and business requirements for reporting and feedback.

Insisting on the use of video conferencing through Zoom and Skype sessions not only keeps people connected face to face but is also great for keeping everyone in a formal setting and in work mode.

New structures, habits and channels need implementing. And at the same time, everyone is managing the urgent, day to day tasks – namely looking after customers with the same level of care and attention. 

Technology used in the right way and in the right places can drastically ease the burden on employees up and down the organisation.  We have a set of FAQ’s that are constantly added to and expanded which frees up support teams from trying to find answers to regularly asked questions. 

Regularly updated and centralised knowledge hubs can be a useful resource for employees to access any updates on company policies, upcoming events or any other key changes. It can also be a place for employees to share learnings across teams, so best practice can be scaled across the business.

We have the technology to bring people closer together than ever. Remote working has opened the opportunity for new tools and assets to help us move through COVID-19.

The well-being of employees & mental health support
Organisations must also take steps to ensure the wellbeing of employees who have switched to working-from-home arrangements – including ensuring they have access to mental health support.

People’s physical and mental health bear the brunt in times like these – so it’s important to have structures and programmes in place for people to lean on, wherever they are. Open and honest top down communication is a great way to encourage employees at all levels to share problems. Once they’re out in the open, they can be fixed.

Companies that go out of their way to make employee wellbeing a non-negotiable have engaged workforces. And by looking after employees, you give them the head space to look after customers – which means a productive remote workforce, doing more work, better.

Joanne-Regan Iles, Executive HR Director EMEA – TTEC

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