Perspectives on Flexilbility and Homeworking
Updated December 2 2019 - Homeworking has gone in and out of fashion over the last two decades with implications for both employing organizations and employees. A White Paper published last year by Contact Centre specialists Puzzel, it is argued that flexible working practices are back on the map due to two major changes:
First, consumer behaviour has changed with customers expecting instant access to organisations. They want their questions answered at a time convenient for them.
Second, the modern workforce does not expects a five-days-per-week, 9am to 5pm schedule. Employees will consider alternative approaches such as contracting, freelancing and gig working.
Puzzel contend that these factors provide good reasons for contact centres to reconsider flexible, remote, homeworking. However, managing a remote workforce has its own challenges. Both frontline customer service staff and remote workers must have 'the information and technology they need to deliver an exceptional customer experience.' Also, contact centre managers need the best tools to support teams and maintain control.
According to Puzzel, 'technological advancements have transformed the potential for an effective flexible approach.' Modern cloud-connected and virtualised techniques have given us unlimited possibilities. So what has been learned from past experiences and what are the best ways to allow contact centre staff to work from home?
Tips for adopting successful homeworking
Colin Hay VP Sales UK provided eight top tips for turning successful homeworking into reality:
- Hire the right people and train them properly
- Make the most of technology to create an inclusive mobile workforce
- Create a social aspect
- Add some fun with gamification
- Enable mobile management - it's not just agents who can work from home
- Implement real-time analytics
- Maximise workforce management
- Take advantage of quality monitoring and call recording
Puzzel argue that many benefits can come from offering remote work options, including:
- a larger applicant talent pool
- staffing efficiency
- higher employee satisfaction
- lower agent attrition and less absenteeism
Flexible Working May Hamper Careers
A different perspective for employees comes froma 2006 study by business communications provider Inter-Tel. They questioned over 100 office-based workers about attitudes to flexible working. This identified positive reasons for applying to work flexibly but significant doubts about the likely response of employers.
Significant findings included:
- 90 per cent of respondents agreed that all employees should have the same right to request more flexible work patterns, irrespective of domestic circumstances.
- 30 per cent felt their organization did not respond equitably to such requests and 54 per cent were unsure about this issue.
- 60 per cent believed requesting greater flexibility could have a negative impact on the careers of people without children.
- 82 per cent considered flexible working a privilege; only 18 per cent felt it should be a right.
- 40 per cent felt their employer would not trust them to work from home.
Duncan Miller of Inter-Tel EMEA commented at the time:
'The trend for home working continues to grow. Data from the UK Office of National Statistics confirms that there are now more than two million people working from home and a further eight million opting to spend at least part of their working week outside the office. Clearly, there are still issues to be overcome and an education process needs to take place so that everyone knows what their rights are and ways in which they can improve their work life balance.'
Over two-thirds of respondents identified 'a better quality of life' as the most important reason for applying to work flexibly. Other factors centred on more time for family (22 per cent), non-work activities such as courses (6 per cent), and travel (3 per cent).
Duncan Miller concluded:
'We are now at a stage of technological development where people can work as effectively from their home or on the move, as they can at a desk in their company's office. Of course, flexible or home working is not feasible or suitable for all organizations, but employers should be looking at ways to address the work/life balance of their staff and be very clear on their policy in this area. A happier, healthier workforce can lead to greater productivity in the long term and increase staff retention.'