Working from home is no longer just a potential option, but a must for the safety and well-being of your most valuable asset, your staff. For many companies and contact centers, employing remote workers has become the norm. The capabilities offered by cloud technology have revolutionized the benefits of remote work, giving employees access to a comprehensive knowledge base and full suite of contact center tools from a home computer.
As companies begin to rely more heavily on remote employees, however, many agents struggle to achieve work-life balance when their home has also become their office. And, as a contact center manager, how can you increase employee satisfaction for your remote workforce?
To help contact center employees achieve work/life balance when working from home, keep reading for helpful tips and strategies.
How do you manage employees working from home?
When working from home, your contact center agents face a unique set of challenges. Employees no longer have the guidance and supervision of managers to help with motivation. Though they face increased distractions from family members and easy access to time-wasting activities while on the clock, remote contact center workers must still meet goals and expectations.
Agent engagement is another challenge contact centers face when using a remote workforce. When your agents can’t interact with the rest of your team throughout the day, morale and productivity can suffer.
Using a cloud contact center solution can improve your customer experience, but it’s also a valuable asset for remote workforce management. When connecting with your agents in their home office, there are many ways you can help agents maintain separation between their personal life and work.
1. Listen to your team
Communication is important for any team, but critical for your remote contact center agents. Support and motivate your home workers by intentionally and actively listening to their needs, specifically what they need from you.
Encourage direct communication
While some agents may come directly to you with their needs, you will likely need to actively gather feedback and suggestions. Use regular surveys to gain deep insight into the needs of each individual agent. You can also include dialogue during meetings to encourage easy communication between managers and agents.
Offer video conferencing tools
Though it can be hard to connect with agents when your team is spread from the U.S. to Latin America and beyond, holding regular video conferencing meetings can improve the connections your employees can make with each other. These face-to-face interactions are a great way to build a strong team through professional and personal relationships that can improve collaboration.
Provide project management tools
Some of your agents may also request access to resources such as project management tools for increased productivity. These tools enable employees to keep better track of tasks and daily changes, improving their control over flexible schedules and daily assignments.
2. Recognize your remote contact center agents
When you have dozens of agents located across North America and/or the world, it’s easy to lose track of individuals in the business of customer service. Your cloud contact center software gives agents the tools they need to work autonomously, which can sometimes lead to workers slipping through the cracks.
You shouldn’t micromanage your agents, but it’s important that agents feel recognized and appreciated for the work they do. How important? Take a look at these statistics about employee recognition:
- If planning to switch jobs, 55% of survey respondents cited a lack of recognition as the primary reason for leaving
- When employees were “always” or “usually” recognized by management, 63% said they were very unlikely to look for a new job in the next 3-6 months
- If they received more recognition, 40% of working Americans said they would put more effort into their work
So, how can you use recognition to increase job satisfaction?
Gamify your work
Rewards are a great way to encourage better results from your workers, even when they’re working from home. Contact center agents can compete to take more calls and resolve more problems to win vacation time, gift cards, or company swag. By incentivizing your goals and work, you can encourage dedication and fun. When employees can focus on their work, they can get more done during work hours and keep personal time reserved for relaxing instead of playing catch up.
Focus on company culture
Remote agents often miss out on the benefits and camaraderie offered by an office environment. Help your employees feel more connected by intentionally creating a company culture for your remote staff.
Increase employee engagement by offering office happy hours or meeting themes, such as bring your pet to work day. Further decrease stress levels by posting pictures of these events on your company social media accounts, celebrating both your employees and the fun you’re having together.
3. Encourage effective scheduling
Many companies fear that allowing employees to work from home will lead to a drop in productivity and results. When project managers can’t directly monitor a floor of agents, there’s a fear that they will waste more time and slack on their tasks.
Despite these fears, studies have shown that remote work actually encourages greater results. In fact, introducing remote work has led to an increase in productivity for 85% of businesses. Another survey found that 65% of those who responded say they are more productive at home than they were at a traditional office. Furthermore, 50% of remote workers used fewer sick days and 56% had fewer absences when working from a home office.
While this is great for workplace efficiency, it can also limit your agents’ ability to find a healthy balance in the contact center environment. For 22% of remote employees, they find working at home makes it hard to unplug from work and enjoy their free time. Employees that work remote also use less vacation time and are even willing to give up vacation time for greater job flexibility.
Though businesses see better results when agents spend more time working, a lack of personal time can lead to agent burnout and lower job satisfaction. Customer interactions can suffer from your agents’ high stress and lack of investment in their work. As burnout leads to higher turnover, your contact center will see more negative effects than benefits.
Improving work-life balance
To avoid burnout, remind agents to schedule out their workdays. Sharing schedules and blocking out time away from work can create a firmer line between work and personal time. Employees can also presence tools, such as the RingCentral’s app messaging tool, to show when they’re unavailable for work questions and tasks.
Sharing a home and work space can make many remote workers feel as if they are always on for work needs. Setting clear expectations about off-hour availability reduces stress and shows agents that you value their time and well-being.
Prevent schedule creep
The best managers lead by example, so take care to avoid asking agents to work past their scheduled hours, even when you’re experiencing a high volume of interactions. Unless you have a true emergency that depends on their involvement, leave questions for the morning. As tempting as it can be to keep working, your team will thank you for waiting.
4. Utilize workforce management tools
While it’s important for your agents to maintain a healthy work-life balance, effective scheduling is also your responsibility as a contact center manager. Working remotely already tends to blur the line between home and work, so it’s easy to take advantage of these loose boundaries – even if you don’t mean to do it.
To avoid overworking your employees, rely heavily on your contact center platform’s workforce management tools. Set firm hours for all of your employees and remind everyone of the importance of sticking to these schedules. Gently remind agents about working overtime if you see it becoming a common problem. If you see employees sending messages during off-hours, send a quick response to request waiting until the start of their next shift.
Your workforce management tools are accessible through any mobile device, which makes schedule changes easier and more convenient. If agents are asking for more time, you can use this tool to alert them of available shifts and requests for shift swaps. Workforce management tools also simplify remote requests for time off, giving you greater control over your schedule and contact center needs.
Giving mobile access to your schedules can also help agents plan their personal lives around their work demands. Remote employees can log in at any time to see what their work schedule looks like and how they need to adjust home life to accommodate it. If there are any issues with your schedules, agents can quickly get in touch to resolve the conflicts.
5. Maintain constant communication
Communication is key for the success of any team and is especially important for a team of remote workers. Keep your agents informed and engaged by prioritizing communication in your remote working strategy.
Give solid, actionable feedback to show how each employee is performing and progressing. You can share this information during performance reviews or through regular reports delivered every week or month. You can also give team members access to performance metrics through your cloud contact center platform. By gaining a clear understanding of their resolution or customer satisfaction numbers, agents can make targeted improvements to achieve greater results.
Coaching and support
Remote agents may feel hesitant to reach out for help or guidance when experiencing a problem. Avoid this problem by inviting agents to reach out for advice and assistance. Use your contact center software’s live chat or messaging option to connect instantly with the people who need your help. When agents know that support is easily accessible, they will be more likely to use your guidance to achieve higher results.
You can also offer active coaching through tools such as whisper coaching or call monitoring. These resources allow you to provide background advice when agents are dealing with a difficult customer. If the call escalates, you can then use a call-barging tool to take over the call and deescalate the situation. Using a call recording tool to evaluate agent performance can also provide helpful feedback to give to your agents.
Often, even a simple check-in can increase agent satisfaction. Show your remote workers that you are concerned with their well-being and happiness in their job. If you’ve seen an increase in off-hour work, remind them that you only expect their time during scheduled shifts. Stay active in pursuing a positive employee experience to help your agents do more during work hours so they can spend more time relaxing.
Support your remote workers
Working from home, especially with the growing popularity of the gig economy and a need for social distancing, is the future of the contact center. As a manager, it’s important to know how to best support and empower your valuable remote agents in their everyday work. Your contact center and ultimate customer service satisfaction depends on the work they do, so give your agents the resources they need to do incredible things.
Want to connect with customers right away? Take advantage of RingCentral’s customer engagement solution free of charge.
Originally published May 21, 2020, updated Aug 27, 2020