On Jul, 9 2021
With the pandemic turning a corner in the United States, more contact centers are evaluating or moving forward with plans to reopen their office that closed in early 2020.
However, the process of reopening isn’t as simple as unlocking a door and flipping a switch. Here are a few tips for returning contact center agents to the office.
1) Assess the work environment preferences of your contact center agents – Reopening an office shouldn’t be the decision of a single executive. Do a quick survey and better understand how agents will react to the office opening up again. Is there a sense of excitement? Or are the majority of agents against the idea? If necessary, take the process a step further and find out specifically which agents prefer working from home and which ones want to work in an office.
2) Ensure ALL in-office technology is working – Once the wheels get set in motion for a return, it’s time to test and fix all related technology within the office. After all, much of this equipment has been sitting dormant or receiving less use than normal for many months. While some things may seem obvious, start with grid systems for office comfort and productivity like HVAC and electrical. Once the bigger picture items get the green light, do testing on more of a micro level. Test monitors and internet connections, ensure computers are updated, check headset quality, and any additional items to make sure when an agent sits down at their desk that they have everything they need to work.
3) Slowly reintroduce agents into the office – Once you’ve determined which agents genuinely want to get back to the office life and their work area is properly configured, leverage scheduling technology within your workforce management (WFM) software to keep a cap on in-office agents. You can even create “in office” and “work from home” groups within the software if it makes sense. Space the agents out accordingly and ensure their working environment is clean as they readjust to an office environment.
4) Provide additional comforts for returning to the office – When reopening an office it doesn’t hurt to go above and beyond for the agents who are assisting the greater team in this process. Ordering in boxed lunches and creating a sanitized area with snacks can help to reduce agent activity near office entrance areas. Adding individual cleaning products, such as sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, to the desk of each agent is a nice touch as well. Have open lines of communication through an agent portal within your WFM software so agents can share any additional comforts they would like to see within the office.
5) Use preliminary in-office findings and analysis to create the next strategy – After the office has been open for a week or two, it’s time to ask agents about their thoughts on working in the office again. Are they happy to be back? Do they feel safe? How much has their work-life balanced improved or declined? Take this information and implement any necessary adjustments before adding more agents into the office. For example, if feedback indicates that workstations need higher barriers because agents are concerned about where they work, consider hiring a team to install barriers over the weekend. Adherence information from WFM software can also help as an additional data source for benchmarking overall office productivity. Evaluate how the agents that have been working in the office compare to their at home colleagues and calculate the impact that having agents in an office has had on your contact center operations.
In short, successfully returning contact center agents to the office is all about listening to your team and responding accordingly. Don’t unnecessarily frustrate your best agents by forcing a return to the office right away. Move slowly and carefully, taking into consideration the needs of the agents as you make decisions.