Many organisations have initiated the process of reviewing how, when, and if to bring employees back to the call centre. To review and discuss best practices and potential outcomes, Poly bought together a panel of experts equipped with a large database of survey responses about what employees are looking for from their new workspaces.

I recently moderated a panel featuring Tim Oldman from Leesman and Katy Forsyth from Red Recruitment.  If you’d like to hear the full discussion, you can view the recording here. Otherwise, read on for key takeaways.

Fast Moving Environment – Expect Change

The initial conclusion from the panel was that this is a fast-moving area with lots of change and in general, employees want to return to the office for five key reasons:

  • Team and camaraderie (top reason for working in CCs for last 18 months)
  • Better support and visibility to solve customer problems
  • Better technology and facilities
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • More job security

But employers aren’t sure if they want everyone back in the office yet. The opening of offices is riddled with risk and uncertainty, especially if there is a public transport journey involved.  However, many employers are bringing employees back because they simply cannot work at home.

Best Practices for Returning Employees

A common theme recurring through all the recommendations and best practice was increased communication with employees. This can be accomplished by surveying employees to find out what they want, and what is concerning them.

Don’t take a ‘cookie cutter’ approach – ensure your plan is personalised to your centre and your employee needs.  Make sure you have distinct plans for those employees who have been working from home, those who have stayed in the office, and those returning from furlough – each of them will have unique need.  Those returning from furlough will need to get back ‘race fitness’ after extended time off.

Best practice for organisations was to have a ‘return to work kit’ with items such as new procedures, company branded items, and a map of the office showing new layouts, directions, guidance etc.

Will employees leave the industry?

This isn’t a normal recession where attrition would drop significantly. However, many Millennial or Gen-Z employees want to play a part in their community and are looking to move to other industries that have come out as ‘Heroes of COVID’ (think – warehouse employees, delivery services, care worker, teacher) to replace the social interaction and feeling of value they aren’t getting whilst working at home.

The industry has moved quickly to turn employees into the agents of tomorrow, demanding a lot more from them. In turn, those employees are starting to demand a lot back from the organisation.  Communicate with, and look after your employees as they are pivotal to the continued deliver of high quality, empathetic service.

A return to efficiency?

If a recession is an outcome of COVID-19, traditionally, organisations have responded with a focus on efficiency.  The call centre should learn from the past where productivity and efficiency driven measures (focus on AHT, volume of calls, etc.) didn’t deliver customer satisfaction. Customers want empathy – an experience driven by the employee but supported by a compassionate culture and workspace. Organisations that deliver this, will deliver brand loyalty.