Back in February, the dialog in the contact center space revolved around how to reinforce employees to work from home. You probably invested in some new tech to support your employees, sent out a recurring calendar invite for morning check-ins and end of day meetings, maybe even organized a couple of Zoom happy hours to keep the morale up while social-distancing.
Fast forward two months: Just when everyone was beginning to settle into their new at-home routines, the dialog changed, and now there’s word of reentry on the horizon. With many states loosening their social-distancing guidelines, you probably jumped at the idea of being back in the office with your workforce all in one place. Finally, a little normalcy! Before sending that mass email signaling the end of the “work from home era”, here are three questions to ask yourself:
1. Do your employees feel comfortable going back?
You might be thinking, “Of course they’re comfortable, it’s an office! They want to get away from their dog, kids, spouse, roommate!” Not so fast, Boss. While many employees do miss the in-office camaraderie and having all of the tools they need at their fingertips, people are still afraid of the invisible enemy that shows no signs of retreat anytime soon.
Consider that a lot of your workforce might have underlying conditions that you don’t know about like asthma, sleep apnea, heart disease, etc. or maybe they have a loved one at home with an underlying condition that they’re afraid to put at risk by being around co-workers who might not be taking this seriously enough. Even with social distancing in the workplace, can you expect your employees to deliver exceptional customer service when they’re working with higher than normal stress levels?
2. Can you sustain increased sanitation costs and requirements?
Whether we like it or not, we’re living in a new normal. Mask requirements at grocery stores, dodgy looks from people in the checkout line for an allergy sniffle, hand-washing for two happy birthdays after coming home from walking the dog. Imagine these rules in an office setting where people are forced to be in close quarters with one another and share the same coffee machine, refrigerator, and conference room. Sure, you can lessen your employee’s fears by providing an endless supply of hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes, invest in a sanitation crew that details the office every night, but what about wearing masks while trying to talk on the phone? Stella Connect and Transformative Management Group recently hosted a Live Video Podcast event, The Break Room where TMG’s Kevon Hill and Stanley Lucas discussed exactly this. Their guest, Ascena’s Franco D’Ambrosio said, “Agents can’t wear masks because they need to be clear and concise on the phone– through a mask, that can be difficult,”
If employees are unable to wear masks while they work, would you be willing to put up plexiglass barriers between workstations, and implement strict guidelines where social-distancing is near impossible? The increased costs and requirements it would take to bring your agents back to the office are substantial, and that brings us to our next point.
3. Is it the right time?
On The Break Room, Kevon Hill said it right when he said “Look at this from the agent’s perspective. Is there a reason to rush people back to the office?” Considering the level of seriousness, and the 60,000+ deaths from this virus in the U.S. alone, people are going to have heightened emotions over a rogue sneeze or a coughing coworker, and heightened stress levels over having to sit in close proximity with colleagues who might not be taking the necessary precautions.
In the states’ rush to reopen their economies, a lot of agents will show up to work the day that you reopen; they’re afraid to say no to their bosses because the fear of retaliation after large downsizing, is very real. Many will put their health at risk to keep their jobs and not say anything about it. As a leader, are you prepared to put a contingency plan in place to cover all the bases?
There is a light, but it’s further than we thought
We’re all in the same trench together, fighting the same enemy and the only weapon we have is the most powerful one of all: social distancing. Maybe instead of asking yourself how to reopen and what the BCP is going to look like moving forward, you should ask yourself how to make working from home more sustainable for the near future.
Customer service agents are essential workers and they need to be protected, too. The good news is that there is a multitude of twenty-first-century tech that is built to support remote teams, from motivation to engagement and activity tracking. Here at Stella Connect, we do exactly that. Our cloud-based platform is built to empower your agents no matter where they’re working from. With real-time customer feedback, QA, and coaching, our platform helps to not only motivate but engage. We want to do our part to support you and your team, contact us for a free consultation.