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WFH: The New Normal for Contact Centers Post-Pandemic?

At some point, contact centers will return to a “new normal” post-pandemic.

We may not know yet how that new normal will look. And it likely will look differently from one contact center to the next.

But one thing is for sure: work from home (WFH) will play a much bigger role—in a much shorter timeframe—than any of us could’ve imagined.

That’s because COVID-19 forced the hands of contact center leaders everywhere. What for many were hypothetical conversations in February about the viability of contact center agents working from home en masse hurriedly converted to operationalized plans in March when mandates required workers stay at home. In fact, a Nemertes Research study found respondents with contact centers had 74.1 percent of their agents working remotely as of April 2020 (up from only 59 percent pre-pandemic).1

Despite the unusual WFH circumstances in which most people find themselves—like attempting to balance work duties, childcare and their children’s distance learning from home—workers now have had a taste of what WFH can look like. And most like it.

They’re not alone. Forty-nine percent of CFOs responding to a April 22, 2020 PwC survey said remote work will be a permanent option for certain roles at their companies.2

I believe contact center agents will be one of these “certain roles” for which remote work becomes a permanent option at many companies—that WFH will indeed become the “new normal” for contact centers post-pandemic.

Here’s why.

Agents have proven they can be as productive—or even more productive—while working from home

I agree with Gartner Analyst Rob Smith, who says, “It’s an old-school mentality to think you have to have a presence in an office and that people only work within the office. Once people adjust to working from home, they actually do more work and work longer.”3

Flexibility is one of the key factors I’ve seen drive increased productivity for contact center agents who WFH. In addition to being able to easily adjust their schedules on the fly as needed (leveraging tools like Calabrio Teleopti WFM for Workforce Management), they’re recouping time previously spent commuting, for example, and signing on to work an hour earlier or signing out an hour later as a result.

The tools and technology that properly equipped WFH agents need are now in place

Smith estimated that pre-pandemic, roughly one-third of all companies were ill-equipped to send all their employees home, while another third had no remote work plan in place at all—a reality particularly true for companies dealing with sensitive data or using proprietary applications available only via corporate networks.4

Many of those same companies now have invested in and deployed the data security and other technologies needed to keep their businesses operational during WFH mandates. With these tools already in place and functioning, it’s easy to imagine leaders will continue to offer workers some sort of WFH option on a permanent basis. This is especially true for contact center agents—a broader WFH strategy would enable a business to “stay open and online” if and when a future disaster or national emergency prohibits agents from serving customers via a physical contact center.

Businesses can save significant amounts of money by shrinking their corporate real estate footprint

Nemertes Research estimates the average annual real-estate cost per contact center agent to be $8,300.5 Using this estimate, a 100-agent contact center could quickly save its company $415,000 per year in real-estate costs by allowing half of its contact center agents to WFH.

Corporate real estate savings of this magnitude positively and significantly impact any company’s bottom line, especially in challenging economic times.

Shifting more contact center agents to permanently WFH, however, doesn’t come without its fair share of hazards. I’ll expand on those in another blog next week.

For more information on managing a remote workforce, visit our Managing a Remote Workforce Definitive Guide.

1,5 No Jitter, “The Global Workforce: Forever Changed.” April 14, 2020.

2 ZDNet, “Offices, Work Sites, Employee Roles to be Reconfigured Post COVID-19, Say CFOs.” April 27, 2020.

3,4 Fast Company, “The Incredibly Simple Reason Working from Home could be Here to Stay.” Mar. 23, 2020.

Dave Hoekstra has spent his entire professional career in customer service, but it wasn’t until he found WFM that he found his true passion. With over 20 years in WFM, Dave has gained insight into the real world challenges of working in today’s customer service. He is one of the few people who truly gets excited when someone wants to talk about Real Time Adherence or Net Staffing reports.
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