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October 2020
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Do your homework on home working, says Performance Telecom

The concept of home working has come back to the top of the agenda this summer with many organisations having been encouraged to give staff the flexibility to stay away from the office in order to reduce pressure on transport systems during the recent Olympics.

When the plans to allow home working within the civil service were announced in May, there was widespread criticism from business leaders who feared several weeks of inactivity. More recently, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, added his voice to the debate when he described the concept of home working as a ‘skiver’s paradise’.

However, these critics overlook the numerous advantages of a switch towards home working – which is not only beneficial for ‘back-office’ workers but also for teams that deal directly with the public.

That’s according to Ian Cox, Managing Director of Performance Telecom, a company founded in 1999 which provides multi-faceted customer contact solutions to a wide range of medium and large organisations.

He said: -It’s absolutely right that a greater adoption of home working would ease pressure on transport systems in our capital city. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Any effort to reduce unnecessary traffic and pollution should be applauded, but the long-term efficiency benefits of home working must not be ignored.”

It’s a practice that offers advantages not only to members of staff but also the organisations that employ them – and the customers they serve. That last point makes home working particularly pertinent for those involved in customer contact.

Mr Cox said: -I attended a Home Working Summit for the customer contact industry in London recently. Delegates were told that in the US, around 60 per cent of employees of customer contact organisations are now working from home, and this is expected to rise to 80 per cent by the end of next year. While the use of home working can reduce operating costs by as much as 20 per cent, it can simultaneously increase efficiency by the same amount, and job satisfaction ratings typically rise by between 35 per cent and 50 per cent.”

So while Boris Johnson makes barbed comments about ‘malingering’, the commercial world is taking a very real interest in the multiple benefits of flexible working.

Of course, it’s not for everyone and the Mayor of London was right to highlight the importance of face-to-face meetings and personal interaction. But there has to be some flexibility that allows staff to work from home where there are clear advantages in doing so.

-There are obvious benefits in terms of easing traffic congestion, cutting travel costs and reducing pollution but there’s also growing evidence that giving customer-facing employees the option of working from home can have a profound effect on not only their own job satisfaction but also, by nature, on customer satisfaction too,” said Mr Cox. -Studies suggest that productivity, accuracy and task completion can all improve as a result of home working.

-Furthermore, home working gives organisations access to a huge pool of untapped talent, including the disabled, young people and single parents, all of whom have a lot to offer, but often have difficulty travelling into offices.”

The efficiency savings that can be derived from having a ‘virtual team’ are also highly significant at a time when there is so much pressure on budgets. By embracing these types of improvements in working practices, organisations can secure vital cost savings.

A key factor in the rapidly advancing case for home working is technology. The latest technology not only gives employees greater freedom to decide how and where they work, but also enables employers to keep track of their activity and facilitates highly efficient operation.

There are a number of key steps to creating a successful home working strategy, according to Performance Telecom.

  • The first is to ensure that there is a project sponsor within the organisation, a person who will champion the decision and lead the project forward.
  • The second is to consider starting with a pilot, typically 5% to 10% of existing staff who volunteer to work from home. The pilot will help shape the final solution and ensure that future expansion is smooth and trouble-free.
  • Thirdly, it is important to see a home working team as entirely virtual, from the agents and team leaders, to managers and even IT support. Trying to mix a home working solution with a traditional bricks-and-mortar team is fraught with issues and will dilute the project.
  • Finally, and most importantly, team up with a technology partner such as Performance Telecom providing all of the key parts of a system, effectively co-ordinating voice, data, security, information and integration to give you a seamless, multimedia call centre experience, no matter where the agent happens to be.
  • -Home working is a topic that deserves serious consideration rather than insulting soundbites,” said Mr Cox. -With the right technology partner, it is not difficult to establish a framework for home working to becoming a key organisational strategy that not only improves job satisfaction and morale but also supports improvements in service delivery, while simultaneously contributing to cost savings. That adds up to a compelling proposition.”

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