Home Working
Illustration by Wilson Joseph

While the advantages of home-agent programs are undeniable, if your model is not well-defined, you’ll likely find yourself running into a few stumbling blocks that can make deep cuts in your potential savings or doom it to failure. Following are four common mistakes that contact centers make when rolling out a home-agent program.

Failing to Create a Virtual Community for Home Agents
Home agents need to have the same type of access to team members and managers as onsite agents. Creating an internal chat room where home agents can ask questions and talk with coworkers is valuable for both at-home and onsite staff. In a chat room conversation, agents get the benefit of seeing the responses to their questions, as well as everybody else’s questions. You can also help to build a team environment by holding meetings via webinars and conference calls, and allowing home agents to work on projects together virtually.

Not Preparing Supervisors to Support Home Agents
Many supervisors don’t understand how to manage in a virtual environment, which is a different dynamic than managing face-to-face. When the supervisors are unprepared, they often fail to anticipate the support services that home workers are going to need, resulting in a rocky path and unhappy people—both supervisors and agents.

Failing to Screen Home Agents Based on a Home-Worker Profile
Screening home agents for their aptitude to be successful working at home is critical—yet it’s another process that many contact centers overlook when launching a home-agent program. The people who thrive in a work-at-home position typically are not the type to come into an office or call center to work, so you’re not likely to find them already working in your center. However, if you plan to send home agents who are currently working onsite, test them the same way that you would if you were hiring somebody to make sure that they fit the psychographic profile to be successful working at home.

Not Considering Potential Legal Impacts
It’s important to have both the legal department and HR involved early in the planning stage of any home-agent initiative to examine the potential risks and costs associated with the Family and Medical Leave Act and workers’ compensation (e.g., what happens if an agent is injured while working in his or her home office? What if an agent doesn’t use the proper ergonomic equipment and develops a back injury or repetitive stress syndrome?). Workplace policies and behavior should also be examined. Even though agents are working from home, you are still exposed to the same types of legal issues as you would be in an office environment.