I have the privilege of knowing dozens of seasoned U.S. work-from-home (WFH) leaders in financial services, health care, retail, travel, professional services and utilities who have figured out (over the years) the secret sauce for making work-at-home truly hum for their contact center organizations.
Here are the top three things these leaders always seem to get right:
Making connection as easy as it is for in-house employees
Employees need to be able to exchange work experiences and knowledge during the day with one or two clicks. And they need to be able to ask for help in solving customer issues (after attempting self-service) from a subject-matter expert (SME)—preferably while sitting among their peers who can chime in.
Highly successful WFH leaders use dedicated chat rooms, at a minimum, to provide remote employees with access to SMEs and each other. Even better are all-in-one platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Slack. The platforms (vs. instant messaging, email or phone) create immense visibility and a sense of team—actually better than the physical office environment could ever deliver.
Finally, WFH employees need to be able to socialize—easily. Businesses are social organizations, so making that work in distributed environments is critical. There are many ways to accomplish this based on your accessibility tools, company culture, etc. Doing it with consistency is the key. Virtual baby showers, virtual book clubs, virtual games, contests, promotions, discussion groups—all at our fingertips. The best leaders do this consistently.
Truly furnish flexibility to create balance for people
Seasoned WFH leaders provide true flexibility and work-life balance for people. If an employee is late to work, not a problem. Add the time onto the end of your schedule. Need a schedule adjustment for a month due to child care challenges? We will make that happen. Want to work on a special project that’s been posted? We’re segmenting parts of work schedules to do just that. Need to work split shifts for a while? We will look at ways to do that.
Recently, I was surprised to see a job posting for a WFH position with a national company that required contact center WFH applicants to be available 16 hours per day, seven days per week, and to be prepared to work any schedule, with changes every two weeks. This is a lot to ask of anyone. It is extremely difficult to actually deliver, and will result in churn.
To attract top talent, and keep them, seasoned leaders have moved away from broad schedule “requirements” to smaller windows, employee preferences and plenty of room for adjustments. Yes, it might cost a little bit more, but the quality of contribution from employees and retention far outweighs the cost.
Connect people’s individual roles with sense of purpose, company vision
In a remote environment, employees’ access to leaders and co-workers changes, so providing individuals with a sense of purpose and connection to the company vision becomes a higher priority than it is in office. When staff are on site, regardless of where people sit, team members can observe how leaders lead, how they make decisions, how they treat each other, how they communicate—starting from the time of on-boarding throughout the entire employee lifecycle.
With remote employees, the platforms for observation change, but the scope and degree of access actually is expanded. Experienced WFH leaders understand this, and leverage it, both with planned, scheduled, consistent activities and discussions (including dialogue around sense of purpose, professional development, individual and team/organizational contributions) that create access, and through organic, personalized exposure. Experienced leaders do not leave cultural connection to chance. The access is there, and the discussions take place.