The Hybrid Model Is Only Part of the Solution to the Work-at-Home Dilemma


The Hybrid Contact Center

5th Talent International has completed three contact center work-at-home studies since the beginning of the 2020 pandemic. We learned that most employees prefer the hybrid model, which is a mix of splitting their time between their home and the center. Our April 2021 study highlighted that the collective time employees want to spend working at home is 87%. Many who indicated they preferred to work 100% at home also commented that they don’t want to be 100% virtual. They still want in-person access for meeting with their supervisor, team meetings, social events and training. Only 2% of employees wanted to return to the center full time.

The Work at Home Dilemma

During the pandemic, a work at home dilemma arose. The dilemma is that there are challenges to the sustainability of the work-at-home model and the best way to overcome them is to bring everyone back to the center. However, the leading preference of employees is not to return to the center. On the one hand, employees want a social connection to their peers, a good relationship with their supervisor, and the general feeling that their job is worthwhile. On the other, they want to work in their homes isolated from others.

To overcome the dilemma, many companies are moving toward a hybrid model, but this approach alone will only provide limited results over time. As companies implement their “return-to-work” strategies, a hybrid model will provide an initial boost to employee morale and productivity by more successfully connecting people to each other and the company culture. However, in the hybrid approach, companies still have a remote workforce and many of the underlying challenges of the “physical gap” remain.

Our latest study highlighted the importance of supervisor preparedness as the key to bridging the “physical gap” between supervisors and agents. When supervisors received training or guidance in managing remote employees that they rated as “very helpful,” their team had better performance and less fatigue compared to those who rated it as “very poor” or had no training or guidance. If you take away anything from our report, it is that the key to a successful work-at-home program is the supervisor.

The Future of Work

Here are our recommendations for the future of work to overcome the work-at-home dilemma and build a sustainable, effective remote workforce:

  • Understand the positive and negative work-at-home experiences of your employees.
  • Define your culture and how to effectively extend it remotely, including through your supervisors.
  • Develop an effective communication strategy to keep your people engaged and informed.
  • Develop your managers and supervisors to overcome the physical gap between them and employees.
  • Support supervisors and reduce the amount of effort they are experiencing in the work-at-home model, which could include reducing supervisor-to-agent ratios.
  • Enable employees to directly connect with each other in a voice or video channel that is not heavily monitored.
  • Utilize a hybrid model to engage employees socially when they visit the office and provide in-person opportunities for supervisors to meet with their people.
  • Offer hybrid flexibility to employees by allowing them a choice for how much they work at home and in the center.
  • Bring new-hires into the center for orientation, nesting and for part of training.
  • Develop a meaningful work management approach—because when agents find their work meaningful, they stay with the company longer, are highly productive and deliver outstanding customer experiences.

About 5th Talent International

We are a service consulting company that has developed a methodology based on the area of research called “Meaningful Work.” Meaningful work is the magic metric for service organizations because when employees have it, they work harder, stay with you longer, deliver outstanding service, and go the extra mile to drive performance. We also developed an Excelling at Home Program, which helps you maintain your culture and create a thriving and sustainable work-at-home model. The program integrates findings from our groundbreaking work-at-home studies and our meaningful work methodology to enable you to transfer success from the contact center to the home.

Ted Nardin

Ted Nardin is Co-founder and Principal Consultant for 5th Talent International. Over the past three decades, Ted has engaged in original research and invented new methods that help organizations maximize the benefits of people talking to people.

Brian Kearney

Brian Kearney is Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer for 5th Talent International. He has more than two decades of experience in the contact center industry helping companies develop a serving culture leading to loyal employees and customers.