4 Remote Agent Trends to Watch in 2016

Most workplaces have begun to implement a work-from-home program in some capacity. Though there has been some trepidation in the past regarding productivity, engagement, and computer security with WFH jobs, most companies have found ways to overcome these hurdles, and now a good number of large enterprises have workforces comprised of a mix of both remote and brick-and-mortar agents.

With a blossoming gig economy that provides workers more flexibility than ever and a landscape with a growing demand for 24/7 service, it is evident that companies cannot afford to ignore the work-from-home trends being adopted by their business peers, both large and small.

Indeed, workers and organizations alike promote WFH positions as a strategy that enhances productivity, as opposed to a model that inhibits it. In fact, 77 percent of workers report greater productivity in work-from-home positions. With the ever-growing demand for flexibility from both workers and customers, the adoption of the WFH model is here to stay, but there are some conversations garnering lots of attention when it comes to remote agents. Here are 4 remote agent trends to watch in the coming year.

#1 Engaging Remote Workers Is a Top Priority

The remote agent model has become a modern staple for organizations across the board. However, the trade-off is losing valuable face-to-face communication with workers who don’t report to the office. And when it comes to employee engagement, most organizations have started the conversation about what successful engagement programs look like for their workforce, and how to improve engagement overall.

When it comes to employee engagement among remote workers, strategies and results can be something of a mixed bag. Companies may be able to contact a remote worker via video chat or phone call, but he or she still misses out on interactions with co-workers and the brick-and-mortar company culture, which can play a large part in engagement levels.

#2 Advancements in Security and Technology Means a More Open Market for Home Agents

There’s no question that there are a number of advantages to letting contact center agents work from home. Freelance industry research demonstrates that recruiting and hiring talent for brick-and-mortar positions takes an average of 43 days, as opposed to just three days in the virtual world (Upwork). Additionally, companies like Atena have saved millions of dollars in overhead costs by employing the WFH model (Forbes).

Thanks to WI-FI access, cloud computing, and other advances in technology, many service and support jobs can be done outside the office. Historically, many companies in the financial service sector have avoided home agent programs due to security concerns. However, thanks to advancements in technology, large financial organizations like Capital One are now reporting success with this model.

#3 Companies are Adopting Greater Scheduling Flexibility

In recent years, the emphasis on work-life balance has begun to tip more towards the life side of the scale. Many companies are allowing more flexible scheduling so employees can manage their time in the ways that work best for them. As companies give employees greater scheduling leeway, though, there is now pressure for employees to always be “on” and responsive to communications like e-mails and phone calls, leading to a large portion of the workforce never truly turning “off.”

While employers make efforts to increase work flexibility, the flip side is the same types of technology that allow for this flexibility have also blurred the boundaries between work and life for many employees.

In Ed Gregory’s recent Fast Company article, Josh Bersin, founder of the research firm Bersin by Deloitte, notes, “Tech has eliminated the barriers between work and life, and we’re getting more and more information, news, emails, and conference calls every day, and people can’t deal with it.” He adds that one of the main goals for many companies is to attract both candidates with the desire to drive change and move up in the company as well as employees who want to work hard without having work rule their lives.

#4 Organizations are Using WFH Positions as Rewards for Top Performers

Many organizations are using work at home roles as rewards for their top brick-and-mortar performers. However, the type of employee who succeeds at home may not necessarily have the same set of skills as those who flourish in an office environment. It’s important to know the core competencies required for success in home agent roles versus those required for successful brick-and-mortar agents, because the two are cut from very different cloths. While there is plenty of research discussing the myriad of advantages in using WFH programs, many organizations are still ironing out issues with this model, including engagement, employees’ ability to troubleshoot basic technology and equipment issues, and security.