According to a recent study by Stanford, about 10% of US employees now regularly work from home (WFH), meaning that employers are slowly letting go of the long-held belief that real work is done at the office and that working from home leads to “shirking from home.” Things are changing. Not only are employees working from home, but the work isn’t getting shirked: the same study from Stanford states that working from home resulted in a 13% performance increase for call center employees. Companies are unchaining their employees from their desks, and these are the ways they ensure a productive, efficient workforce—even when that workforce is on the couch.
One of the most common roadblocks in enabling employees to work from home is the telephone. Much work can be done on a laptop from anywhere, but when part of an employee’s job description involves taking telephone calls—receptionists, sales agents, customer service reps, appointment setters, and more—things can get complicated when they are away from their office phone. That’s where call distribution technology comes in handy. Employees can work from anywhere and it’s like they’re still in the office. They log in as they usually do, and are given the capability of receiving calls to whatever device they choose: their home landline, a cell phone, or even Skype on their computer. This technology makes the barrier between home and the office seamless: if your office is a call center environment, the employee is in the call rotation just as if they were at their desk. Even if you have a pattern in your call rotation—simultaneous, specific ring order, etc.—your employees working from home are able to be part of the loop and take calls with no problem.
Being Part of the Team
There’s a chain of communication that exists in every work environment, and those who oppose WFH argue that a team member working from somewhere other than her desk interrupts that chain and makes it difficult for the rest of the team to function efficiently. With communication tools like Google Chat, Google Hangouts, and Skype, this is hardly an issue. With customer experience in mind, however, one might see where this could get a little thorny: if a customer calls your business and Employee A gets the call, but Employee B is the one who could best serve that customer’s needs, how does that call get transferred if Employee A is WFH? Easily. Call forwarding technology has advanced leaps and bounds in terms of what is possible for off-site telephone capabilities. Just as easily as calls can be routed to employees on any device, those calls can be transferred again: no matter where they are, your employees are still part of the team.
Access to Customer Information
With the rising popularity of cloud-based CRM systems, employees don’t need to be in the office to have customer information at their fingertips. They have real-time access to reports, data, and lead information wherever they are, and when you integrate your CRM with call distribution technology, they have the ability to view caller information whenever they receive a call to their chosen device. Lead response quality will never suffer when employees have all the tools they need, and with cloud-based systems, they have those tools any and everywhere.
Despite evidence that indicates employee productivity when WFH, many managers might still feel a twinge of concern when they think of their workforce at home and not in the office where the manager can keep an eye on things. Real-time agent panels could be a bit of a comfort. With an agent panel, an employee’s activity when WFH is still present and able to be monitored easily: the panel indicates when an agent is on the phone, busy, taking a break, or inactive, with reports available to gather data on individual agent performance over a period of time. That way, you can decide for yourself if WFH is a viable option for your staff.
The Stanford study reports dramatic work performance improvement in many cases, and a 9% increase in the number of minutes call center employees worked during their shifts—about as far as it gets from “shirking from home.” Bottom line: when you picture productive employees, expand your scope: they might just be more efficient on the couch.