Homeworking and high-risk activities 

Some organisations are exploring how to best respond to the hurdles encountered around high-risk activities such as financial crime, fraud etc. There are challenges for many around internal call transfers and difficulties arise when calls need to be escalated. This has resulted in a re-prioritisation of the work being managed from home with onsite teams dealing with higher risk calls. 

For some, at home colleagues are being used as a knowledge bank or technical support to support onsite colleagues by being available through platforms such as Skype, Teams etc. 

Recruitment and training challenges

For some organisations, a growth in headcount is required to deal with demand. The typical recruitment and training processes are being adapted to consider the restrictions in engaging new recruits in a typical face to face process. 

Teams and Skype are commonly used to replicate the induction programme. This is not ideal as it is clearly more difficult to build rapport with new colleagues however these methods have been relatively successful. 

To support training, some organisations are creating Zoom Training Rooms. Colleagues are onsite, complying with social distancing rules and trainers are delivering content via Zoom. In some instances, typical training time is being extended in response to the adapted methods of delivery. For most, it is trial and error, and trying to assess quickly what works and what doesn’t and responding accordingly. 

Many organisations will retain a large percentage of homeworkers as part of their future strategy. Some new recruits have been employed under new working from home contracts. 

Permanent changes to operating hours

A regular discussion item for this forum has been hours of operation. Many organisations have amended opening hours in some way in response to the current situation. There are a few organisations however that have not changed opening hours at all. 

In terms of moving forward, post pandemic, some recognise that things will not revert to the way it was before the pandemic. This is not to say that reduced hours currently in place will remain, but many report a review of operating hours post pandemic. This is supported by strong NPS scores and the lack of complaints from customers in response to revised operating hours. However, will this change over time. For some organisations it is too early to make a final decision on this. 

Sales teams may take a different view and revert to extended hours of operation. 

Getting people back to work 

With the latest advice from the UK Government, some organisations are planning to reopen offices. One example provided was by end of March the organisation achieved 70% of total headcount successfully working from home. The remaining 30% were furloughed. The focus currently is to get the 30% of furloughed staff into them office over several days, whilst complying with social distancing. 

Investments in thermal temperature checkers and thermal cameras for entry doors is being made. Approximate costs of £4,000 have been quoted for one camera. 

Some organisations have a one way in/one way out system in operation with a thermal temperature camera at entry point to the building (before security barriers). If a member of staff shows a high temperature, they are sent to a testing area and then re-tested 15 mins later. If the temperature is still high the employee is asked to leave the building. 

Not only does this identify potentially sick members of staff, it also provides reassurance to those who are returning to the office. 

Facemasks are not currently being used in centres however some are trying to source masks to help staff members using public transport. 

The social distancing policies will be an issue for many in terms of the number of employees able to be in the building at any one time. 

The 12-week shielding instruction is ending. Many organisations prioritised these colleagues for homeworking at the beginning of the pandemic. Despite being vulnerable and isolating, they were still fit for work. For others, these colleagues have been supporting activities such as webchat to ensure they are contributing in some way. 

Understanding sentiment 

Some employees are becoming resentful of the practices across sites, or of colleagues working from home. This is also manifesting amongst leadership teams. If colleagues are unable to get a hold of a manager to support with an escalation for example, the next step is to connect with leaders who are office based which is causing tensions within some teams. 

A few examples of how to respond to this were shared. For example, introducing a rota system indicating which manager is available for support. 

This is probably more prevalent with staff still working and those that have been furloughed. In response to this some organisations are considering additional payments or an ‘at home allowance’ to help combat any tensions and alleviate some of the noise however it is a big challenge to overcome. 

Update on average waiting times

Since the pandemic there has been a considerable increase in the average call wait times/speed to answer. This is in part due to the complexity of customer enquiries however also impacted due to sickness and absence. An average of +60% is reported across the group.