COVID-19 RESPONSE FORUM - WEEK 2
Working from home can impact productivity and the ability to perform at the normal level; collaboration is hugely important, as is clarity around challenges being faced by homeworkers. It’s also critical that frontline agents receive clear and regularly updated information about matters such as leave allowances and pay, and changes to working patterns as Government advice is changed and updated.
In order to minimise disruption, communication can become more of a challenge and it’s essential to make sure that clear messaging is maintained as much as possible. Top-down communication is appreciated by frontline staff – a clear, concise, reassuring and transparent message from a CEO or other C-suite executive can provide reassurance and help agents to remain focused on their workload. Reducing anxieties around the workplace can be a huge aid to homeworkers and contact centre workers alike.
Many frontline agents are experiencing huge anxiety around leave allowances. In response, many businesses are updating and swelling leave policies in order to accommodate agents during the pandemic and cover not only sickness leave but allowances for self-isolation, emergency leave and carer’s leave.
There are also ongoing conversations around compensation – particularly where sales staff on commission are involved, increased leave pay is more vital than ever during the period that COVID-19 continues to impact the population.
There’s also an awareness of the knock-on problem the pandemic will have. Since very few agents will take annual leave in this half of the year, the latter half is likely to create a bottleneck of unused allowance. Agents are therefore encouraged to continue to use their leave as normal.
In unprecedented times, unprecedented measures have to be taken to ensure business continuity. Where staff still have to be physically in the organisation, measures such as keeping agents at least one desk apart may make a crucial difference. Additionally, increased hygiene measures such as sanitising desks before and after every shift helps to ensure they are less likely to contract infection within the centre or pass it on if they are vectors and not yet aware of it.
As the pandemic progresses, it’s likely that colleagues will have to take on workloads they may not previously have been familiar with, or to work with members of other teams in order to preserve core business processes. Remaining agile in working practices is crucial, and it may be the case that traditionally non-customer facing staff may be asked to take on customer-facing roles, and vice versa, as the situation progresses. More senior members of staff such as team leaders and managers might also be asked to take on frontline roles in order to guarantee business continuity.
Agility extends to every part of the business – many organisations are re-thinking channels, reducing or perhaps even shutting down certain avenues of communication with customers – for example webchat – in order to facilitate homeworking.
Inevitably, there will be challenges outside our control: with issues such as broadband connectivity, it won’t always be possible to reach the level of service possible within the contact centre. Managing expectations is also key to ensuring that customers and colleagues have a clear idea of how things are likely to progress over the next weeks and months.
Mindfulness may not seem like a top priority as organisations struggle to keep the lights on, but it can make all the difference. Mental health, as well as physical, needs to be maintained and if not, can seriously impact our ability to perform as normal, particularly under increased strain and unusual working environments.
As anxieties around Coronavirus and its direct physical impact including economic and social strains come into play, wellbeing plays a central role in ensuring the smoothest possible continuity. Checking in with frontline colleagues on a regular basis each week and encouraging them to voice any concerns they may have allows colleagues to communicate clearly and to focus more clearly.