In the U.S., 5 million employees (3.4% of the workforce) work from home at least half the week according to Global Workplace Analytics. At least, that was before COVID-19 hit. Now in a post-COVID world, virtually every working person is doing remote work from home. While COVID-19 has upended the work from home dynamic across every industry, it poses particular challenges for remote support centers where the considerations differ from on-site support centers.
Regardless of when or to what degree things rebound after the pandemic, remote workforces will continue to grow in popularity just as they were doing before the pandemic. Even in the new normal of COVID-19, remote businesses can thrive. There is no one-size fits all solution because every company’s environment is unique. For remote workforce teams and remote call center teams, the foundations for effective management comes down to developing a culture of open-communication backed by the right tools.
Developing a Culture of Communication
Just as in an office environment, the manager sets the tone for the culture and the methods of communication. While some communication processes are directly transferable to a remote workforce, others must change.
The basics start with leading by example through regular updates and ensuring that everyone understands the best way to reach their office counterparts. These will guide both impromptu communications and set periodic communications for everything from regular check-ins and meetings to questions, challenge resolution, and training support for specific process challenges, as one example.
Fostering a culture of communication across these scenarios requires written guidelines that govern common, and sometimes less common, message processes. These will be paired with the right medium or technology that best facilitates communication between:
Remote teams will appreciate this level of clarity and will see this as a reassuring sign of being part of a team that is ready and available to assist one another when help is needed.
Not all businesses or management have the experience in setting up these kinds of guidelines for a remote workforce and/or a remote call center team. This is one of many reasons a support center partner can guide the development process as part of a Center of Excellence framework proven through development of many remote teams and call centers.
This foundation is critical for management of culturally diverse teams and remote rural workforce teams that may be in different time zones. Another important consideration is the difference in best approaches to managing a remote workforce depending on the level of experience in the role. There will be differences based on whether the team is made up of established members, an entirely new batch of members, or is a hybrid of new and old members.
Just as with an in-office or on-site call center team, putting together the right remote worker team that can hit the ground running is imperative. But finding and training those team members is a lengthy process that may best be done gradually. This is where having a support center partner that can quickly plug-in skilled call center agents can be key in retaining customers.
Communication Tools for Remote Worker Management
The culture of communication based on written guidelines must have the right communication tools for successful operations since this makes a virtual team function. These fundamental tools are important for remote workforce teams focused on general business and call center teams (which will have an integrated set of technology tools to provide call center process communications).
Chat tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Hangouts, and others provide a flexible yet dedicated internal communication platform between team members and the manager. It should also integrate project management tools to provide the framework for each specific project. Web and video conferencing are now a necessity in the age of COVID-19 and are likely to remain a growing way of doing business. Google Meet, Skype, Webex, Zoom and other video conferencing tools can provide that face-to-face interaction between the remote team and manager which:
- Provides insights from visual clues
- Builds stronger team bonds
- Fosters a sense of belonging that fights the feelings of isolation from working alone
By providing training to the remote workers on how best to use these communication tools, you can create a culture of communication that is consistent and natural to foster more cohesive and better work from employees. While decisive and consistent communication and tools are important to both general business remote workforces and remote support centers, our next blog in the series will look at the communication protocols specific to remote support teams.