Vishal Agrawal, Managing Director, Avaya, India and SAARC

With the Covid-19 crisis persisting, enterprises across the globe have been making concerted efforts to safeguard employees by following regulations and recommendations released by governments while maintaining business continuity. Social distancing and self-isolation measures have pushed for a holistic transition of the workforce to the work-from-home model. Whether an organisation is planning to deploy remote workers, including contact centre agents, or are already doing so, learning from others’ experience can enhance the success of its programme. The following recommendations have emerged from several companies that use remote workforce extensively.

Document remote work policies and procedures

A written policy that governs remote workers with clear and uniform rules should already be in place.  With each remote worker, including contact centre agents, the manager should review the policies and procedures together. Focus on job responsibilities, organisational and departmental goals and objectives, customer impact, and employees’ work performance. For all workers transitioning from traditional in-office roles to working remotely, even if temporary, reinforce policies and practices regarding protection of customer-sensitive information. This is especially important for employees in customer-facing and customer support roles.

Select the right people for the job

Some employees are good workers but may not be best suited to work from home. Personality is only one aspect of this. Most remote workers may have access to customer-sensitive information, such as financial or health information. For these reasons and more, make background checks a part of your selection process. You should also be open to organisational changes, monitor performance, and promote the people who thrive in the new remote environment.

Equip remote workers to succeed

There are several hardware, software and connectivity factors that play a vital role in effectively empowering your employees to work remotely. Remote workers generally need a hard phone or headset and a computer. If your company provides the personal computer (PC) or otherwise enforces system requirements upfront, your help desk will thank you later.

On the software side, remote workers need the same access to applications, tools and peers as they do when in office and this can be facilitated by the right communications and collaboration tools. For example, contact centre agents working from home will require the same access to supervisors as in-office agents while supervisors working remotely need access to their contact centre management tools.

The ability to collaborate is key but there can be significant upfront and ongoing costs associated with regular fixed line or cellular calls. Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) effectively addresses these costs but keep in mind that these solutions may require either SIP voice connectivity via the internet or virtual private network (VPN) support, depending on your country’s rules and regulations.

When equipping employees with remote working tools, it is advisable to provide them with easy-to-use documentation regarding password policies, or how to log into remote network services such as VPN, or telephone services.

Make experts readily available

Remote workers need access to the same subject matter experts and support just as in the office. “Presence” is a technology that is familiar to users of instant messaging,

where a list of names is accompanied by icons indicating whether each person is logged in. When this technology is incorporated into an enterprise, finding an expert is just as easy for the remote worker as for the in-office worker.

Manage and monitor

Remote workers need to meet the same productivity goals as in-office workers. Predictable management check-in times are reassuring to remote workers. In addition, remote employees need to be included in team meetings and events so that they can stay connected socially and culturally. Remember to keep training and mentoring remote workers, and reward good performance.

While remote working is proving essential in the ongoing effort to contain and control the spread of Covid-19, there is no doubt that it also has the power to forever transform and enhance the way organisations operate. Gartner forecasts that by 2023, less than one-third of digital workers will choose the office as their preferred place to work. The remote workforce investments businesses make today in their people, policies, procedures and technologies will serve to benefit them greatly – both in the near and long term.