Recently some large companies made announcements about pulling back on their telecommuting programs. In general terms, the notifications advised many professionals who had worked remotely for years - that they needed to come back to the office to work, or lose their jobs.
For many, the challenges of returning to the office could be insurmountable. In several cases, local offices had long since closed. So effected remote employees would have to either uproot their families to move to a location where there was an active office, or take on a 2-3 hour commute each way.
This was a well thought through, huge step backwards for companies involved. So what went wrong? And which groups were impacted? Specifics about impacted groups (i.e. contact center reps vs. corporate employees) were not available publicly.
Here are some significant considerations and likely scenarios:
- Impacted remote workers were corporate employees, not contact center employees. Contact center jobs are highly transactional, and 100% of visibility of output is maintained with the move to work at home (via ACD views, etc.). As long as companies make the right investments in collaboration and communication platforms, there are no downsides to contact center work at home programs. There are only upsides, including larger talent pools, increased schedule flexibility/employee satisfaction, improved attendance and retention. Effective management/leadership is an obvious requirement.
- Corporate telecommuting programs can have poor visibility of outputs, poorly managed teams or programs. I do a good deal of on site consulting work around work at home initiatives, for both contact centers and corporate telecommuting programs. I have seen a number of cases of non-contact center telecommuting programs that suffered from weak leadership or weak management. When managers don't take the care to set clear expectations and agree on ways to consistently measure performance against agree upon outputs, chances are targets won't be met. When leaders are weak, disorganized or otherwise ineffective, employees will disengage. And telecommuters are more likely to disengage faster, and further.
- Telecommuting (non contact center) no longer meets corporate objectives. This can happen. Company objectives usually change every couple of years. Telecommuting may no longer be a strategy that's aligned with objectives.
- Overhead cost cutting strategy. In some cases, reduction or elimination of corporate telecommuting programs may be a way to contribute to cost cutting strategies or work force reduction strategies, while avoiding the headaches of performance-based or seniority-based reductions.
Contact center work at home programs work, unless they are peppered with weak ineffective leaders. It's far easier for the contact center organization to get work at home right than any other function within the organization.
How does your organization stack up against others? Join us at the Laguna Beach Work at Home Conference November 15-16, 2017 to validate your effectiveness.