While we’ve officially moved into a new year, 2021 will bring even more complex working expectations as organisations figure out how to adjust to a ‘COVID normal’ world. With offices and contact centres in many states still not able to operate at full capacity, companies must start planning what the progression back to an in-person office work life will look like when they are given the go-ahead.
Many organisations feel that their team members have proven themselves able to coordinate their own work and be extremely successful working from home, even becoming more productive than they were in office. Some team members have adjusted to this new arrangement so well that they feel going back into a workplace with more noise and more distractions could reduce their productivity.
With most contact centre agents being out of the office for over a year now, any transition plan will need to focus engagement and communication, incorporating the companies’ preferences and what each team member need regarding flexible working requirements. LinkedIn has stated that offices will have to fight to win back employees. Some of the power of choice has now shifted to staff who have a say in where and when they want to be working.
No doubt there will be much discussion on what is the best model moving forward both for the company as well as the employees. Below, we explore some of the popular opinions for a returning to office model; most of these address the need for in-person collaborative time as well as remote individual work.
The 3-2-2 Model
One proposed model is the 3-2-2 week. This seeks to find balance with employees working in the office three days per week, working remotely two days per week and having two days off. This model considers that many collaborative work efforts have not been as easy via Zoom or other video chat systems. The chance to bulk together in-person meetings and face-to-face teamwork may also encourage more focused work during employees’ remote working sessions as they don’t have to worry about slotting in time with co-workers.
This model seems entirely feasible moving forward, and as different employee groups could be staggered, it can also cater to smaller office capacity caps. This would allow some departments the chance to work in the office on days when other departments work from home. In a survey polled by LinkedIn News Australia, this was the most popular model, with 49% of respondents indicating they prefer a 3-2-2 workweek to other options. The adoption of this model will vary by industry and office type. For those centres open into the evening and weekends, a similar 60-40 split would be seen.
The 4-Day Work Week
Another option for altered work weeks is the 4-day model. This comes in response to many work weeks being shortened by employers who had hoped to keep employees by cutting a portion of salary costs at the start of the pandemic. Many companies found that their staff could complete a similar amount of work from home with improved focus and removal of the workplace distractions.
For shift work schedules or support centres, this would be offset by more employees working fewer days. While this may not always be possible, many agents would prefer time off being offset by being allowed to continue to work from home while working a full workweek. For many, the reduction in commute time and costs does mean a more flexible schedule and leaves room for longer workweeks provided the staff can continue remote working.
Full-Time Return To Office
Not surprisingly, this option is least preferred by employees. While many are missing the social aspects of working collaboratively and face-to-face, most are not prepared to surrender the comforts of working from home. These include being able to reduce transportation costs, reduced stress levels, the flexibility to do errands during breaks, better work/life balance, opting out of expensive childcare, and being able to work for a company that is out of state or too far to commute.
With the allowance for remote work being given for an extended period, it’s unlikely that employers will be able to strong-arm employees into coming back into the office full time. In the UK, 41% of people said they would resign if their employers tried to force them to go back to the office full time. Not only are staff now convinced of the merits of remote work, but it will be a long while until many are confident of the safety of full capacity workplaces while the spread of coronavirus continues.
LinkedIn has stated that offices will have to fight to win back employees. Some of the power of choice has now shifted to staff who have a say in where and when they want to be working. Offices will have to upgrade into shared spaces that are engaging and can help entice staff back into the workplace. Companies should build these new 2021 office spaces on the core premises that employees have said are important to them about working from home (relaxation space) as well as what they miss about the workplace (activity-based areas).
Google, who say that they won’t be calling employees back into the office until at least mid-2021, has also addressed the fact that the workplace they’ll be returning to won’t be the same as the one they left. Google will be offering a flexible workweek unlike any that has been attempted at this scale. They hope it will lead to significant productivity increases and more focused teamwork when on site. They’ll also offer reservable desks for those who need a quiet space to escape to, as well as bookable team spaces and outdoor areas.
In the lead up to the return to the office, it will be imperative that each workplace and contact centre determines what is best for the staff and agents. While flexible hours may not be feasible for all industry types, it seems that allowing employees to work from home at least on a part-time basis is the universally favoured option. This will reduce workplace stress as well as real estate fees and overhead costs. For employers that have already created the infrastructure for working from home, this will be an easy transition.
If you need assistance with your contact centre workforce, contact GSN for expert consultation.