Changing how people work by moving them from an open office environment surrounded by friends and colleagues to working from home in isolation can have a profound impact on how they feel.

The question was raised during a Special Interest Group call by a member asking for some advice. The rest of the group responded and here is what they suggested:

Make decisions based on putting your people first

This was the overwhelming advice by everyone on the call. In order to be able to continue to interact with customers, your team should know that you have got their back. They need to know that they are being supported by the business in their jobs, to enable them to do the best job they can. This is likely to have a positive impact on absenteeism too.

Stay in touch

This seems obvious, but whether you’re hosting daily stand ups or holding team meetings online via MS Teams, Skype or other video technology, your team will appreciate the friendly interaction. WhatsApp Groups are a good way for smaller teams to interact, and don’t forget to share updated and information with the team regularly – just like you would do every day in the office.

It’s also important to recognise everyone as individuals. Why not start a call by asking them how they are first? Your teams will all be working in very different environments, with different pressures and distractions. They will have stories they will want to share about their experiences working from home.

Give your team reassurance

These are scary times and some of the people in your team will see their job as a place of security, a place of routine. Working from home they may feel removed from their place of safety and need reassurance that things are going to be okay.

Where possible, give them reassurance about their job security, their pay and holiday entitlement, their training and development. Make sure they know what the current situation means to them and their job. Give them a chance to plan for any future changes, without extending insecurities.

One member suggest that contact centre leaders should explain to their teams what they can and cannot influence to enable them to let things go that are out of their control.

Share positive stories

If your CEO can share their story about working from home, especially any funny stories, it will help keep spirits up. As your teams get used to working from home they will recognise some brilliant experiences, whether it was a surreal conversation with a customer or being able to have lunch during the working day with their partner for the first time in decades. Why not give your teams the space to share those great stories.

Give people the tools and techniques

You can google ‘tips for working from home’ and be bombarded with a abundance of advice on organising yourself, limiting distractions and taking breaks regularly.

As well as supporting your teams with this kind of advice, make sure they have effective technology, technology that works and that your teams know how to use. Maybe check that your teams haven’t forgotten those little tricks and shortcuts you showed them during the training course that will make their lives so much easier.

It’s not just about supporting your advisors though. Do your team leaders have the skills and resources to manage a dispersed workforce? How are you helping them to keep their teams motivated?

Signpost mental health provision

Finally, it became obvious on the call that there is a chance that some of your colleagues, especially team leaders may be faced with some challenging conversations where the move to homeworking combined with so much uncertainty has created a situation of increased anxiety or depression. Your team leaders may not be equipped to deal with this situation.

It’s worth considering whether you’re signposting sufficiently the mental health support that’s available to your teams both within the business and from external parties, such as Mind.

The government has also released new advice to support mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, including offering additional online support and practical guidance. Read more here.

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