Can we make it work?

Neville Doughty, Partnership Director, Contact Centre Panel

A recent article in The Times suggested that working from home is no longer popular with employers and that patience for reduced productivity is running out.

Recently I was on a 17:15 flight from Leeds on a Monday evening and as I looked down at the city and the lights below, the queuing traffic suggested that we were returning to the office in ever-increasing numbers.

Changes to legislation in Q4 of 2022 made it feel like employers were obliged to consider any request for remote working as a priority and one that could not be declined. However, against a backdrop of increased pressure to reduce costs, has the tide now turned?

Has the mindset of the working population changed such that there isn’t the appetite for spending a whole working week in the office?  I saw a post about the increasing numbers of over 55s who have become “economically inactive” and how the government are looking to incentivise them to return to the workplace. What an opportunity these people present to contact centre employers. However, even with an incentive I don’t think that is going to be an easy option. Put simply, people’s priorities have changed.

In a recent conversation with a salesperson, he made what was a critical assessment of the nation post-Covid. It probably wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but he was perhaps accurate in his assessment. Post-pandemic, many people have become less generous with their time, they are less courteous, as if not letting someone out at a junction or trying to cut a queue will somehow recompense them for the time “lost” due to the pandemic.

Perhaps this can be applied to the appetite that some people now have for work? For employers with increased costs and potentially falling revenues, if we enter a recession then productivity will be critical.

I didn’t want to hear it as I always prefer to see the best in humanity.

That being said, have we all truly implemented the best processes and support required to make homeworking sustainable for the long term? Are the best practices to support people, seen at the start of the lockdowns, still being actively pursued? Have you gone back and checked in on your technology? Are you confident that everything possible has been done to make working from home viable and if necessary have you ensured that the right conversations about productivity and performance have been had?

Only then should we consider such a decision to bring everyone back into the office full-time.

Perhaps contact centre outsourcing with all our technology, management information, people, processes and approach are better set to make homeworking deliver. Maybe this is our time to shine and working for a contact centre will gain more kudos as it becomes a way to maintain that critical work-life balance that so many people are searching for. If this is the case, then we may have an opportunity to attract and retain the best people to deliver great customer experiences.