Spurred on by the need to work remotely during the pandemic, the growth in hybrid work environments is expected to be a continuing trend. But in terms of maintaining employee engagement and productivity, a workplace environment that mixes in-office and remote work presents a range of unique challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many workers and firms to trial working from home. It was clearly demonstrated that numerous jobs could be done well remotely. As everything is reopening, many employees are reluctant to return to the office on a full-time basis. According to research from market research company YouGov market research company, up to 39% of global employees are reluctant to turn to work.
Many reasons are put forward for this reluctance:
- Lingering fears of catching covid
- Wishing to void the hassles of daily commuting
- Better balancing of life / work commitments
Others, however, miss the camaraderie, the opportunity to learn and seek advice from colleagues as well as having a space dedicated to work, that comes from working in a central location. Research from the NAB bank found the majority of 2000 Australians polled want some form of hybrid work environment. Those surveyed wanted to spend 56 per cent of their working hours at the workplace and 44 per cent at home.
CX leaders need to look at accommodating employees who may prefer to work from home or from the office or a mix of home and office. A hybrid workplace model mixes in-office and remote work to offer flexibility and support to employees. However, keeping all these people engaged and connected while building and maintaining a customer-centric and collaborative culture is certainly a significant challenge and requires the development of specific techniques and approaches.
Workplace recognition is critical to motivating employees by providing a sense of accomplishment and makes people feel valued. Not only does it boost individual employee engagement it also increases productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention[i].
Renee More, Customer Contact Director for Bega Cheese, who presented at CCW recently, has learned a lot over the last few years about transitioning to a hybrid environment and keeping employees engaged. One of the key areas she asserts as being critical is recognition and how to make it more personalised and targeted to individuals, “Recognition has changed in the hybrid world. What I’ve learnt is that big centre-wide or team-wide programs work when you can see and feel people. In a hybrid environment, people are much more on their own. We’ve tried to move away from just a company-wide quarterly program into how we can target and really recognise individuals”.
Empower your people
The customer support team More manages has 100 team members. The team supports 150,000 deliveries to 25,000 Bega retail customers across Australia. In managing such a team More advises, “It’s very important to take every opportunity you can to empower your team members. Advocate and push for the decision-making being at the front line. Give your people the power to resolve and solve the problems customers are facing. Not only is there productivity and customer experience benefits, but you’re also making the role as interesting as you possibly can”.
More recognises that there can be challenges and it may require adapting processes and procedures, but she adds, “The payback for pushing the decision making to the front-line is truly there. You need to at your processes and question – does this need to be escalated, does this need to go to someone else, or can I get this decision faster?”
To empower employees, it’s important to give employees the autonomy, resources, and support they need to act independently and be an advocate for the customer. More says, “It’s our responsibility in the operations team to be the advocate for the user and for the customer. We need to spend a considerable amount of time working outside of our own teams and develop those networks and relationships across the organisation, whether that’s with IT, HR and so on to obtain all the support our team needs to be successful in supporting the customer”.
Listen to employees and adapt
In a hybrid environment, it’s important for leaders to continually measure employee satisfaction and success – is each individual in your team thriving, surviving or struggling?[ii] You need to foster and encourage their feedback and recommendations. Most importantly be prepared to respond and adapt based on their input.
“Open communication and feedback are most probably the most important things to promote within your team”, says More. “Being in an environment now where we’re not all in the office, the ability to see someone, read their body language and get a read of who’s listening and who’s not, is much much harder over teams. Canvassing and getting their feedback, on a more frequent basis, is now more important than ever. Don’t wait for the regular engagement survey to ask a team member how they are going.”
Be prepared to adapt your strategies and tactics based on how your employees are feeling. In fact, adaptability is the name of the game. As More points out, all this is very new for most workplaces where the is no golden standard that can be applied for every contact centre or CX team. CX leaders need to learn, adapt and evolve while staying focused on meeting the needs of customers and keeping employees engaged, happy and product.
To see Renee More’s full presentation please visit https://event.on24.com/wcc/r/3804244/6DB443394792BF0AEDBEA73F521B8885.