NobelBiz | Blog Future of Work - the Hybrid Work Model for Contact centers Published on 19. May, 2022 The labor market was massively hit in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic. Jobs and work were turned upside down with employees unable to telework while some had to look after their children. Many sectors were affected by administrative closures, with lots of companies suffering a sharp drop in activity. Unfortunately, the effects of the pandemic did not end with the end of the lockdown, and they continued in 2021. For contact centers, the labor revolution has launched – the world is moving towards a new employee experience, a world where hybrid work is now the new norm for many organizations. So how are the companies adapting to this new form of work so that it remains efficient and bearable for all? In this article, we will go through the impacts of teleworking experience and the prospect of returning to the office, the benefits, and challenges. We will also take a look at the financial effects that emerged from the hybrid work model, all while discussing into what the future will look like for contact centers and how to improve and adapt by leveraging technology. Advantages / Overview It is important to note that WFH and hybrid work helps to keep productivity of the employee the same or even better, and some employees prefer the freedom to work remotely at least some of the time. Most importantly, these new workforce models give employees the complete freedom to choose when and where to perform at their best, while proving beneficial for employee well-being and reducing costs. ‘Demand for flexible work arrangements was high even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 90 percent of U.S. workers surveyed by Global Workplace Analytics said they’d like flex work options, with the ability to work on collaborative tasks in an office and concentrative tasks at home. Another study reported that 77 percent of millennials say they are more productive with flexible work arrangements. ‘ With the ease of pandemic restrictions, challenges with the sustainability of the WFH model arrived, and the leaders decided that the best way to overcome this is to bring everyone back to the office. However, the majority of employees shared their preference of wanting a social connection to their peers, and a good relationship with their colleagues and supervisor, but they want to continue to work in their home. Consequently, this resulted in the hybrid work model, which arrived with a boost in employee productivity and morale by reconnecting people to company culture and to each other. Work-from-home (WFH) model: During the Coronavirus global pandemic, many companies transitioned their employees from the office to a work-from-home model. With software capabilities becoming more available and complex, companies have found that working from home, or telecommuting, can be just as efficient and effective as functioning virtually. Digital adoption has played a critical factor in working remotely. Work-from-home (WFH) model: During the Coronavirus global pandemic, many companies transitioned their employees from the office to a work-from-home model. With software capabilities becoming more available and complex, companies have found that working from home, or telecommuting, can be just as efficient and effective as functioning virtually. Digital adoption has played a critical factor in working remotely. Advantages of WFH model: The WFH model has many advantages that make it a desirable policy for both employers and employees. For example, companies will save money on office space and they can also keep their workers safe. Save Money on Office Space - Many businesses find themselves with unnecessary office space. With this model, you can reduce your overhead costs by having employees work from their homes or other locations instead of renting office space for them. It also allows you to downsize your lease or buy less real estate if needed while still maintaining productivity levels of your workforce. Flexibility - Employees have greater flexibility in terms of when they do their work as well as where they do it. This allows them to balance work and personal obligations more easily than if they were required to be at an office each day. Employees will find this appealing and may improve morale by allowing them more control over their lives outside of work hours. Increased Productivity - allowing employees to work at times when they are most productive will make them more motivated. Reduced stress levels- Working remotely reduces the amount of time spent commuting, which has been shown to decrease stress levels among employees (and even improve health outcomes). Hybrid work: A hybrid work model allows the blending of remote work and in-office, with employees dividing their time between working from other locations and commuting to the office. This flexible policy emerged from the need of companies to re-evaluate their workplace structure with a model that best fits their employees' needs. The employees are given the ability and flexibility to decide how, when and where to work optimally on a given day and continue the work-life balance that existed before by working fully remotely. Advantages: This model has many advantages for both employers and employees alike: For employers: - Reduced turnover rate - Employees will be more likely to stay with your company longer if they feel valued and appreciated by management. - Increased productivity - With less time wasted commuting back-and-forth from home/work, employees will be able to focus more on actual work tasks instead of being distracted by other things like traffic jams or carpooling with coworkers. Reduced costs and rethinking workspaces - Once a contact center organization knows the average number of employees in the office, the employers can reduce the amount spent on rent, business expenses and plan for new occupancy levels. Business leaders want flexible real estate conditions. Due to ever-changing needs of employees and companies to have more workplace options, there is more demand and use of flexible and on-demand space in the short term. Enhance employee engagement - Dealing with difficulty in maintaining and building relationships with colleagues in a hybrid workplace that don’t share the same physical workplace. The managers can adapt to this, by creating team-building activities and regular social events open and accessible to everyone. For employees: - Increased productivity - With less time wasted commuting back-and-forth from home/work, employees will be able to focus more on actual work tasks. - Employees can continue their existing work-life balance by working from home full-time or part-time. - Employees can choose when and where they want to work, which means less stress for them and more productivity for you! - Employees won't have to worry about commuting time because they can work from anywhere with an internet connection. Challenges to overcome and the way forward Challenges to overcome and the way forward Overall, the studies showed that WFH has hindered the ability to maintain social interactions, think together and interact naturally – the main elements that drive innovation and creativity. It can be difficult to innovate by working from home, as innovation and creativity is more efficient in the context of in-person collaboration. For contact centers, one of the biggest obstacles were mostly related to security, internal communication, employee engagement, training, onboarding, monitoring and the cost of technological infrastructure. In addition, a hybrid workplace must be able to operate independently of the site, meaning that everyone must have the proper resources and the right equipment, therefore increasing the reliance on technology. Challenges of WFH: Work from home work model is a revolutionary concept that has changed the way people look at their careers. It allows people to work from the comfort of their own homes and earn a good income. However, it is not without challenges and drawbacks. • The main challenge is that most people do not have any experience in working from home, so they are not sure how to do it. This makes them feel uncomfortable and anxious about whether or not they are doing the right thing for their careers. • The second challenge is that there is no direct supervision or guidance on how to do things correctly when working from home. This leads to confusion and frustration among workers who are trying to get started with this career path but have no idea where to start or what steps should be taken first in order for them to succeed at it in the long run! • The third challenge is the fact that working from home means you will need some form of isolation so as not to distract yourself or others around you while doing your job duties properly!Challenges of the Hybrid Work Model: In the modern workplace, a hybrid work model is a mix of in-office and remote employees. While this model has many advantages, it also has some disadvantages. • One of the biggest challenges that a hybrid work model faces is communication. It’s easy for people to feel isolated or disconnected when they aren’t in the same place as their coworkers. To combat this, it’s important to encourage collaboration through regular meetings and quick check-ins. • Another challenge is that it can be hard to keep track of tasks when you’re not with your team in person all day long. Some companies use project management software like Trello or Asana instead of email lists so that everyone has access to what needs to be done and who needs help completing it quickly and easily. • The biggest challenge faced by companies using a hybrid work model is making sure that everyone feels valued and included in their work environment regardless of where they are physically located at any given moment during each day or week! Technology at the service of hybrid work The adoption of new collaboration tools, allowed the IT departments to manage a whole series of personal devices: laptops, cloud and remote collaboration software, they were all part of a necessary digital shift to connect employees. Traditional office life has migrated to digital infrastructure to ensure business continuity and productivity control. Facilitating tools for virtual meetings and remote team solutions, online booking of rooms are providing a consistent experience for both parties involved, agent and customer. ‘There is so much change being undertaken in the workspace lately, and new tools are gaining more traction for ensuring a smooth transition. Cloud and UCaaS tools have been key in providing a consistent experience, for both parties involved, agent and customer.’ The future of work for contact centers The pandemic has taught us a lot about how we work. More and more contact center companies are turning to the hybrid model to be able to offer employees the flexibility they need. Flexible workspaces are reinventing the office and the world of work, and flexibility is the future for work. Safety and health remain a top priority for all contact center companies, not only physical, but also mental well-being. Contact center managers ensure the workforce’s physical and mental health is looked after and provide the agents with a supportive environment, mental health support, training programs, and flexible working hours. As a result, there has never been more important for companies to shift quickly and be innovative. A major survey from 2020 of 17 000 employees across more than 20 industries emphasized how workforce engagement and workplace well-being is key to building high performant and resilient businesses. AI in the workplace will be a modern workforce trend and a big part of the future of work in contact centers. By adopting technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning, mundane and repetitive tasks are becoming automated and errors minimized. This will make a huge difference in performance for contact centers because using AI-augmented systems can interpret and analyze big data, delivering actionable and highly accurate insights on how the calls and agents are performing. This will come with an extensive learning curve and specialized training because integrating sophisticated digital solutions and AI requires reskilling and upskilling. The contact center of the future will have ‘super agents’ equipped with superior and smarter capabilities so they can resolve even the most complex and challenging customer experiences. Conclusions The adaptation to a hybrid work model made employee experience a top priority. And this is actually making sense, since your contact center employees are the face and voice of your company. If you’re not taking care of your frontline agents, chances you are not going to deliver an exceptional customer experience. By revamping your onboarding processes for hybrid work, and giving agents work flexibility, knowledge access and proper equipment, they will be able to perform and grow in your organization while elevating the customer experience. With teams being more dispersed than ever, digital transformation has impacted all sides of the workforce, in every aspect of tech and business, proving that AI in the contact center is not only about automation and chatbots. Instead, agents develop their skills to become more engaged in their job and provide better service. The coronavirus pandemic didn’t come as a limitation for the future of work; it just brought more dynamism, allowing agents to live and work from new places and in new ways. Reinventing the workplace came as an opportunity to become more collaborative and productive beyond the walls of an office. 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