Do Work-From-Home Agents Work for You?

17 November, 2022



The answer may lay with your clients and agents.

It’s on everyone’s lips. They all seem to be talking about it – from the C-suite to the kitchen table and every business journal is unpacking the advantages of letting employees work from home.

And you and your leadership teams are asking, “will work-from-home work for us?”

  • Is the work-from-home (WFH) trend the latest industry disruptor or just a shiny toy that will fade over time and lose favor among the cool kids?
  • Will we be missing out on a key lever to serve our customers and attract agents if we don’t adopt WFH?
  • By delaying, am I the long pole in the tent holding up my contact center’s growth and progress?

All fair questions but there is a way to pick your way through the detritus of opinion to find the right path for your Business Process Outsourcer (BPO).  

A key factor is the sensitivity of information your agents collect as well as the technology deployed in a WFH environment to protect personally identifiable information (PII). Remote work raises several security concerns.

A survey of those on the front lines of securing information – IT professionals – found that 54 percent of those surveyed said remote workers pose a greater security risk than agents working in a traditional brick-and-mortar contact center. One qualm about remote work involves increased cybersecurity risks across multiple personal or public networks and different devices.

You also must consider the type of information your agents are accessing. Credit card details and PII sit atop the altar of protected and sensitive information. Clients frequently balk or are wary of their outsourced contact center letting agents work with this type of customer information from the comfort of their homes.  

If you do pursue a WFH model, you also must address the unique training requirements necessary for your agents. 

Client-specific training – where agents learn to live and breathe your brand – may dictate if WFH is viable. If agents can learn your product and/or service in a week or two, there is a much better chance of success than a more intricate and prolonged training period that lasts three to five weeks. It certainly is possible, but a longer training period is a prescription for a longer learning curve to allow the information to be absorbed.

Remote agents and their specified training may also lead to concerns about a lack of

team unity, community, or esprit de corps. Pre-pandemic thinking dictated that agents feel like they are part of a huge extended family when they go to work and will be more motivated to give their best. This perspective concluded that not only would this waste their talents, but it will also deprive employers of utilizing the total range of talents they have at their disposal.

However, according to the 2021 State of Remote Work Report from Owl Labs, 90% of the 2,050 full-time remote workers surveyed said they were as productive or more productive working remotely, compared to when they worked in the office. Another 74% said after the pandemic, working from home is better for their mental health, and 84% reported that working remotely after the pandemic would make them happier, with many even willing to take a pay cut.

And a January 2022 survey of 1,000 full-time workers from Ergotron corroborates the Owl Labs study, revealing that as workers have become more acclimated to hybrid and remote office environments, they are experiencing benefits to their physical and mental well-being. Taken together these two findings indicate businesses build more progressive policies to help agents thrive. The report concluded that leaders must rethink their workplace culture to be more inclusive of remote and hybrid work.

Finally, constant consideration is the infrastructure agents tap into when they are in a WFH environment. Are the cities, neighborhoods, or streets wired to support the work agents need to serve your customers? And when I say “wired,” I mean both for internet and electrical service.

When a typhoon recently ripped through the Philippines, it left more than human suffering behind. Tens of thousands of remote agents were left offline when their electrical internet grid was shut down -sometimes for weeks.

But when contingencies are in place for natural disruptions, we find time lost to these outages is no more disruptive than acceptable levels of absenteeism and schedule adherence in your brick-and-mortar contact center.

In the end, your clients may be presenting the solution if they require split shifts or overnight coverage – time slots when it is easier to deploy agents from their homes.