What is Next for Businesses in This Lockdown World?
All around the world, offices are empty, it's like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie. Suffice to say, these are not normal times, with most businesses being forced to either furlough staff or work from home, businesses are in a limbo state of panic and confusion.
But What If This Is The New Normal?
All of a sudden, those big open-offices and plans for renovations don't seem like such a good idea!
Nobody can predict the length that the lockdown will last, how it will come to an end, and the length of time non-essential key workers will have to remain at home.
But looking forward, what can businesses expect to happen in the future? And what should they learn from this period, to expand and thrive when they are allowed to go back to 'normality'?
My personal opinion is, the lockdown isn't going to end soon unless we get a vaccine, and even if we do, the world of work has changed for good.
If it were to end tomorrow, can we really justify going back to:
- Staff queuing in traffic to get to work, to do tasks that they could do at home?
- Judging people by attendance, not results?
- Spending money on huge offices that aren't needed?
- Expecting staff to take the day off to wait in for a tradesman?
- A large carbon footprint?
I've wanted to transform how our company operates for years. I always liked the idea of working from home, but like most bosses, I suffer from trust issues.
These are not something I was born with. They have been collected, along with the (metaphorical) bruises and scars from 30+ years of managing people.
So even though the concept of working from home was always great, and unlike most business owners, I have Cxceed integrated, so monitoring and ensuring the quality of our call center's communications was not a problem, I just wasn't brave enough.
My logical brain said do it, but my limbic brain (my emotional side) always said no, I just couldn't make the jump.
Should You Embrace The Change?
Nobody likes change that they don't initiate, but because I've wanted to do this for years, I'm not fighting it.
But should you embrace the change?
Alter all, not all change is bad. The fact that a virus has upturned traditional work practices doesn't mean that some change wasn't needed.
Working Online Means Catchment Areas Are Widended
When businesses shift to working from home, catchments areas are no longer an issue, meaning previously restricted talent pools will expand exponentially.
The pool could be overflowing with possible candidates who are willing and able to do a fantastic job from home, who wouldn't have been looked at twice before due to their location.
Have a business in Kent, but your best candidate for the job is in Edinburgh? That won't be a problem any more!
For employees, they would not have to worry about their dream job being too far away. No longer do they have to settle for a job that is "kind-of" what they're looking for. Being in the job that you really want is good for everyone - higher moral, increased motivation, and actually knowing what you're doing!
A Working From Home Model Benefits All Staff
Staff can also feel the benefits. They are people - some busy parents, some care givers. They have outside interests that make them happier and more rounded employees. Some struggle to get to work through transport issues, or horrendous rush hour traffic, but these don't always have to be an issue any more.
By allowing staff to work from home, businesses will have happier, more alert staff who want to do their job.
Not only do they not have to waste hours travelling to and from work (this could accumulate to a full day at work for some people), in some cases they can work hours more suitable for them. Moving from the office to the living room has shown positive results, with 68% of British employees saying they are more productive when working remotely.
More productive staff without the costs of an office? Sounds like a bargain of a deal to me!
Of course, this will depend on the type of business they work for. A customer support line wouldn't be very useful if all of their staff wanted to work from 9 pm until 6 am. For some jobs, you have to be there for what are deemed "normal" operating hours. But being flexible and allowing staff to work the sensible hours they want and can do, is a sensible move to allow for a better work-life balance.
Working from 8 am to 6 pm, with a two-hour lunch break could work much better for someone than a 9 am to 5 pm shift, with only one hour for lunch.
Having staff working from home gives you the option of having more staff work during peak hours, or when you need an extra pair of hands.
Travelling to work to help out for just an hour doesn't make sense, but jumping on the phone to help out for an hour or two from home does. The potential cost savings and customer experience improvements are huge.
Businesses working remotely need fewer people in the office, and that's if they need an office to begin with! After all, businesses are people, not premesis!
Costs can be cut massively by downsizing the head office or getting rid of it.
Recently, the Chief Executive of Barclays, Jes Staley, suggested that the banking giant will now take a de-centralised approach.
“I think the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past, and we will find ways to operate with more distancing over a much longer period of time,” he said.
It makes sense. Why have the costs of a big office for all these employees when they can do as good a job, if not better without it?
Heating, electricity, rent, mortgages, food, security; costs all dwindle or are gone completely with staff working remotely, or from home. If your office is anything like ours, cutting down on the coffee and tea costs will be rewarding enough!
You also won't have to worry about anyone leaving the bathroom or kitchen in a mess which probably outweighs any cost out there!
You might have to help your staff out at first if they are working from home, some will need to purchase furniture and equipment, but this initial cost will soon be recouped with the reduces operating costs.
Finally Become a Paperless Office
Those businesses who work with documents such as letters or paper applications can make their workload a lot easier by moving it online. Paper documents are easy to misplace, a huge waste of desk space and take an eternity to send between people.
The paperless office was first talked about in 1975, but it's 2020 and email exists.
Ditching the paper will save time and a lot of money, especially through wages and postage costs. And, from personal experience, it's a lot easier to find a properly named document on the computer than it is find a piece of paper in an overcrowded filing cabinet.
It's Not All Roses
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's not, and companies who have their staff working from home can suffer from some setbacks.
People not being together in the office can mean the person to person connection is lost, and those working relationships might not either form or carry on.
For some, the office socialising and banter is key to their mental well-being, and without it, you suddenly realise that you're a lot lonelier. That two minute gossip in the kitchen, laughing at someone's bizarre dress sense, all gone.
Similarly, not being in a space filled with like-minded people can reduce creativity, as ideas might not easily bounce off each other over the phone.
Online tools such as Zoom can be used for a quick meeting to shoot some ideas to the team. But the amount of time to set up the meeting, make sure everyone is there is far more time-consuming than just turning around and asking people when in the office space.
Our Plans - A Hybrid Office
We are embracing working from home and are changing our culture. After twenty years building a business and scaling up to more, and bigger offices every three to four years, we are leaving our current Contact Center's building.
We have given notice on the lease and plan to open smaller, hybrid offices, which will become collaboration hubs, where our teams can meet and work together if they want to.
We will encourage 'team working days' where a team will meet up, work and collaborate for the day. Although some staff members may prefer to work everyday day in the office, others will be able to WFH most of the time. Apart from these team working days, it will be up to the individual where they work.
By adapting to the new reality, our teams will continue to develop and improve Cxceed whilst giving exceptional customer service. We will also research and adopt any other applications which are needed to improve communications with our team and customers.
Working from home requires both a change in management mindset and the right tools to ensure that we maintain control over the conversations our staff are having with customers.
If our businesses are to remain productive and our customers happy with the service we provide - we have Cxceed, so that is the tools sorted, to allow that to happen.
If you have any comments or can refine our ideas further, then let us know in the comments below, or if you found this article useful or insightful, share it to a friend to strike up that conversation between yourselves!
Thanks, and stay safe!
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