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Working From Home — A Growing Necessity

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Working From Home — A Growing Necessity

/ People, Performance Management
Working From Home — A Growing Necessity

What was once viewed as a privilege is now an essential contact center model. Competencies and practical tips for success.

When you think of working from home, several benefits come to mind. The savings in both time and money to commute back and forth to work. And, if you usually eat out for lunch, you can save money by eating home-cooked meals. Working from home can also improve one’s work-life balance and help reduce the stresses of life. Because of these benefits and more, most people who work from home thoroughly enjoy and appreciate such perks.

With modern technology ever evolving, society has seen an upward trend in employees working from home. I remember many moons ago, the term “work from home” was a novelty and only available to a select few. At that time, I was working for an insurance company and talk was circulating about a pilot to allow dental claim examiners to work from home. Because it was a pilot, it was vital to have the most qualified and engaged employees participate in order to make the program a success. It would also increase our chances of having a permanent and more robust work-from-home program.

The pilot group was trained on the overall process and eventually was sent home with a stack of dental claims to process, which would generate payments to either the dentist or the insured. The examiners had to make about two trips a week to the office to drop off processed dental claims and pick up new batches that needed to be processed. Yes, we had paper claims back then! Eventually, as technology evolved, the claims were converted to an electronic format and opened the door to have more dental claims examiners work from home.

Fast forward to our modern age when it is normal to see employees work from home in various industries, especially contact centers. It is my opinion that to be allowed to work from home is a privilege, and the employee should treat it as such by being their best when working from home. When you think of it, the employer has entrusted the employee to be productive and represent the company’s brand while in the convenience of their home.

With the tragic impact of COVID-19, working from home has moved from being a privilege to that of a necessity, as cities shut down and people were mandated to work from home when feasible to stop the spread of the virus. If employees’ job duties could be done at home, businesses were in a scramble to make that work for their employees.

Hats off to those businesses who thought outside the box to give their employees an added security of working from home. Those businesses did their part to help keep their number one resource mentally and physically sound. Sadly, some businesses did not make it a priority to remain in touch with their employees to ensure their well-being.

Competencies for At-Home Workers: The I.P.A.D. Concept

We are not sure what our new normal in the workplace will look like after this pandemic. With medical experts cautioning that we may see another outbreak this year, working from home may be a necessary backup option for businesses. If you have found yourself new to working from home or even if you are experienced in working from home, there are some highly recommended competencies you should possess. I refer to them as the I.P.A.D. Concept (Integrity, Professionalism, Attitude, Dependability):

Integrity—Doing the right thing when seen and unseen. While working from home, you will more than likely need to self-manage. Make sure that you avoid non-work activities that can interfere with your work performance.

Professionalism—Even though you are working from home, you still represent the company. Be sure that you are professional and adhere to your company’s core values and expectations.

Attitude—Be a team player and have a positive “can-do” attitude.

Dependability—Be sure to work your scheduled shift and honor your deliverables and deadlines.

The Added Value of Humanity in Times of Crisis

2020 came in much like every new year—full of hope, aspirations and dreams. Never in our wildest dreams could we imagine how the world was forced to change the way we do business and live our lives.

Even with the devastating number of lives lost, we will eventually find our way back to living our lives—different than what we were accustomed to but that shows how resilient we are. Businesses will reconfigure and find a new way to service their customers. And we will reimagine how to attend sporting events and concerts safely. But there will be one necessity that will remain—the need for employees to deliver “the human element.”

Our customers will be dealing with a lot of challenges and pain as a result of this pandemic. Even though artificial intelligence has its advantages, it does not have the capacity to show compassion, encouragement or patience to a hurt world. So, let’s be that employee who can bring the added value of humanity. Let’s be that employee who will help calm customers’ fears. Let’s be that employee who can be counted on to do their best in the workplace, whether on-site or at home.

Employers: Please remember you can’t expect your employees to pour out the human element if they are suffering hurt and financial hardships. It is important to have periodic check-ins with your employees and make sure they feel valued and are aware of any company resources that can be of help. These actions are a true example of servant leadership, which is needed in times such as these. This full-circle approach will be the only way we can help bring our humanity back to life!

Note: I would like to share my condolences to those who lost loved ones due to the coronavirus pandemic. This was a horrific tragedy that rocked the world to its core and has forced our government, businesses, churches and families to re-evaluate their operations.

A Few Tips for Working at Home

In addition to the I.P.A.D. Concept, there are some other actions you should consider:

Have a family meeting

Your family should know that, even though you are working at home, you are still at work. Set boundaries and expectations during your work hours. Family and friends should not treat this as a time to socialize with you or visit your home. It only serves as a distraction to you and the quality of work you produce.

Good attendance from home

You would think that attendance would not be an issue when working from home. Unfortunately, employees can develop a poor attendance record while at the house. Be sure to demonstrate dependability whether working on-site or at home.

Keep the lines of communication open

Your boss should not have to wonder if you are focused on doing your job. Depending on your duties, your boss can confirm if you are working as expected. If your work cannot be easily validated, you should make a point to recap or share your accomplishments with your boss periodically. Better yet, make sure that you have reasonable job expectations while working from home. If you don’t have formally outlined expectations, take the initiative and submit a proposal.

Be creative during your breaks

Take a walk, do some gardening or anything that you are passionate about. This “escape” from the demands of work will refresh you and give you the energy to finish your workday! For those workaholics, please don’t let your work bleed into your home life. Set boundaries so that you do not overextend yourself.

Organize your workstation at home

Your employer may foot the bill for the internet connection, if required, but rarely will they provide you with a desk and chair. Make sure that your workstation is comfortable and as ergonomic as possible. Working in an uncomfortable area will take away from your productivity and well-being.

Reach out to others for support

Working from home can be a culture shock. Think of ways to make this venture as efficient and rewarding as possible! Keep in mind that working at home without much human interaction can be a challenge for some people. Be sure that you are maintaining great work relationships!

To dress or not to dress—that is the question

Should you get fully dressed while working from home, or is it acceptable to work in your PJs? I’ve heard varying opinions. This may be a situation of what works best for you. If you feel being fully dressed puts you in a professional mindset, then go for it! On the other hand, if you can maintain a professional persona in your loungewear, then go for it! I guess this is where the luxury of working at home comes in to play.

 
Gwen Foster Oglesby

Gwen Foster Oglesby

Gwen Foster Oglesby's first book, "Call Center: A Focus on Customer Service," provides best practices for employees to enhance their customer service skills and work ethic.

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