How To Manage A Gradual Return To The Office With Workforce Planning

Guest Post by Scott Budding, Workforce & Process Optimisation Manager at Business Systems UK Ltd…

These past few weeks have been promising.

The pandemic lockdown restrictions have slowly started to lift. Shops (and soon even pubs) are gradually starting to re-open.

Businesses are now also complying with a host of new workplace guidelines, designed to create safe workspaces for employees.

According to GOV.UK, the main objective to these guidelines is to: ‘maintain social distancing wherever possible, on arrival and departure’.

As more of us might start to make a gradual return to the office, contact centre workforce planning teams need to carry on doing what they do best – balancing work volumes with workforce capacity, whilst ensuring a high level of customer service.

But this time, let’s not forget they also need to consider the new workplace guidelines…

How Can Workforce Management Functionality Help?
For those of you that have read my previous posts on Workforce Management (WFM), you’ll know that I’m a true enthusiast of the technology. The impact it can have on an organisation if used correctly is truly transformational!

And this time, I’ll be enthusing about how it can even help organisations adhere to the government guidelines of a safe workplace for employees.

Here’s how:

· Staggered start and finish times

WFM functionality offers you the flexibility of accommodating multiple shift types. For example, split shifts will work extremely well in helping you stagger your agents’ start and finish times. Your WFM application will also allow rotating shift patterns to be created easily with visibility of how these shifts might be impacting your customer service levels.

TOP TIP: If you decide to use rotating shift patterns, please do remember that these can have some flexibility in them. Whilst you may have to fix your working / non-working days for rotational shift patterns, you should also consider for example, adding some flexibility into the start/finish times of some of these shifts.

· Mix of Work-From-Home and In-Office Agents

Powerful scheduling and optimisation features within WFM can take into account preferences of agents and/or any particular set of rules you as a business want to adhere to.

Perhaps you want to ensure ‘x’ number of employees work from home on this given day. Or maybe you would like to schedule, for example, an 80% mix of remote workers with office-based employees with a particular skill for certain shifts or days.

Whether it is something you want to do in order to help adhere to government guidelines, or as part of your employee wellbeing strategy, automated WFM scheduling can take all this into consideration, helping you tick those boxes whilst continuing to meet your service level targets.

· Necessary desk hygiene time allocations/employee hygiene time

Many good WFM systems come equipped with Real-Time Adherence functionality. Real-Time Adherence functionality provides adherence visibility to ensure staff are available for customer demands and are keeping handle times at an acceptable level. WFM solutions today can also alert agents to events in their schedules that are about to occur, such as a change in activity. This has been proven to help agents with adherence, however this functionality in these times, can now also serve another purpose by helping agents adhere to their hourly or daily hygiene time allocations. For example, with these notifications, the agent will automatically receive a pop up on their desktop to remind them when it’s time to take a break and sanitise their desk and/or when they are due to go from one activity to another.

· Enabling employees who are not ready to return to the office to continue remote working as well as offering businesses the ability to continue elements of homeworking (if it has worked well for them these past few months)

With Real-Time Adherence functionality, managers and/or real-time analysts are now in complete control of schedule adherence and productivity of remote workers to help protect service levels. The functionality flags lack of schedule adherence with alarms, provides real-time visibility to ensure staff are available for customer interactions and provides this insight available in real-time on desktop, tablet and or mobile devices. Having complete visibility of remote contact centre agents allows for much greater flexibility in work/life balance.

Summing Up – A gradual and safe return to work with workforce planning

Returning employees to the workplace will require careful consideration and will no doubt be a gradual shift. Working from home has recently been a necessity for many and I do believe that in many cases, homeworking for longer-term agents needs to be assessed continually in terms of employee productivity, the customer experience, employee engagement and employee wellbeing. For example, perhaps there might be a time where customers will not be so forgiving of background noise such as screaming children, dogs barking and the sound of your postman!

In order to consider homeworking as a long-term strategy, businesses need to consider many different elements which come into play when ‘things go back to normal’ and these will differ according to the organisation and industry in which you operate.

Regardless of this, Contact Centre leaders within an organisation must now work together to create a safe but productive environment during these times, regardless of whether employees are working from home or from the office.

As we test the waters in the next few months, it’s important for workforce planning to remain high on everyone’s agenda and not to forget that there is an abundance of technology out there to assist!

If you need any more information on Workforce Management, drop me a message or visit The Business Systems Website for more info.