Lone Working at Home: What You Need to Know

The rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus has meant that large numbers of businesses are now looking at ways to limit the impact on their workforce by asking employees to work remotely from home. A sudden switch to remote working is challenging enough without the additional pressures and concerns imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. Here, we take a look at six steps you can take to facilitate greater remote working amongst employees, while also maintaining customer service standards and looking after your staff.

  1. Make use of co-working innovations

In recent years, lone working technologies have come on leaps and bounds, allowing a large number of workers to operate from remote locations without any negative impact on their output. As more employees move to remote working, it’s important that you’ve compiled a collection of co-working tools that work for (and are available to) your employees.

Lone Working at Home: What You Need to Know

From video conferencing apps to scheduling tools and employee-management check-in programmes, there’s a diverse array of remote working technologies to use. Start with the most essential and build from there – but don’t over-complicate things by adopting too many new applications. It’s highly likely that some of your workers will already be using certain tools, so stick with what they know, roll it out to other employees who are new to remote working and ensure everyone’s on the same page. You can find a short guide to freely available remote working tools, here.

  1. Self-service technology can ease the pressure

As employees move out of the shared office space and begin working from home, it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to carry out all of the work they’re expected to handle in the contact centre. This may be due to the technological limitations of working from home or because close collaboration between employees is no longer as easy.

Self-serve technologies, such as Chatbots, can go a long way to relieving the pressure on contact centres caused by a surge in the number of employees working from home. By automating high-volume, repeat enquiries, Chatbots reduce call volume considerably, easing the strain on human agents who may be hamstrung by the current conditions and operating at a reduced capacity. This ensures that customer satisfaction remains high, while also helping your staff cope with the challenging circumstances.

  1. Adapt existing technology to limit the impact

However, it’s not just new self-serve technologies that will have a positive impact. It’s also important to take a look at existing self-serve technologies to see if they can be improved or adapted.

For instance, website FAQs can be updated to ensure that they’re providing customers with accurate information and to answer any new questions they may have regarding the current situation. As long as your FAQ is well signposted, this should reduce call volume considerably.

Lone Working at Home: What You Need to Know

Likewise, it’s a good idea to take a look at your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system and explore ways it can be improved. This may mean altering the script to reflect the influx of new types of enquiry, scaling up channel shift efforts within IVR in order to push more callers towards self-serve, or adding in menu options to allow for quick and easy access to key information.

  1. Be aware of employee morale

Everyone wishes they could work from home, until they actually start working from home. While some employees will enjoy the independence, a considerable number will discover that the isolation is not all it’s cracked up to be and will soon crave the social environment of the office.

The effect of remote working on team morale and the psychological impact it can have on individuals must not be underestimated.

One of the key ways you can ensure you keep your finger on the pulse is by scheduling regular check-ins with all lone workers. Though they’re physically isolated, employees need to feel as though they’re connected digitally. This means encouraging them to raise issues, ask questions and talk things over with colleagues and supervisors whenever they want.

Workplaces can also take other steps to raise morale. Some businesses have begun organising an “after-work drink” over Skype, allowing staff to socialise and unwind once the day is over. In the coming months, these inventive uses of technology will become increasingly important for employee well-being. Get planning now!

  1. Take your lone worker legal responsibilities seriously

Asking staff to work from home means you also have to consider the health and safety implications and how your duty of care affects the situation. Lone workers are more likely to suffer emotional stress when working alone and, in some instances, may be exposed to threats to their well-being that simply don’t exist in a traditional workplace.

Consequently, employers need to think about:

  • Stress and the mental wellbeing of employees
  • Medical suitability for lone working
  • Potential threats to the health and safety of remote workers
  • How you can educate, supervise and train employees to ensure their safety
Lone Working at Home: What You Need to Know

If you’d like to know more about this issue, we’ve previously produced two articles to help inform businesses about lone working. The first tackles common myths surrounding lone workers and the second deals with the mental and emotional impact lone working can have. The Health and Safety Executive’s comprehensive guide to the issue is also a useful resource.

  1. Ensure a comprehensive communication and support system is in place

Finally, you must establish a comprehensive communication and support system that serves all of your remote workers. At a time in which events are moving at an almost unfathomable pace, quick and efficient distribution of information is essential. One of the best ways of keeping morale high and preventing employees from feeling isolated is to keep them regularly updated and able to communicate with colleagues and management whenever necessary.

What Next?

Short Term

Ensure your communication system is up to scratch and employees have access to necessary technologies. Carry out essential health and safety risk assessments.

Mid-Term

Adapt and tweak existing self-serve technologies to ensure that they’re reducing call volume and helping customers with new enquiries. Take measures to maintain employee morale.

Long-Term

Look at how new self-serve technologies can help reduce the strain on staff whilst also improving the customer experience.

If you’d like to know more about the role self-serve technology has to play in enabling lone working, get in touch with one of our experienced advisors today. Call us on 01344 595800 or drop us a line.