Half of contact centres still discount home working

Despite the wide spread availability of high speed broadband and the advances in technology, home working is still not in the top 5 options being used to create flexibility in contact centres.

Even more astonishing is that over 50% of centres have either discounted home working or not even considered it as a viable option, according to recent research conducted by the Professional Planning Forum.

“This just released research forms part of the Flexible Working stream we are developing, to support the demands of employees, businesses and government legislation on flexibility,” explains Steve Woosey, Membership Director of The Professional Planning Forum.

The 2008 Flexible Working Survey shows that improving efficiency is still the main reason for flexible working but delivering a work/life balance to employees is now nearly as important.

It also shows that part time staff is still the main tool used by many centres to deliver flexibility in their staffing with 63% of centres having between 20-40% part time employees in their centres.

However whilst part time workers do deliver flexibility they also bring a lot of challenges. Just look at some of the comments from the survey:-

“Spans of control for Team Managers are lower so cost is higher”

“Often people accept part time hours and then ask to change them in the first 6 months”

“Long time to fully train”

“Requests for hours within the “school run”, poor evening cover delivered”

Looking at home working more closely, the research revealed a number of differences between expected and realised benefits.

For example, those implementing homeworking expect to see most benefit in employee work/life balance and reduced absence.

However, centres already using home workers have also seen big improvements in coverage of opening hours and improved service to customers.

Enabling home working, therefore, has many more benefits than centres might expect.

Additionally, the challenges faced by the centres with homeworkers and the challenges expected by centres implementing home working do not always match.

For instance, remoteness of workers is a bigger issue for those with homeworkers whilst those implementing see communication and investment as the big challenges – but which in turn, are not experienced by those already with homeworkers.

IT infrastructure, however, remains the top challenge for both.

Dave Vernon from the Professional Planning Forum sums up the findings, “Home working is on the cusp of moving from the fringes of flexibility options to the mainstream. While the perceived main benefits of improved attrition and better work/life balance are being delivered, associated benefits such as improved coverage of hours and improved customer satisfaction are also being realised by those companies at the forefront of this working solution”.

“The main blockage still remains around IT Infrastructure and is a stumbling block for many.  However, with technology progressing all the time and the number of companies moving down this road, this final blockage is all but remedied”, He continued.

The benchmark survey analyses results from respondents from all industry sectors and was conducted during early 2008.

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