Call centre staff to work from home

A breakthrough in technology could save thousands of call centre jobs in
this country and halt the exodus in overseas outsourcing by enabling staff to
work from home.

A North-East call centre is currently testing the equipment, and claims it
cuts costs to such an extent that it could help the UK compete with countries
such as India, where staff are paid much less.

The new system allows employees to handle calls in exactly the same way as
they would in a call centre, but because they are working from home, at a
fraction of the cost.

Amicus Outsourcing is currently piloting the remote worker system and hopes
to have more than 50 staff working from home by the end of November.

The system could also provide a key route into work for those with
disabilities, or parents who are only able to work from home.

Geoff Thompson, managing director of the centre, said the technology would
also help with staff turnover, allow greater flexibility and eliminate

However, Colin Mackay, director of quality and standards at the Call Centre
Association, said the concept highlighted problems around the control of
people, information and social contact.

He said the system would only be suitable as part of a mixture of working
options, as many staff would not have a suitable home environment to work in.

"Working from home is only suitable in certain circumstances,"
said Mackay. "Most of the cost is tied up in the people, not the call

John Shaw, HR director of shared services at Centrica, said it was the sort
of idea that employers would look to explore because of costs, travel and
work-life balance.

By Ross Wigham

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