Over the last 15 months, we’ve witnessed organisations pivot their operating models to enable their teams to work from home. As things slowly start returning to the way they were before the pandemic, many have begun to ask the question—what is the future of work?
According to Bloomberg, 63% of employers expect to implement hybrid work policies in 2021, a statistic published amidst several statements from the likes of Lloyds, which announced they will reduce office space by 20% in the next 18 months. This sentiment is echoed by HSBC, which plans on reducing office space by 40% as more people choose to work from home rather than in the office.
Although this trend may offer benefits, the potential risk that the hybrid working approach could present to the UK has been acknowledged. According to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, it could lead to 6 million professional jobs in the UK being outsourced to other countries.
Recently our Chief Revenue Officer, Graham Brown, took part in the CCA Global’s Summer Convention “From Surviving to Thriving,” hosting a live panel discussion entitled “Going hybrid? The future of work is here.”
With the CX landscape adapting and evolving at an unprecedented rate, this session invited experts from across the industry to share their views on the future of working and how the latest trend of hybrid working will impact 2021 and beyond.
We’ve summarised the 5 key insights identified during the session below.
1. Hybrid work will provide both positives and negatives for employees.
The panel recognised that there are both pros and cons presented to employees following the introduction of a hybrid operating model. Richard Kenny, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Poly, shared that he believes it depends on the culture of your company. Those that don’t put customer experience at the heart of the business most likely result in losing the ability to deliver a positive customer experience, and they also risk entering into an aggressive low-cost approach. In turn, this could lead to them looking to outsource outside of the UK.
A benefit for employees is that those who prefer to work from home can now do so. Today, over 95% of HGS employees want to remain working from home or to have an element of hybrid working built into their role. Graham highlighted the way in which HGS is pioneering this approach through an innovative operating model: Work Cloud.
Empowering employees with great experiences, Work Cloud enables employees to work one day a week in the office and the remainder of the week at home. Taking this one step further, the HGS contact centres are transforming into Engagement Hubs. So, when employees are in the office it’s not just about them sitting in front of a computer. Instead, the Engagement Hub offers a different experience to the one they can achieve at home. With over 50% of the environment dedicated to non-production activities, the space has been designed to drive increased collaboration between team, clients, and the wider business.
2. Inclusivity of roles across the UK will be positively impacted from hybrid work.
Graham began the next point of discussion following a quote from LinkedIn’s UK Country Manager, Janine Chamberlin: “Hybrid working will also help open up jobs to people who may have previously been locked out of them due to location, disability or care-giving responsibilities. With a more flexible future inevitable, we’re on the cusp of helping to make work more balanced and inclusive.”
David Cousins, Sales Leader at Twilio, added his support: “We now have access to a much broader catchment area for employees than just our local area, and our teams get more of a life choice through the flexibility from hybrid working. Humans like the fact they don’t need to travel.”
Another part of David’s point was the opportunity is now much better for those with disabilities who couldn’t previously commute or access the office. It’s also easier to return to work for those who may wish to work part-time.
3. The number of advisors that will adopt specialist roles is likely to increase but must still remain accessible to the customer.
For this section, a poll asked, “In your opinion, will we require more specialist roles in the future?”—to which 100% of the audience replied yes.
David agreed that specialism is going to be required as the new journey of hybrid working is navigated. He also noted that this also provides a brilliant opportunity for advisors to launch their careers in a specialist area.
In comparison, Richard worries that the industry runs the risk of putting our teams into silos of specialism, which could make it harder for the customer to access them to resolve their issue. In his opinion, rather than having a pool of generalist advisors available to answer all queries and easily accessible by the customer, hyper-specialists require sophisticated levels of support around them to ensure they are matched with a customer who has an issue relating to their speciality.
4. Organisations need to apply performance measures coupled by trust.
On the topic of measuring performance in a working from home environment, it was mentioned that teams located at home rather than in the office could lead to performance management difficulties.
João Gonzalez, Head of International Accounts at GoContact, indicated the requirement for dashboards and technology to ensure performance is being achieved. However, alongside these measures, employers need to be considerate that their teams are working unattended, and they don’t benefit from the professional and branded environment that generally improves productivity. Graham added that employers must remember that their teams deserve respect and trust that they will perform in a home environment.
5. Hybrid work is the future, but the focus must remain on customer experience.
“Hybrid work is absolutely here to stay,” David said as he kicked off this section. “90% of Twilio’s advisors have been working from home, and it’s working. I’ve witnessed how it can offer real benefits such as childcare and juggling everyday lives. I think the future holds flexibility.”
Richard followed this up by sharing his belief that although hybrid working is here to stay, it shouldn’t be a forced way of working. The dynamic of people’s living situations varies—some may be sofa surfing currently while others fight for the kitchen table or the best workspace in the house. “Therefore, it needs to be a personal choice,” he said. “There needs to be an option.”
João added that he recognises the challenges experienced by companies that have adopted a hybrid model, especially for new hires, but it’s the way forward. The benefits offered are clear, such as the potential reduction in rental costs paid for by contact centres, alongside agent retention from reduced commuting. However, it’s not for everybody, as some workers might not have the right home office environment.
Richard closed the session by sharing his thoughts on whether hybrid working is the future for the CX industry. “Hybrid working is an organisation’s internal problem. We need to accept it for what it is, and then return on focusing on customer service. Let’s not get distracted by an operating model.”
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