Karen HardyMarch 12, 2020

Best Practices for a Remote Worker Strategy

As worldwide concern over COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to grow, Avaya’s global team continues to put our experience to work in finding ways to help. Among the actions we’ve taken, we’ve provided free offers of our Avaya Spaces collaboration app to education institutions including colleges and universities along with non-profit organizations worldwide. And now, we are offering help for our clients around the world who are challenged with maintaining high levels of customer service while they make moves to keep employees safe in the face of this global health challenge.

Organizations and their customers depend on unified communication solutions and contact centers that stay up and running to deliver great experiences, even while their workforce may need to work remotely. We are introducing special offers that empower remote workers, and we will be sharing further details soon.  We also wanted to share some best practices for organizations to consider.

A remote worker is any employee – knowledge worker, agent, back office – who works from home, with no office space at a company facility.  There are several key reasons why firms elect to use home-based workers.  Key reasons include:

  • Find and retain the best, most motivated, employees
  • Overcome agent scarcity in high-employment sectors
  • Serve peak periods and provide 24x7 service
  • And of course, the global health challenge we are facing today

Six Best Practices for Success with a Remote Workforce

Whether you are planning to deploy remote workers, including contact center agents, or are already doing so, learning from others’ experience can enhance the success of your program. The following six recommendations emerged from interviews with companies that use remote workforce extensively.

Best Practice #1 — Document Remote Work Policies and Procedures

A written policy should already be in place that governs remote workers with clear and uniform rules. This policy should also make clear that all company policies apply — in addition to those specifically for remote workers.  With each remote worker, including contact center agents, the manager should review the policies and procedures together.   Focus on job responsibilities, organizational and departmental goals and objectives, customer impact, and employee’s work performance.

For all workers transitioning from traditional in-office roles to a remote basis, even if temporary, reinforce your policies and practices regarding protection of customer sensitive information.  This is especially important for employees in customer-facing and customer support roles.

Best Practice #2 — Select the Right People for the Job

Some employees are terrific people and good workers but may not be best suited to work at home. Personality is only one aspect of this. Most remote workers may have access to customer-sensitive information, such as financial or health information. For those reasons and more, make it a part of your selection process to do background checks.

Best Practice #3 - Ensure a Good Working Environment

Ensure that the remote worker has sufficient internet access to connect to corporate resources.   Many employees, but certainly not all, have internet connectivity that could be available for work use.   For those that do not, you may need to provide connectivity for work use (Mifi, hotspot, etc.).

Prospective remote workers may not picture themselves working at home. Based on your own experience, the written policy should tell them what works, and spell out what you expect of their workspace. These guidelines should be carefully discussed with every remote workerAlmost any room can serve as an office but selecting the right work area is essential to success.  A dedicated office in an area with minimal interruption maximizes the employee’s efficiency and comfort.

For customer facing workers and contact center agents, ensure sufficient voice quality can be delivered to the employee given their connectivity.  This could include the use of voice-over-IP, cellular, or home-based telephone services.   Encourage employees to find locations that minimize background noise.

Best Practice #4 – Equip Remote Workers to Succeed

Hardware

Remote workers generally need a hard phone or headset (noise canceling headset is best) and a computer. If your company provides the PC or otherwise enforces system requirements up front, your Help Desk will thank you later. 

Applications

Remote workers need the same access to applications, tools, and peers as they do when in the office (e.g., presence and instant messaging).  For contact center agents, the same access to supervisors as in-office agents;  likewise supervisors working remotely need access to their contact center management tools for their agents.

Connectivity

Connectivity is also another key consideration.  Using a second analog phone, or a cellular phone line, provides consistent quality without network engineering. There is, however, an up-front activation cost and ongoing monthly expense.  Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) eliminates those costs — as well as toll charges for remote workers but may require either SIP voice connectivity via the internet or virtual-private network (VPN) support, depending on your country’s rules and regulations;  this will generally deliver feature transparency.  Regardless of SIP or VPN, VoIP depends on a solid internet connection which may not be available – do not take broadband for granted.   In addition, for VoIP, ensure  your IT department can evaluate each remote employee’s internet performance before deploying your remote agent program.

Provide employees easy-to-use documentation and job aids regarding how to log into remote network services like VPN, telephone services, etc., including password procedures.

Best Practice #5 – Make Experts Readily Available

Remote workers need access to the same subject matter experts and support as if in the office.  “Presence” is a technology that is familiar to users of instant messaging, where a list of names is accompanied by icons indicating whether each person is logged in. When presence is incorporated into an enterprise, finding an expert is just as easy for the remote worker as for the in-office worker.

Best Practice #6 – Manage and Monitor

Remote workers need to meet the same productivity goals as in-office workers. Predictable management check-in times are reassuring to remote workers.  In addition, remote employees need to be included in team meetings and events so they can stay connected socially and culturally.  Remember to keep training and mentoring remote workers, and reward good performance.

If you manage contact center employees, a properly deployed remote contact center solution will provide remote workers and supervisors with the same capabilities as in a facility-based call center.  This includes the ability to monitor performance in real time and meet recording and quality requirements.

You Can Do This!

To create an effective remote worker program, all you need to do is think through the people, policies, and procedures. And remember, you’re not alone. Avaya can help you with every step of the process. Millions of users around the world rely on Avaya’s award-winning unified communications, collaboration and contact center products to deliver unified and effortless customer and employee experiences. And we are working with them to help address the challenges we are all facing today.

For more information on how Avaya can make a remote worker strategy work for your enterprise, contact your Avaya Account Manager, Avaya authorized partner, or visit our website.

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Karen Hardy

Karen Hardy, Vice President of Product & Solution Marketing at Avaya, is a 20+ year business communications industry veteran who currently leads marketing for Avaya's market-leading customer engagement and team engagement technologies.

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