2021 CX Trends: Working from Home and Trust
This year is set to usher in a new era of corporate culture where working from home is no longer the exception, but a key element of a resilient business strategy that prioritizes both employee and business health.
The events of 2020 led companies to supercharge their investment in digital tools, embrace technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and constantly flex in order to realign with customer demands.
However, it also forced organizations to adopt a whole new approach to how and where their employees work. This turned 2020 into the biggest home-working experiment in modern history. Pre-COVID-19, Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 85% of employees never worked from home and just 3% worked remotely more than one day a week.
A Global Transition
Yet, one month after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, 65% of U.S. organizations had moved the majority of their employees to remote working according to Gartner research.
Sitel Group® already has a robust work at home solution, Sitel at Home™, with the necessary supporting technology, tools and infrastructure and it was this solid platform that enabled us to transition over 60,000 of our agents to our work at home model in a matter of weeks.
However, for some organizations, this fundamental change presented a number of challenges from maintaining open communications, providing access to systems or files and ongoing support through training and development.
Nevertheless, overcoming these initial teething issues has been worth it. In addition to keeping people safe and well, BCG data shows that 75% of employees who transitioned believed they were more productive in general and 51% said that even with regards to collaborative tasks, they were performing better.
Within our own organization, we’ve noted 32% lower absenteeism and a 27% lower attrition rate amongst work at home agents compared to agents working in a traditional brick-and-mortar environment.
In other words, the transition has been a win-win for both for employees and employers, so much so that working from home is set to persist post-pandemic potentially making it the defining business trend of 2021 within the outsourcing industry and beyond.
More Employees Expect to Work from Home
The 2020 Gartner ReimagineHR Employee Survey shows people now want to spend 40% of their time working from home (up from 27% in the 2019 survey) and according to Conference Board data, 77% of U.S. organizations are already preparing for an increase in the number of full-time employees working from home at least three days a week in 2021.
Within CX management and delivery, the benefits of having a network of work at home agents is already clear. They’re there to handle rapidly increasing contact volumes for any organization in any geography. They provide pools of industry-specific expertise and understanding that clients can leverage whenever the need arises. And, of course, their availability is not dictated by traditional business hours or by the length of time it takes to commute to a physical site.
And now COVID has highlighted new benefits – greater business resiliency and continuity for organizations and greater flexibility and work-life balance for agents. This is why our strategy for 2021 is based around 70% of our agents globally continuing to work at home either part- or full time.
However, as more organizations look to making the transition to remote working permanent, they first need to address the issue of trust. Personal data handling, processing and its potential loss is a growing concern for 98% of consumers, globally.
Being able to prove your organization can be trusted with essential elements of its customers’ digital lives, while also keeping its own systems safe is going to be a huge driver of brand value and CX in 2021.
As well as changing the way we work, the pandemic led cybercriminals to pivot too, shifting their attention from malware and ransomware attacks to phishing attempts designed to exploit the fear, confusion and uncertainty COVID-19 was creating.
Microsoft data shows that over the first half of 2020, phishing accounted for 70% of all cybercriminal activity. Perhaps unsurprisingly 25% of employees surveyed by Deloitte in June said they’d noticed a large increase in fraudulent emails landing in their corporate inboxes and that 14% of U.S. adults working from home were concerned about the potential cybersecurity and data risks it presented.
Taking technological steps regarding the software, hardware and digital tools at remote workers’ disposal will help to mitigate many of the risks associated with possible data theft. However, employees will also need access to training or will require onboarding in order to understand changes in organizational data policies and to become comfortable using new tools or processes.
Increased Need for Employee Training
During the initial COVID-19 wave, 75% of learning and development leaders surveyed by IBM said they had struggled to align their existing approaches, tools and strategies to meet remote workers’ training needs, particularly in relation to creating and delivering courses related to IT security and common tech issues.
As such, the pandemic shone a spotlight on occupational training and development. Research from LinkedIn that canvased 864 development professionals and 3,155 workplace learners found that in 66% of organizations, the role and responsibilities of learning and development leaders had grown substantially due to the impact of the pandemic. With organizations reexamining their approach to workforce training, 60% now plan to increase their investment in virtual instructor-led training over the course of 2021.
An Increased Need for Trust
And, with employee wellbeing and professional development along with data protection so high on the agenda in 2021 and beyond, brands are going to have to do their due diligence before identifying and partnering with organizations who can help them achieve their CX goals in a forever changed business landscape.