There has been a lot of talk in recent years around the speed in which the world is changing, driven by the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital technologies. Now, as we face the unfortunate reality of this global pandemic of COVID-19, the world is changing faster than we thought possible.

Offering your people the opportunity and flexibility to work from home creates sustainability to effectively support your customers in times of crisis while also increasing employee engagement and reducing work-related stress.

Your customers and your employees are increasingly mobile by default, but many organizations have been slow to adapt their operating policies to reflect these growing trends. Providing your employees with the power to choose to work from home in order to better address the realities of their lives – unreliable public transport routes or vicious congestion that increase global emissions, childcare limitations and concerns with flexibly and work-life balance – is a win-win for everyone. Not to mention, working from home also provides a solution to address everything from one-off weather-related events to unprecedented, unpredictable and globally impactful events of which we are now facing with COVID-19.

Remote working in the spotlight

The intrinsic benefits of a work at home solution have been pushed firmly into the spotlight. Certainly because the youngest millennials and the oldest cohorts of Generation Z – people who are more likely to have studied for degrees in virtual classrooms and completed thesis in coffee shops – are entering the workforce, bringing their nomadic expectations with them.

But more so now, the ongoing spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) has placed a near mandate around recognizing the positive role working from home can play in keeping an organization’s people safe, while at the same time keeping businesses operating.

Every organization is different; operations may be more or less suitable for remote working, but as this virus is demonstrating, dispersing your employees for their own safety and the continued performance of your business plays an absolutely critical role in a successful Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

While COVID-19 is uncharted territory, if we use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s modeling as a guide, it’s conceivable that 50% or more of the U.S. workforce could be directly impacted by the disease – whether through direct contagion, caring for family members who are ill or being forced to stay home due to school or other business and public service closures. We are already seeing this as certain states have issued mandates to stay at home along with mandatory closures of non-essential businesses. In much of Europe and other areas of the world, several countries have already been forced to close schools and all non-essential businesses while severely limiting the frequency of public transit services; and a number of countries have gone under full-time curfew.

Now is the time to seriously examine the work at home model, not only as a short-term business recovery mechanism, but consider it as a permanent portion of your customer care business strategy. These recent events have truly rewritten what is required to ensure effective business continuity, and we believe these events serve to reset a number of previously popular beliefs surrounding the ability to deliver high-quality, secure service from a virtual model. With that in mind, here are the five major factors your business should contemplate as it considers the pros and cons of using a remote working approach to make your business more resilient.

1. Which organisational roles can be effectively executed off-site?

Your Business Impact Plan (BCP) should list each role or function in order of its importance to the business operating in a steady state. Examine each of these roles in turn to assess its suitability for remote execution. What does each function do within the course of a day? Is face to face communication required, or can virtual tools provide the same or better engagement? If the role involves spending 80-90% or more working on a PC and talking on the phone, why pay for office space and add to carbon emissions generated by daily commutes?

Could a role be carried out as normal with little more than a laptop or desktop at home and a VPN? Or, would making the move possible require more thinking, more equipment and more security? Even if the majority of employees could easily move to home working when a disruption strikes, are your systems set up to cope with a sudden surge of external access requests? Likewise, what step would need to be taken, and by whom in the event of a requirement of an unplanned wholesale move to work at home causing strain on servers and other infrastructure? In moments like these, engage your technology solution vendors and partners to understand just what’s needed and what exactly is possible.

Make sure all of this is clearly detailed in your BCP and that everyone involved is educated and understands the processes to follow.

2. Speak to your people about their individual circumstances

We need to accept that not everyone who could work from home would be comfortable doing so. There could be issues around the speed and reliability of their internet connection or more personal reasons such as disruption to others at home. Some prefer the direct, social interaction of a physical office, but this is becoming less common as more millennials enter the workforce. Therefore, it’s crucial to communicate with your people. Highlight the benefits for them and for the enterprise, but also make certain that you listen to each individual’s response and wherever possible and feasible, work with that person to find a potential solution. Perhaps it’s sharing the cost of the internet connection, or renting a co-working space that a number of employees in the same area could use. Work at home readiness and “fit” tests are available and reliable.

3. How do you keep communicating?

When teams who are used to communicating face to face suddenly find themselves dispersed, how will they stay connected? Likewise, how will your organization be certain everyone is receiving up-to-date information regarding a disruption or the business situation? Today’s messaging and collaboration tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams and other virtual management solutions can actually drive more engagement than traditional office/cubicle settings when leveraged efficiently and correctly. Don’t forget not everyone in the organization is a digital native and so training will be required, as will use policies, but today’s virtual tools are very intuitive and can be quickly mastered.

4. Don’t wait until it’s too late

A plan can only come to fruition if it has been practiced and perfected first. Therefore you need to perform a number of dry runs and follow up each rehearsal with staff feedback to understand where it might fall short. Do not wait until there is a crisis before implementing a work at home plan. (How many companies wish they would have done this a few months ago?!) Transitioning a solid base of employees now sets you up for a more stable operating mode – one which we’re confident you’ll be surprised to find how many benefits are derived in terms of business results and work from home associate satisfaction.

5. Don’t overlook your outsourced services

Don’t forget the vital role your business partners can play in helping you proactively deliver on a solid Business Continuity Plan. A trusted and proven outsourcing partner can provide sound methodologies and best-practice solutions for delivering high-quality customer support and other business functions from home, mitigating your business risk and providing your organisation an extra layer of business resiliency. Actively engage with them to understand what they can deliver in terms of balancing operations across dispersed geographical locations and enhanced by a virtual, work at home model that is flexible and agile to align customer service capacity with changing demand from suppliers, customers or other business partners.

A sound BCP must be integrated with your own organisational plans, designed to leverage your full enterprise footprint so everyone is aligned and offer clear options that can be executed if disruption strikes.

At Sitel Group we work closely with each of our clients to design optimal delivery models and integrated business continuity plans that include our Sitel at Home solution whenever possible. Sitel at Home is underpinned by a PCI-compliant virtual platform that links literally thousands of tenured CX professionals together and can scale quickly to deliver genuine continuity of service when unforeseen events occur.

Sitel at Home was purpose built – developed to meet the needs of CX professionals wanting to further their career while improving work life balance – because we know that happy associates means happy customers. It was also built to handle the increasingly complex business continuity needs of increasingly global organizations, delivering high-quality, sustainable customer support that is immune to location based business interruption issues.

To be successful, a Business Continuity Plan must enable your people to safely continue conducting their roles, no matter the circumstance. As the coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, the most effective step you can take to ensure business resiliency is to limit the spread of the virus amongst your people. Implementing a work at home model now can help to stop the spread of infection and keep your business healthy.

For further tools to support your business resiliency preparation, visit our Business Continuity Planning portal where we share resources that can help you to plan for the unexpected.

“The Covid-19 outbreak is just another chance for companies to re-examine the relationship between companies and employees, and to elevate their corporate culture to be mutually beneficial.”    


Sitel Group