Any team lead that has managed both in-centre and work-at-home agents will know that, while the roles have similarities, they can also vary significantly.
So how does managing home-based agents differ from managing in-centre teams?
Kevin Dewson, one of SYKES’ Work At Home (WAH) Team Leads, has worked for SYKES for two years and has been an in-centre and work-at-home lead for the past 9 months.
Transition from in-centre to WAH
For team leads used to managing an in-centre team, there are naturally differences when it comes to leading a work-at-home team, some obvious and some unexpected.
“The irony was, the things I thought would be challenging, weren’t. And the things I didn’t even think about, were. For me, it’s about thinking “how do I mirror what I’m doing now, exactly to how I would do it in the office and have done all my career?”
So, for example, communication, building relationships, and monitoring agent work and quality would be areas that team leaders would expect to notice differences and have to adapt their approach accordingly. Factors such as IT challenges may not be as obvious, but can cause significant issues for work-at-home teams.
Working at home can be significantly more productive as team leads can focus purely on the task at hand.
“When I work at home, I get 3 times as much done because I can plan out my time and dedicate slots specifically to certain tasks. So, for example, I can set 2 hours aside each morning to handle queries from the team. When working in-centre, all of those queries would need to be handled as and when they arose. With Work At Home, I can get 5 days work done in 3 days, and then spend the other two days in the office with the in-centre team.”
Structure and planning are particularly important in a work-at-home environment, ensuring that all agents are aware of the relevant processes and have access to the documents and information they need. This ensures that everyone is following the same procedures and delivering a consistent level of service.
“I keep everything structured, documented, and organised. I set high expectations from the start, outlining what is expected from the agents and what’s not.”
When managing a home-based team, it is particularly important to ensure that you are organised.
“ I am regimented, structured, and organised, because, without having that organisation, you can’t achieve what you want to achieve. It’s very easy to fall into a trap of having a chat with the team on Zoom and, all of a sudden, the day is almost over.”
Allocate time for set tasks, for example, a morning team call or an end-of-day review will help ensure that productivity and service are optimised.
Communication is one of the key areas of difference between managing an in-centre and work-at-home team.
“Communication is the biggest thing in my opinion and you have to ensure that home agents do not feel isolated, because otherwise they will be sat in their room on their own all day speaking only to customers. I make a real big thing about making everyone inclusive, everyone has a say, everyone has a laugh.
“ I always make sure I say good morning and, every evening at 16:30 for the early shift and 17:00 for the late shift, I say good night to both teams. This way, the team knows I’m here and they are appreciated. Even on days when it’s quiet, I do the same.”
As work-at-home agents are often based miles apart, it can be difficult to build a sense of team spirit and culture. But there are still ways to do it.
“When we first started, there were some very strong personalities who didn’t stop chatting in Zoom and then a few others who didn’t want to come out of their shell. So the goal was to make all personalities equal. Now it’s a brilliant dynamic with strong relationships and friendship forming within the virtual team. And, because we can’t have a “real” team night out we are in the process of organising a virtual games night!”
Managing a mixed in-centre and home-based team can be done successfully but requires focus, appreciation, inclusion and clear communication, as Kevin’s experience shows. The return on his investment is a happy team with high performance and low turnover, which is a testament to his hard work for his team.
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