Work-at-home (WAH) has evolved significantly over the past year, with many companies adopting the model for business continuity.
And this evolution hasn’t just been in terms of urgency and delivery, but also in how the model now sits within the overall customer service industry.
The beginnings of work-at-home
The concept of WAH first began in North America, where employers needed to find a way to open up the workplace for people who could not, or would not, commute into an office, including those with caring responsibilities or who had taken time off to have a family. And, the model became increasingly popular with employer and employee stakeholders.
Over the years, the model grew beyond North America and arrived in Western Europe, however, access to WAH did not continue East and South because, while it was clear that home-based support was valuable for western markets, near-shore and offshore locations were not considered viable to successfully execute the model.
Then came 2020…!
Many companies were forced to shut their contact centres in 2020, including near-shore and offshore locations. What was not anticipated, but found by many to be true, was that their employees could work successfully from home. Of course, this wasn’t universally the case but there were enough examples of agents working successfully at home to change the perception that WAH was possible only in western markets.
It’s clear that the domestic communications infrastructure in these locations is able to start building a strong home-based presence. This has been seen in action across many countries.
There will always be a place for physical centres and they won’t close their doors now that WAH is moving beyond conventional markets and use cases. But this does mean that the possibility of colleagues working from home in countries such as Egypt and the Philippines is now more widely accepted. And this also creates opportunities for people who may not otherwise be able to enter the workforce, whether that’s for logistical, practical, or cultural reasons.
The notion held that home-based support was only viable in western markets has been thoroughly challenged. It hasn’t been fully disproved because there remain cultural, infrastructure and commercial reasons for working at home to be unfavoured, however, it is now clear that a lot more people can successfully be home-based than was previously thought.
And so, with many companies now viewing WAH as a very real and needed model, their total return to the office as it was is in doubt. As well as questioning whether they need to return to in-centre operations, they may also be wondering if they need to return to domestic customer service operations as it’s clear that, with the right people and resources, work-at-home can be a truly global support model!