4 Ways to Support Call Center Employees Today

As businesses scrambled to transition to a fully-remote workforce, radical changes were made to adapt to this new normal. New processes, strategies, and workflows needed to be created to empower employees and recreate the same productivity and passion that could be found in the office.

During these rapidly-changing times, call centers faced a drastically different and more challenging set of changes and questions. Whether it's inside sales, customer service, accounts receivable, or any other service-driven department, there's a lot of unique needs that often keep these positions in-office.

When facing the difficult question of how to get employees home, hardware and software changes had to be made quickly. For some, the answer was simply that they couldn't. Whether it's the logistics of moving everybody out of their spaces and into their homes or the challenge of keeping them safe at work, maintaining a motivated, productive, and healthy staff is key.

Shelter-in-place orders hit nearly every state, each with a different definition of an essential employee. With call centers deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security, companies were enacting different policies for their call center workers. Some took steps to set up their customer service reps to work from home while others depended on immobile call centers to keep their organizations grounded.

When going remote is not possible, keep day-to-day operations intact by using recommended social distancing guidelines to ensure workday safety. This often amounts to a worthwhile laundry list of small changes, including the following:

  • Increase space between cubicles when possible. Take advantage of empty areas in the office or set up temporary partitions between workstations.
  • Space out breaks a little more than usual. Scheduled breaks are already a common call center practice, but adding more break periods or staggering break times for workers can lower the amount of people in the lunchroom at a time.
  • Use single-use supplies for breakrooms, providing covered garbage cans that are frequently emptied.
  • Add visual cues by marking off six-foot radiuses from employee desks, giving a visible guide and reminders to stay separated when person-to-person conversations are necessary.
  • Always have virtual meetings, even when you're in the office, and maintain their frequency to keep staff well-informed and motivated.
  • Provide supplies for sanitizing personal space and communal areas. Keep wipes and sanitizer at all touch points, but also give each employee a personal supply to keep handy.
  • Increase overnight janitorial services to sanitize and deep clean the office nightly.

Be the Advocate.

A single voice is hard to hear, but together, that can make a huge impact. As directives come from the top down and conversations continue, department leaders have an opportunity to advocate for the unique needs of their teams.

Funneling the ideas of many starts with open, honest, and frequent conversations with individual team members. One-on-one or small group meetings are best for gathering this particular information, and you'll find that there's obvious trends in employee needs. At the same time, there will be a few deviations from the norm, providing the opportunity to tackle problems as they develop.

Consider an online form or website for anonymous submissions. Encourage employees to ask difficult questions and give soft-spoken team members a comfortable way to voice concerns without added nerves or stress.

Connect with Your Team.

A little compassion goes a long way for employees and employers alike. Customer service positions attract an incredible array of personalities and passions, which already make the workplace a rich and diverse environment, but with that diversity comes a variety of individual needs.

Connect with your employees' personal struggles and difficulties. There are a lot of side effects to working from home that might not be immediately obvious. Some people might have children or partners suddenly home-bound, others might struggle to set up a functional and comfortable workspace, and others might be facing stress or sadness. The list goes on and on.

Your human resources department can give you a list of resources that can help employees from all angles. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) can provide emotional support; telehealth services are available for contact-free medical care, and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is there for those caring for ill family members. Numerous tools can make difficult times less daunting.

Establish Accountability.

Dependable, reliable, and capable: When you ask your team how they feel about one another, this is what you're aiming for. Avoiding animosity and skepticism between team members becomes more important while working outside of the office.

Use a mixture of tools and tips to keep up with your team's progress. Just as not everybody thrives with every management style, tracking workload can be just as tricky. Collaboration software, such as Trello or Microsoft Teams, can give everybody real-time access to see what's being done. During virtual meetings, these tools can be used to track future improvements and changes as well.

Call centers often have more quantifiable metrics for tracking progress, and many of them can directly carry over when working from home. After adjusting for your business' quarantine-influenced sales changes, create goals toward which employees can work together and as individuals and share progress during daily team meetings.

Desiree Carpenter is a human relations professional at National Business Furniture.