I’m a creature of routine. Most typical weekdays look pretty much the same — get up at 6:20 a.m., brush my teeth, start the coffee maker, feed the dog and take him for a short walk. I’m out the door by 8:15 a.m., take my lunch at noon, home by 5:30 p.m., and I go for a run before dinner at 7 p.m. Routine gives me structure and predictability that I crave.
Even if routines feel monotonous some days, they’re really good for our mental health. They decrease stress, offer us better sleep schedules, and benefit overall health. Routine creates boundaries for us so we don’t overwork or underwork. Routines keep us productive without running us ragged.
Unfortunately, sometimes routines get interrupted. Globally, we’re living through this interruption right now. Everyone’s lives and routines are disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Events are cancelled, vacations postponed, groceries vanished from the shelves. And, for many workers, remote work is the new norm.
Productivity When Working From Home
More than anything, one of the greatest challenges to working from home is maintaining the same level of productivity. Without set routines, daily practices, and resources at arms-length in our offices, even the best of us can get distracted in the comfort of our home.
This is kind of a scary thought as a call center manager. You still have quotas to meet and KPIs to uphold as you navigate this strange time. How do you help your agents stay as productive working remotely as you do when you’re with them in the office every day?
It’s tricky to create new processes and methods of work for your now fully-remote call center team. Let’s consider some of the tips and resources worth sharing with your agents to help them be productive working from home.
Read up: Keep your business functioning as normal even from home. More tips and tricks to share with your team during this time of remote work.
Staying Mentally Healthy
Being quarantined at home on its own can be tedious. Add in scary news broadcasts and the uncertainty about how long we’ll be asked to stay home, and things get stressful. When your agents’ mental health is poor, it won’t take much before they also experience burnout.
Maintaining mental health while remote is vital right now to keep productive. It can be easy when you’re working from home to think, now’s time for me to stay in my PJs all day.
Without anywhere to go, it can feel easy for you and your team to sleep in longer than you normally would, to skip breakfast and maybe even lunch, or to stress snack on Cool Ranch Doritos from bed all day. But this kind of response won’t help your team better serve customers.
Help your agents stay productive and mentally healthy by encouraging the following behavior and sharing these tips with your team.
1. Get started early
It can be tempting to let yourself slack at the beginning of the work day when you’re not forced to get up early for your commute to the office. That jump from laying in bed to the to-do list can be very jolting. But, getting started on time, and maybe even earlier than you normally would, will help you set your day up for success.
When you let your snooze button rule your morning, it’s not long before you find yourself close to lunchtime with very little progress made. One way you can help your agents start their day on time is to set a scheduled daily standup first thing in the morning.
Have all your agents call into a video conference each morning to go over their priorities for the day and to check-in. This will hold agents accountable for the start of a day and keep you all on the same page.
2. Avoid working from bed
If possible, avoid working in your bedroom or from bed at all costs. It’s surprising how many people work from bed. Good Technology, a mobile-security software company now owned by BlackBerry, polled 1000 workers and found that 500 of them read and respond to business emails from bed. Another study of British workers discovered one in five employees spends between 2 and 10 hours per week working from bed.
Technology makes it possible for us to lounge in bed and respond to emails or log into Slack. But this practice can decrease your productivity and harm your mental and physical health.
According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard, work shouldn’t happen where you sleep. They say, “Keeping computers, TVs, and work materials out of the room will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and sleep.” When you work from bed, it can be harder to disassociate yourself from working when you’re trying to get some shut-eye.
In addition, working right before going to sleep, and looking at a bright screen, reduces the melatonin you need to fall asleep. This means it’s more challenging to get better quality sleep, which affects your productivity the next day.
Working in bed blurs the lines between work and life. Not to mention it’s not good for your posture, either.
3. Choose a designated workspace
One of the strangest parts about working from home every day is the inability to separate the rest of your life from your workday. It’s hard to plug into the workday and it’s hard to end the workday when your laptop is just sitting there, next to your bed or by your couch. Part of making it feel like you’re at work is setting aside a space that acts as your office (not your bed).
When you work from home, it helps to still feel like you’re going to the office. Encourage your agents to structure their day around a spot in their house that holds their work related responsibilities. Maybe it’s a dining room table or a desk set up in their guest room. I’ve even heard of people turning closets into mini offices. It’s important to have a place separated from distractions so you can check into the working mindset when you’re there.
Have your agents set up their home office in a place they can feel productive. Encourage them to reduce clutter, find a space that’s quiet, and set it up with good lighting. And, even ask everyone to share pictures of their spaces, so they can show off and share their own tips and tricks.
4. Take breaks
We all worry about being unproductive when working from home. There’s pressure to be online, proving you’re getting stuff done, at all times. But, think for a moment of how much time in the office that you don’t “get work done.”
Hopefully, your team isn’t spending a whole day holding office olympics while you’re gone, like in an episode of The Office. But, in a typical office, chunks of the day are, on paper, unproductive. Time is spent in conversation with one another, building relationships, joking around, walking to get a snack or refill your water bottle at the cooler.
Sometimes we hit walls when we’re alone all day working from home.This doesn’t mean your team is being unproductive.
They’re missing out on the organic distractions and breaks that come with working in an office, many of which are healthy breaks from the stress of their to-do list.
During this strange and stressful time, it’s important to let your agents take breaks when they need them. It can be easy to hit a mental wall when you’re stuck at home all day. It’s ok for your team members to get up and take a brief walk or make an errand run mid-afternoon to avoid crowds at the store. Some agents may need to hop offline to assist a child with their school work or help their partner with the dog.
This kind of flexibility will help your agents be available and focused when they need to be “at work.”
Do your agents have children? It can be tricky to balance work from home when you have children to care for or school lessons to check on. Check out these additional resources and tips worth sharing with your employees who are parents.
Communication is Key
Transparency and communication are key to maintaining connection and productivity from home. Take advantage of the technology available to stay in touch as a team.
Consider setting aside times for your team to connect for reasons outside of work. Maybe it’s through virtual coffee hours or happy hours. Or, it’s through 1:1s that serve as personal check-ins to make sure your agents aren’t too lonely or anxious. Use Google Hangouts or Zoom to see everyone’s faces and catch up on a regular basis.
Have separate platforms for communicating and for project management. Use applications like Asana or Monday to track progress on projects and maintain goals as you interact from a distance. For day-to-day communication, consider Slack or Microsoft Teams. Maybe set up particular channels for your agents to share photos of their pets, kids, or the bread they have the time to bake now.
Overcommunication and regular updates are instrumental in staying productive and accountable as a team. Use the tools available to you to care for one another and continue to care for customers even from home.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll have resources available to help you navigate this new way of work.