Survey Results

Each quarter SWPP surveys the workforce planning community on critical workforce planning topics. Over 170 call center professionals representing a wide variety of industries participated and provided insight into this quarter’s survey on the work at home versus in-office trends.

Survey Participants

Fifty-seven percent of the 173 respondents in this survey work in centers with over 500 agents. The rest are representative of a wide variety of sizes from under 50 up to 500 agents. The healthcare, financial, insurance, and “other” industries drew the largest number of participants, but all other industries are also well represented.

Plan for Return to Office

Respondents were asked what their plans are for agents returning to the office to work versus working from home. Over three-quarters (78%) indicated that some combination of agents at home and others in the office is planned. Twenty percent indicated that all agents will remain remote while only 2% indicated that all agents will return to the office. This is a significant change from the pre-pandemic period when many companies had few or no agents working at home.

Percentages of Work from Home and In Office Staff

When asked if they are hoping for a set percentage of staff working from home versus in the office, 68% indicated that they have not set a goal while 32% indicated that they do have a goal. In many cases, the distribution will be a function of the specific agent personnel that are in place, their preferences, and the capabilities of the supervisory/management staff. This may shift over time as the staff changes and HR recruiting practices evolve.

In-Office Requirements

The respondents were asked to indicate if they are having agents return to the office, will the agents be required to work in the office all the time. Three-quarters (77%) indicated that they will not be required to work in the office all the time, but the remaining 23% indicated that their staff will.

Different Work Schedules

Respondents were asked if work is scheduled differently for those agents working in the office versus those working remotely. Over 80 percent (83%) indicated that there is no difference while only 17% indicated that there is a difference. For many, the work at home staff offers an opportunity to schedule in unique ways that can meet peaks and valleys in the workload and satisfy agent desires for more flexibility as well.

Specific Requirements for Agents Who Work at Home

Respondents were asked if agents will need to meet specific performance metrics to continue to work at home. The responses are nearly evenly split with 51% indicated that there is no such requirement while 49% indicate that there are requirements.

Metrics Required for At-Home Work Option

Respondents were asked which metrics are included in the performance requirements for agents working from home. They were offered the opportunity to select more than one of the metrics listed. The most frequently selected items were quality scores and schedule adherence. Average handle time was chosen by approximately half with first call resolution selected by about one-quarter.

Grace Period

Respondents were asked if there is a grace period for achieving the performance goals for those agents who want to continue to work remotely. Approximately two-thirds (65%) indicated that there is a grace period.

Incentives for Return to Office

When asked if they are offering incentives to agents to return to the office, only 8% indicated that they are offering them. Some companies have large commitments for office space and wish to have the agents in the office for this reason and others. Some organizations have found the savings associated with agents working from home are hard to ignore.

Where incentives are offered, the following options were most often cited by the respondents:

  • Monetary one-time bonus
  • Food and beverage
  • Gift cards
  • Gas compensation
  • Games and activities

Response to Technical Downtime

Respondents were asked if agents are expected to come into the office the same day after experiencing technical downtime. The answers are evenly split, and this may be in part a function of how remote the agents are from the office. While some agents may be local, the remote option has opened the door to recruiting from considerable distance. In addition, those companies that have chosen the full remote option may not have an office at all.

Length of Downtime Before Return to Office

For those respondents who indicated that they do expect agents to come into the office after technical downtime has occurred, they were asked how long the outage needs to be to trigger the change of location. Nearly half (48%) indicated that an outage of one hour is sufficient, while 39% indicated that the trigger is at two hours. A few indicated three or more hours are required.\

Closing Comments

Based on the responses above, it appears that the work-at-home trend is continuing. There are benefits for both the company and the staff, while there are also different challenges to address. There does still seem to be a reluctance to explore new scheduling options for those who do not have to commute to the office, and this would appear to be something for workforce management personnel to explore within their software before offering it to staff and management for consideration. Even such options as agents bidding on small segments of time in this gig economy may be worth exploring.