The April 2020 Issue of TAS Trader

Tips to Manage a Remote Workforce

With More Reasons to Have Operators Work at Home Comes the Need to Better Oversee Them

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Around the world, many jurisdictions have enacted stay-at-home mandates to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Other areas are pursuing a “stay home, stay safe” recommendation. This scenario hits answering services doubly hard. First, as clients respond by revamping their business models, they turn to their answering service for additional help, giving them more work and expecting a wider scope of outcomes. But as answering services strive to take more calls, they may struggle to do so with reduced staffing levels. 

The solution is allowing answering service operators to work from home. For some services this may be a new consideration, while for others they may now pursue remote staff with more diligence. Few answering services have a 100 percent home-based staff. Yet at this time everyone can see the benefits of working from home.

Here are some tips for successfully managing a distributed workforce, such as when most everyone works from home.

Develop a Remote Perspective: Broadcasting a message to all staff that “there are donuts in the break room” sends a strong message to off-site staff that they don’t matter—or you forgot about them, which you probably did. In all your interactions, put your remote staff first. Figure out ways to effectively communicate with off-site employees. Everything that works for remote staff, will work for local staff too. 

Put All Communications Online: Convert physical bulletin boards to virtual bulletin boards. Move from physical inboxes to electronic inboxes. This may be email, or it may be something else. 

Put all necessary paperwork online, making it equally and as easily accessible for all staff, regardless of location. The same applies for submitting paperwork. Don’t make your remote staff jump through hoops that don’t apply to local staff.

Stay Connected: It’s easy to interact with office-based staff. This can be as simple as a wave or a head nod when you walk through the operations room. But you can’t do this with remote staff. Figure out how to offer the same courtesies to your staff working in their homes. You might want to periodically have a video call with them or set up online group meetings that they can attend. These don’t need to be long or complicated interactions. In fact, simple and shorter are better. Aim for quantity over quality.

Update Your Policies and Procedures: A fourth consideration is to review your written policies and operations procedures. Make sure they apply equally to local and remote staff. Then once you have reworded them to be inclusive, post them online and provide them to each employee electronically. If they need to sign that they received these updates, digitize that process as well. Eliminate the preference for, and the need of, all printed materials.

Conclusion: Taking these steps will help your remote staff be as successful—and as happy—as your local staff. It will also combat the us-versus-them mentality that often occurs among employees who don’t work at the primary location.

When you do this “stay home, stay safe” becomes “go remote, go to work.”

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.


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9 Steps to Lead Your Team Through Uncertainty

By Kate Zabriskie

An effective leader will lead their team through change and do so with confidence that will inspire others. Here are nine tips to help lead your team through uncertainty:

1. Know That the Path Isn’t Always Linear: As a team deals with workplace change, it isn’t as simple as announcing it, adapting to it, and moving toward goals. It’s normal for employees to have shifting feelings throughout the process. Recognize and address these concerns as they arise is a healthy way to respond.

2. Identify Key Leaders: Spot team members with true leadership qualities early on. They will be crucial in helping to instill confidence and keep the team moving together toward stated goals. 

3. Construct a Solid Plan: Address changes in processes, products, and expectations of the staff involved. Creating and sharing a plan with your team will go a long way toward giving them a feeling of stability as they move forward together. 

4. State Goals: Clearly define objectives and how you will support your team in meeting them. If employees don’t have a firm sense of what they should move toward, they may just move on.

5. Adjust as Necessary: Rumors abound during uncertainty. When your team is unsure, they’ll speculate. This can produce confusion, worry, and employees looking for new jobs. Be upfront and communicate with your team any information you have as soon as you can.

6. Acknowledge the Past: Changes may mean discarding the old ways of doing things. This can leave team members who worked on such projects feeling slighted. Highlight those projects and salute accomplishments, while at the same time leading the team into the new direction.

7. Disclose Challenges: Don’t hide problems. Share them. Your team may have valuable input and will feel more invested in helping overcome obstacles. 

8. Listen: Make yourself available and truly listen to your team. Sometimes, simply letting someone vent about the changes will help them deal with what is going on. And other times, their insight could be invaluable.

9. Restate Performance Objectives: Clearly state any changes in performance goals and reviews. Employees will want to know exactly what you expect. This will allow them to focus on their own objectives and give them confidence to move forward.

Summary: Change can be scary, full of surprises, and extremely challenging. But, if you have a plan, communicate effectively with your team, and move towards new objectives with confidence—and have a team that is committed as well—you can survive and even thrive in the new environment. 

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.

[Read Kate’s full article to learn more.]

Industry News

Amtelco Offers Free Rental Operator Licenses: With the expanding COVID-19 crisis, the ability for agents to work remotely has become important. Amtelco announced they are offering a free month for up to five rental operator licenses to help call centers keep up with call traffic increases. Web-based virtual agent software can turn any personal computer into a professional telephone agent station, allowing agents to work remotely from just about anywhere. Their remote status is transparent to callers.

Amtelco’s Kevin Beale recommends establishing VPN connections for remote agents to ensure a secure connection. Once agents connect to the VPN, they can establish their remote agent connection for data and audio: Data connection through direct connection, remote desktop, thin client, Citrix, or VDI. Audio connection via integrated audio or external audio.For more info contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.

Email us with your TAS news for consideration in our next issue.


Quotes for the Month

“To have and not to give is often worse than to steal.” -Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach

“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.” -Tony Robbins

“When two egotists meet, it’s an I for an I.” -unknown

“Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?” -unknown