By Peter L DeHaan, PhD
For years, some answering service owners have pursued remote operator stations, while others have avoided them with staunch opposition. For the TAS, the benefits of remote operators are many, including running multiple offices from one system, tapping into new labor markets, and hiring qualified but homebound staff.
For employees, the advantages also abound. They include saving money on clothes and eliminating commute time and transportation costs. Of benefit to both are scheduling flexibility, staffing split shifts and short shifts, as well as quickly filling open shifts and responding to traffic spikes.
I embrace the technological aspects of remote operator stations, marveling at how much things have changed since I first talked about the concept at the 1994 ATSI convention. Challenging, costly, and slow back then, connecting a remove operator station today is easy.
Often overlooked, though, are the challenges of managing a distributed workforce. It’s hard, and some management styles don’t work well over distance. There’s nothing wrong with “management by walking around,” and many use it successfully. But that technique doesn’t translate well to staff you can’t see and who can’t see you.
I admire managers who successfully oversee staff at multiple locations, yet at the same time I respect managers who decline to try, knowing it’s not their strength. However, before I let those managers off the hook, I’d like to point out that managing staff at different places is really no different than managing staff on different shifts and during times you’re not in the office. Take what works for third shift and apply it to remote operators – things should work out okay.