Microsoft has labeled hybrid work as the next great disruption. With every disruption, there will be some amount of discomfort. But with McKinsey’s research revealing 9 in 10 companies will implement a hybrid work model, it is an inevitable disruption.
Here, you will learn six tips to make a hybrid work environment work for your business, as well as for your remote and hybrid agents. They are simple and practical steps you can apply to minimize disruption.
What Is a Hybrid Agent?
To mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as people return to the workplace, you may have allowed some to continue working from home. It’s an increasingly common practice as we learn to live with COVID-19.
The hybrid work system is synonymous with flexibility. But it is not unusual to hear people complaining about the long and extended working hours. It appears flexibility has come at a cost to personal space and time.
Currently, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. You may have experimented with different permutations. The winning model is probably one that fits the unique characteristic of your organization. With that in mind, let’s examine some tips for managing hybrid agents.
1. Set Up a Knowledge Base
At the workplace, access to help is a knock or desk away. Knowing you can get immediate help to get unstuck is reassuring. It can boost self-confidence.
In a technology-centric business environment, speed isn’t a premium; it’s a must-have. Responding timely to a customer’s request or query can make or break a deal. To augment the flexibility agents now have working remotely, they must have access to information at all times.
In addition, ensuring the knowledge base is up to date is vital. It can reflect poorly on your agents and organization if the information provided to customers is out of date.
2. Create Boundaries
While the world kept its eye on the prospect of another great depression, The Great Resignation was taking shape. Coined by Professor Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University, The Great Resignation refers to the rise in people quitting their jobs and is attributed to the seismic shift in the way we work because of the pandemic.
The romanticism with working from home began to fade as the lines between work and non-work grew thinner over time. Tiredness quickly turned to burnout.
It’s best you heed this: Nearly 1 in 2 employees expect an increased focus on employee well-being. The simplest step you can take is improving communication with agents, from expectations and rules of engagement (for example, meeting days and hours) to no-fly zones (that is, when agents working from home do not need to attend to work-related matters).
3. Cross-Train Agents
Inevitably, there will be some parts of a hybrid agent’s work that need to be done at the workplace even though they may be working from home that day. It’s highly unlikely to be a major task, as the agent would have anticipated it, but nonetheless, it needs to be done.
For example, an order has arrived earlier than scheduled. It needs to be verified and received or returned to the sender. Until now, an agent who happens to be at work that day may not have the proper training to handle receipts. But thanks to a hybrid work system where they’ve been cross-trained, they can perform a task outside their scope of work or areas of responsibility.
Hybrid work systems function better with job or task bundling. As much as possible, the tasks should be relevant in one way or another. With the appropriate training, this can work well for you and your hybrid agents.
4. Emphasize Flexibility
Flexibility is a two-way street. When clearly communicated, it’ll be a boost to productivity and employee morale. What it definitely should not result in is dividing agents into those with the flexibility to work from home and those without.
There is a growing body of evidence to suggest increased productivity amongst those given the flexibility to work from home. This bodes well for the future of hybrid work.
Ultimately, for any system to work, it needs to produce the desired results — at both the individual and organizational levels. Outcome over output should be the mantra you communicate to hybrid agents.
5. Set Milestones
With flexibility comes empowerment. But unless both are tied to outcomes, they will not reap any rewards.
Setting milestones for agents in a hybrid work environment is central to its success. With presumably little supervision, it can be easy for agents to go off-tangent. Setting milestones mitigates this risk.
But more importantly, setting milestones lets hybrid agents set their own pace. Amongst your highly motivated agents are some driven to achieve the milestones ahead of time. They aren’t pressured to do so but may find the residual time worthwhile to be spent on other things, work or otherwise.
6. Use Cloud-Based Software
Cloud-based software is a gift to a hybrid work model. It is the tool that has made working from a fixed place redundant.
Your choice of cloud-based software is critical. You should never settle for less. This doesn’t necessarily mean a hefty chunk of your budget needs to go into it. Indeed, there are many other factors to consider. But perhaps these should take priority:
- Is it scalable?
- How secure is it?
- Is it user-friendly?
The future of work is hybrid. As the dust of the pandemic settles, there is urgency in implementing a system that works best for your organization. It can be your competitive advantage.
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