Remote Workforce Management: Tips & Challenges

work from home concept

Aksheeta Tyagi at Sprinklr explores how remote workforce management works, featuring practical tips and real stories from the trenches.

Working from the comfort of your home, nay, anywhere in the world, is probably the only sustained post-COVID reality.

It’s actually what most working people prefer instead of coming back to the office. Turns out, over six in 10 employers report facing resistance from their teams to return to office.

But then again, for you, managing a remote workforce can be challenging, often feeling chaotic and disconnected.

Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. So, how do you create an environment in your teams where distance fades, collaboration thrives and productivity soars?

What Is Remote Workforce Management?

Remote workforce management is the practice of managing employees who work remotely, ensuring they have the tools, communication channels and processes needed for effective collaboration and productivity.

Managing a remote workforce involves balancing three key components: technology, communication and processes/policies.

With the right technology, teams can collaborate seamlessly. Clear communication channels ensure everyone stays connected and informed. Well-defined processes and policies help maintain structure and consistency.

So, imagine your customer service team is spread across different cities or even continents, but everyone is still on the same page.

That’s the art of remote workforce management. With the right setup, your team can work from their favorite coffee shop or a cozy home office without missing a beat.

Remote WFM vs. In-Person WFM vs. Hybrid WFM

Aspect Remote Workforce Management In-Person Workforce Management Hybrid Workforce Management
Location Employees work from any location with internet access Employees work from a central office or specific location Combination of remote and in-office work
Communication Relies heavily on digital tools like video calls, chat apps and emails Face-to-face interactions, meetings and direct communication Mix of digital communication tools and in-person meetings
Technology Requirements High dependence on reliable internet and remote collaboration tools Basic office infrastructure and IT support within the office Requires both in-office infrastructure and remote collaboration tools
Work Schedule Flexibility Typically offers more flexible work hours, allowing employees to manage their time independently Generally follows a fixed schedule with set working hours Offers a blend of fixed schedules and flexible hours depending on the role and company policy
Team Collaboration Can be challenging due to physical distance; requires proactive effort to build team cohesion Easier due to physical proximity; spontaneous collaboration and team-building activities are more common Balances in-person and remote collaboration; team-building activities need to cater to both remote and in-office employees
Training & Development Often relies on online courses, webinars and virtual mentorship programs Conducted in-person through workshops, seminars, and face-to-face mentorship Combination of online and in-person training sessions
Security Concerns Higher risk due to varied security practices; requires robust VPNs and encryption Controlled environment with centralized security protocols Mixed security challenges; require both on-site and remote security measures
Performance Monitoring Uses digital tools for tracking productivity and performance metrics remotely Direct observation and in-person performance reviews Combines digital tracking tools with periodic in-person assessments
Impact on CX Can be positive if well-managed; requires strong digital communication and support tools Generally positive due to direct interactions and immediate support Varies; needs a balance of digital and in-person customer support strategies
Employee Satisfaction High if employees value flexibility and autonomy Generally high due to social interactions and structured environment; can take a backseat due to rigidity High if the balance between flexibility and social interaction is achieved

Benefits of Remote Workforce Management

If you’re not sure about remote workforce management, here are four benefits that make a strong case.

Enhanced Productivity

Remote work allows employees to set their own schedules and work on their time. This allows them the autonomy they require to get their best work done. Numbers say so too – in 2020, workers showed a solid 47% increase in productivity compared to 2019.

Saving Costs

According to research, remote work could save companies $11,000 per year for every employee who works remotely half of the time. This is partly due to the cost savings on rent and utilities, office equipment, security, etc.

Better Talent Retention

Many agents today prefer flexible work schedules and not having to commute daily to contact centres. Allowing remote work can help retain your call centre agents in the long run.

Better Work-Life Balance

With autonomy and flexibility, 71% of workers say remote work helps them better manage their work and personal lives.

6 Best Practices to Manage a Remote Workforce

Managing a remote workforce may look challenging. But with the right strategies in place, you can make it work effectively for your organization. Here are six practices we see high-performing remote teams follow.

1. Simplify Agent Onboarding

Onboarding new customer service agents remotely can be all over the place if you don’t have a solid orientation plan in place.

It’s important to make them feel welcome, equipped and confident to hit the ground running. Here’s how to create an ideal onboarding experience that ensures your new hires are ready to shine from day one:

  • Welcome and introduction: Start with a warm welcome, introducing the culture of your contact centre through interactive sessions with team leads.
  • Software and tools training: Provide detailed training on the contact centre software and protocols they’ll use daily. More on this below.
  • Hands-on exercises: Use practical, hands-on exercises to help them get comfortable with the systems.
  • Mentorship program: Pair new hires with a mentor or buddy for personalized support and real-time problem-solving.
  • Regular check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins to ensure they feel supported and can ask questions as they settle into their roles.

The thing about remote work is that you can’t hop over to a colleague’s desk and get your query resolved in a few minutes. A strong onboarding program minimizes friction and makes things easily accessible for your employees with clear policies.

2. Define Clear Roles

You don’t want to keep your employees guessing what they must work on and achieve. Outline their roles, responsibilities and performance goals and make this information accessible.

For example, if you have five contact centre agents on your team, you must clearly demarcate who works on what.

For smooth operations and SLA adherence, establish a clear process and hierarchy for escalation management.

Define specific escalation tiers and assign responsibilities at each level. Use an escalation matrix to outline pathways for issue resolution, specifying who addresses different types of problems and when.

Regular training on this process ensures your team remains proficient in managing escalations and consistently meeting SLA commitments.

3. Drive Workforce Engagement

One major concern of remote workers is – “I am a part of a team, but most times it feels like I am working alone.” Statistics prove the same. Loneliness is in fact the most reported challenge remote workers report.

One way out is to hold regular meetings and team-bonding activities.

You could even play games with your team on group calls. That’s what my manager at work does during our weekly Friday calls. Never have I ever, Would you rather, etc. are a few light-hearted games we play on the call that help all of us untangle, engage and take the week’s edge off as remote employees.

4. Leverage Tools and Technology

Having the right tool stack in place is crucial when your team is not working in the same location. Here’s a list of typical tools you might require to smooth out remote contact centre operations.

  • Real-time communication: Keep team members connected and informed through instant messaging. Enable reliable virtual meetings, improving face-to-face interactions and team cohesion.
  • Project management platforms: Simplify task tracking and delegation, making it easy to manage projects and maintain clarity.
  • Help desk software: Organize and handle customer inquiries promptly and effectively.
  • Knowledge base software: Centralize information and resources, with an AI knowledge base to provide instant, accurate responses and continuously updated content.
  • L&D tools: Provide interactive training modules to boost contact center agent skills and knowledge.
  • Agent attendance tools: Track remote work hours and performance, keeping track of who’s on task and meeting targets.

5. Invest in Employee Development

Take these two scenarios:

Scenario 1: Company X does the bare minimum for its employees in terms of employee growth and development.

Scenario 2: Company Y regularly checks in with its employees, gives them additional challenges for growth and invests rigorously in their development.

Which company would you like to be a part of? Company Y, right? Even when working remotely, employees are always looking to upskill. They might jump elsewhere if they feel they are not growing and their roles have stagnated.

Investing in employee development is key to bringing smiles to remote contact center agents. Help them be better versions of frontline soldiers every day through a strong QA system with AI-powered scoring that pinpoints gaps and gives spot-on recommendations.

Use it to create personalized learning paths tailored to each agent’s needs. Gamify training and make it fun with:

  • Leaderboards for performers that garner the highest CSAT scores to spark friendly competition.
  • Badges for skill milestones to celebrate achievements like consistency in service delivery.
  • Weekly quizzes on dealing with the many customer service scenarios with prizes to keep learning fun.

This approach keeps agents sharp, engaged and happy. When you invest in your team’s growth, everyone wins.

6. Prioritize Mental Health and Well-Being

When you don’t commute to the office, you risk letting boundaries between work and personal life diminish. This could look like taking just one more meeting or editing one more article.

And once you finish it and look at the clock, it’s already way past your working hours. Here are some ways you can help your team stay happy and healthy:

  • Allow flexible working hours. Workers like having flexibility in time as much as they like having flexibility in location.
  • Offer access to mental health services, such as therapy, counseling, or employee assistance programs.
  • Ensure managers always have an eye on their team’s workloads to prevent call center burnout.
  • Encourage taking regular breaks and time-offs.

Challenges of Managing a Remote Workforce

Despite the many benefits of remote work, businesses face a few challenges with remote workforce management. Here are three of them (along with ideas on how to tackle them).

1. Dealing With Miscommunication

Virtual DMs and emails without visual cues and tone of voice can sometimes lead to miscommunication. To help avoid these pitfalls, here are some actionable tips:

  • Be clear and specific: Always provide detailed information. Instead of saying, “I need this soon,” specify, “It’d be great if I can get this by Friday evening.”
  • Use structured communication: Lead your messages with empathy, structuring them in ways that don’t leave them open to the recipient’s interpretation. Start with a clear purpose and include the necessary details.
  • Encourage active listening: In virtual meetings, encourage active listening. This means summarizing key points, asking clarifying questions and confirming understanding before moving on.

2. Misplaced Expectations

One major challenge of remote work is the lack of clear expectations. In an office, everyone knows the drill – set working hours, break times and end times.

But remote work changes the game, bringing in new distractions like kids, pets and household chores. This flexibility is great but can lead to confusion if expectations aren’t clear.

  • Set clear working hours: Define specific work hours and availability times for everyone.
  • Create detailed task guidelines: Provide clear instructions and SLAs for each task to ensure everyone knows what’s expected.

3. Data Privacy and Security

Maintaining data privacy in a remote contact centre should not slip under the radar. Remote agents often use personal devices and unsecured networks, making sensitive data vulnerable to breaches.

To keep your contact centre compliant, it’s crucial to have strict security protocols and comply with data protection regulations.

  • Use VPNs and encryption: Make sure everyone uses Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and encrypts their data to keep information safe.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA): Add an extra security layer by requiring MFA for accessing company systems.
  • Regular security training: Keep everyone updated with regular training on data security best practices and how to spot phishing attempts.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can Remote Workforce Management Foster a Healthy Work-Life Balance?

Remote workforce management helps teams create better schedules, get access to the files they need in real-time, communicate and collaborate better and engage with their teams.

This helps remote workers give their best at work and still have a healthy work-life balance.

What Are the Cybersecurity Risks Associated With Remote Workforce Management?

There are many cybersecurity risks associated with remote workforce management, such as phishing attacks, data thefts, software vulnerabilities and insecure collaboration tools.

Can Remote Workforce Management Help in Reducing Company Costs?

Remote workforce management can help companies reduce costs as they don’t need to invest in major expenses like office space rent, supplies, electricity and commuting expenses.

What Training Should Managers Receive for Effective Remote Workforce Management?

Managers should receive training in effective communication, virtual leadership, and handling remote tools for effective remote workforce management.

They should also learn how to handle conflicts, set clear expectations, foster team cohesion and provide constructive feedback.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Sprinklr – View the Original Article

For more information about Sprinklr - visit the Sprinklr Website

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Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Author: Sprinklr

Published On: 9th Jul 2024
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