Remote work the new normal for customer service workforce?

Thursday, 25 February, 2021

Remote work the new normal for customer service workforce?

A survey of 5000 customer service and support employees has revealed that 70% of respondents want to continue to work from home (WFH) at least once a week after the pandemic ends. The survey by Gartner, Inc. found that service employees who traditionally did not have many opportunities to WFH are now accustomed to it and like it, and wish to continue in some capacity once the pandemic is over.

The findings are in line with most service leaders, 81% of whom believe that 30% to 80% of their workforce will primarily be working from home two years from now. Lauren Villeneuve, advisory director in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice, noted that service leaders will have to balance their own visions for the future with employee wishes.

“A key factor should be the impact it has had, and will continue to have, on the employee experience. Leaders will want to understand which focus areas should be prioritised and which should not as they decide where to invest in and optimise their work from home programs,” Villeneuve said.

Customer service and support leaders developing long-term post-COVID-19 WFH strategies are encouraged to consider their company culture. Gartner data indicates that WFH has posed less of a challenge to organisational culture than expected, with most customer service employees who work remotely saying organisational culture has remained the same.

Most employees who think organisational culture has changed say it has improved since the shift to WFH. Service leaders should continue to monitor culture within their own organisations but may want to invest time and resources elsewhere.

While data indicates that WFH hasn’t negatively impacted culture, it has impacted collaboration. Service employees say they are collaborating less frequently since transitioning to WFH. Alongside investing in collaboration technologies, service leaders should also ensure they create opportunities for collaboration, model collaborative behaviour and reward collaboration, to ensure the technology is used.

Additionally, pre-pandemic biases against remote employees are now particularly unfounded, given employee performance has largely remained consistent throughout the pandemic. With the majority of service employees continuing to WFH, this presents less of an issue.

However, if managers hold these beliefs once some employees return to the workplace, they could create a barrier to career progression for employees who choose to continue to work from home. Service leaders should work to uncover why these biases against employees who work remotely exist, and monitor managers who manage remote employees or hybrid teams for signs of bias.

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