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Increasing Productivity

The Future of Call Centre Design

Design call centre space for efficiency and get more from your employees.

Kerry Tangney

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Due to the nature of the work done in a call centre, it is difficult to evolve much from the standard design of an ‘oversized room packed with rows of desks and chairs’.

However, while the above description may tend to be the most widely accepted design solution for call centres, there are a few developments that can be considered when it comes to how the actual user can function more effectively within the space.

1. Flexibility of the Environment

There is a need for staff to have the flexibility to quickly match the changing commercial objectives of their employer, role or position.

Contact centre environments need to reflect this shift in culture. Thus, the best way to future-proof a call centre is to design a flexible environment.

Change is constant in the workplace. Teams are fluid, being created as quickly as they are dissolved, and so people need to have the freedom to move wherever and whenever they’re needed.

At the same time, with many centres being open to serve all hours of the day, ‘owning’ a single desk is not practical. Thus the use of a mobile desking system along with a ‘hot desking’ policy is most ideal.

TIP: Giving people the freedom to move motivates them while still supporting the flexible nature of their jobs

2. Ergonomics for the Individual

Allowing individuals to work at their desk in whichever way feels most comfortable for their own bodies will go a long way towards relieving fatigue and work related injuries.

Encouraging regular movement also helps employees to remain mentally alert and engaged at all times. If staff are comfortable they will be more productive.

Height adjustable desks allow the operator to stand and change positions frequently and easily.

Other accessories that can aid with ergonomics are:

  • Foot stools that are portable and adjustable.
  • A wireless keyboard and mouse can allow for extra flexibility on the workstation.
  • Monitors mounted on adjustable arms allow flexibility on the desk as well as between sitting and standing positions.

Whilst the basic idea of a desk may never change, the use of ergonomic accessories to suit individual needs has become very important.

3. Close Proximity of Breakaway Spaces

Contact centres are busy and noisy places which necessitate the need for quiet places where people can meet one-on-one, in their teams, or to take and make challenging or private calls.

But these are events which can happen at short notice, so spending time scouring the building for a quieter place can quickly interrupt the flow of work as well as waste valuable time.

The ability to gather quickly in a pod for a team meeting or to make a quiet phone call keeps people focused and ensures that essential conversations can take place with a minimum of interruption. These pods or meeting spaces can be located in amongst the desks at regular intervals.

Using mobile screens to demarcate these spaces also ensures the flexibility of the floor layout is maintained.

4. Home from Home

Operating around the clock, many contact centres are places where people spend long periods of time, often outside the traditional nine-to-five working pattern.

So, perhaps more than anything else, these need to be places where employees feel comfortable with their surroundings in order to get the best out of them.

Spaces need to be provided where employees can take a ‘time-out’ from the phones to mentally relax and regroup.

These can range from the standard pause area, equipped with a coffee machine and a comfy couch, to bigger ‘wellness focused areas’ such as in-house gyms, restaurants and games rooms.

The goal is for employees to ‘take a break’ from the office and thus it is important to remember that these ‘breakaway’ spaces must NOT look anything like the rest of the office work space.

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Branson Offers His Advice for Keeping Employees Inspired. Read It Here

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Kerry Tangney is a qualified interior designer with over eight years’ experience designing corporate office spaces. She has worked for numerous private space planning and design firms and currently heads up the design department within the Workspace Planning division of one of South Africa’s major banks. Part of her mandate is to remain at the forefront of current and future trends in workplace design and she has a keen interest in the emotional effects of spaces.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Mel Burgess

    Jul 2, 2012 at 13:22

    Very good tips, Kerry. We try and make sure our break rooms are exactly that with some nice facilities for staff to enjoy. Switching keyboards and mouse to wireless may be something I consider. Thanks.

    Mel,
    http://www.alldaypa.com

  2. woolstencroft@me.com

    Oct 10, 2012 at 17:36

    couldn’t help but notice that this is the same article written by me for TSK group in Manchester UK??

    http://www.callcentrehelper.com/six-ways-to-design-your-call-centre-14261.htm

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Increasing Productivity

Wise Words From wiGroup On Building A “Wow” Company Culture

wiGroup has three underlying visions that form the basis of the business’s culture. Bevan Ducasse calls them the 3Ps.

Nadine Todd

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1. Passionate people

I loved the idea of starting a business and coming to work each day with passionate people who love what they do. Working in corporate there were too many people who just wanted to get to the weekend, and I found that really sad. You go through your whole life not enjoying what you do. One of the main books I read that got me there was Richard Branson’s Screw it, Let’s do it. His whole philosophy is about fun and loving what you do.

We even have a full-time coach that everyone can access. It’s up to you to book time with him, but everyone does, thanks to a culture of self-growth and personal development. His time is fully booked. I had to build a business case to justify the hire, but I worked out that If I increased the productivity of 100 people by 10%,  you effectively have ten more people working in the business. It’s hard to put a tangible number on it, but what we’ve seen is that the productivity, attitude, leadership and personal growth equates to roughly 20% across the organisation of 150 people.

I believe that great organisations find people and make them come alive in what they’re brilliant at. There are things I don’t like or am not good at that other people love. If you’re not good at something, get the right person in. Focus on what you’re brilliant at to move the needle. But do the same for your employees. We all have aspects of the job we need to do that we don’t love, but the core of what we do should align with our passions.

2. Remarkable product

We’re passionate about building solutions that add value to people’s lives. How do we add value? We never build products for the sake of it — everything we do fulfils a purpose.

Related: Strong Company Culture Fattens The Bottom Line

3. Profit

This speaks to the sustainability of the business, which ultimately comes down to balancing people, product and profit. Just chasing profit without a focus on product isn’t sustainable, and nor is looking after people and not profit. But you can never lose sight of your people either. If you’re running a company and focusing on your product IP, you’re missing the mark — this speaks to how fast things are changing. Your IP is your human capital. That is the one thing that will give you a competitive edge over five, ten or even fifteen years. The product you have now won’t give you the competitive advantage in ten years.

This vision is completely ingrained across our team: That’s what we’re about, seeing people come alive, building amazing products, and being sustainable in terms of the profits we generate.

Lessons Learnt

1. There’s no such thing as an ‘aha’ moment

It’s not about one good decision I’ve made; it’s about the thousands of little decisions we make every single day as a team that make a business. For me it’s about the fundamentals that you buy into, and that’s people, products and profit. We’ve launched products that fail and others that are a huge success. To get through the failures it’s important to focus on a philosophy of how and what we want to be as a company.

2. Add value first

Our mindset is to add value. It’s the grit that pushes us through failure and keeps 150 people focused and doing great things. I am one of many people. I have a strong role, but I’m still one of many. When you’re looking outward at what you do for others, you stay motivated. A lot of what we do is helping a retailer understand how to unlock third party value. We will connect two brands who we believe could work well together, like a Discovery and a Kauai. Did you know that you could drive value to this retailer, and that retailer could add value to you? We all live in our own worlds and verticals, but knowledge is power. The greater your understanding of the landscape and synergies around you, the more value you can add.

Related: Starbucks Coffee Is All About Culture… For A Reason

3. Business is creativity

You need to be open and teachable and have a mindset that says ‘you’re never there, there’s always something more to learn.’ That’s how you foster creativity and innovation, by always asking what’s next, and how to make something better.

4. Never stop learning

You don’t have to read 50 books a year — two great books a year can give you incredible insights if you implement what you’ve learnt. There’s so much you can learn from the people around you too — ask questions, join networks and find a mentor.

5. Raise leaders, not followers

This is crucial. You need to find the right people, and then empower them to lead. I realised this a few years ago — if I really wanted to scale the business I needed to raise people who were leaders and wouldn’t just follow me. The top level of leadership is the ability to raise other leaders up, and that’s where we should all aspire to be. 

Related: 5 Inexpensive Ways to Create a Company Culture Like Google’s

6. Focus

This is a big one for me, and we learnt it the hard way. We were doing too much, we lacked focus and clarity. These are such powerful tools. If you can bring clarity to teams, you create a clear picture that everyone can follow. Delve into the details — what are you doing, why are you doing it, what does good and great look like, what are your timelines?

The clearer the picture, the exponentially higher the chances are of a team being successful. This includes targets. These shouldn’t be a shot in the dark — they should be unpacked, examined and clarified.

7. The best defense is a strong offence

Worrying about competitors serves no-one — it just keeps you up at night. Instead, you should be pushing yourself — how can we do this better? Keep looking for the next thing to do and improve, and then execute it properly. If someone disrupts us and I know we did the best we could and gave everything — I’ll sleep well at night. But if it’s because we became complacent and rested on our laurels? Well then, we deserved it.

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Increasing Productivity

Wasted Employee Time Adds Up: Here’s How To Fix It

Your team wouldn’t be idle if you gave them anything more important to do.

John Rampton

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Employees want to be productive, but sometimes the allure of time-wasting activities is just too tempting. When that happens, it’s up to leaders to keep everyone on track.

According to research from Salary.com, 89 percent of employees waste at least some time at work every day. Thirty-one percent waste about 30 minutes, but the top 10 percent waste three or more hours each day. That extrapolates to more than 15 hours per week of wasted productivity, shedding light on the immense costs associated with poor time management.

The people who waste more than half their workdays on non-work activities are far beyond the help of time management training. Their employers don’t have enough work for them, or these employees need to find new roles.

This guide is for everyone else. While occasional breaks are great for the mind, excessive time waste leads to lost productivity, lower morale and decreased employee retention. Even employees who would otherwise be high performers can get caught in time-wasting traps, so leaders need to step in before things get out of hand.

Related: Why Innovative Employee Benefits Are Your Competitive Advantage

To avoid low productivity and improve employee time management, follow these tips.

1. Set specific productivity goals

Employees – even the best self-starters – need objectives to work toward. Leaders who don’t set specific goals invite their workers to waste time. Whether it’s a sales quota or the creation of a new marketing campaign, give employees something concrete to achieve.

Don’t micromanage, but do provide consistent feedback to let employees know when they’re on the right track – and when they aren’t. People who don’t feel like they have the support of their managers are more likely to feel stressed than they are to feel motivated.

Give workers the tools they need, and make yourself available for questions and feedback; then, step back and let employees work toward the goals you helped them set.

2. Schedule tasks in chunks

The same type of work should take about the same amount of time to complete. Help employees create timelines for different types of projects so they know how quickly things should move across their desks.

Say your marketing team creates a lot of case studies to show potential clients. Help the team develop a schedule that follows projects from client interview to content development to graphic design. Determine how long each step in the process takes, then assign a deadline to each part of the larger task.

When employees understand how long projects take and how long it takes to complete each piece, they don’t have to scramble at the last minute. This steady stream of effort prevents workers from falling into a cycle of working overtime to compensate for earlier procrastination.

3. Show employees how their work affects the whole

Employees who waste time typically do so because they don’t see the point in working faster. To them, the company and their co-workers do just fine, no matter how well they do their job.

Related: Dealing With Employee Misconduct

In this case, the issue isn’t about time management – it’s about employee engagement. Keep employees in the loop about what the company is accomplishing, and tie their work to those achievements. Recognise the contributions of outstanding employees and departments. Constantly communicate the mission of the company and how employees help further that mission.

Financial bonuses for a job well done are nice, but people respond even more positively to personal praise. Write handwritten thank-you notes to employees who go above and beyond. Include employees on customer communications when they solve a problem or provide great service. The more employees see the effects of their work in action, the more motivated they become to work hard.

This is especially true when it comes to teams working together. Some employees struggle to see the connection between their work and the company’s objectives, but when they see how their productivity (or lack thereof) affects their co-workers, they feel more motivated to help their team thrive.

Employee time management has a cumulative effect. Engaged employees who get things done inspire others to follow suit. Those who have little to do (and those who don’t do what they should) bring others down. Use this advice to develop an office filled with productive, time-conscious teammates.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Increasing Productivity

Is Everybody Home? Here’s How To Devirtualize Your Team

In my 30-plus years in HR I’ve learned that people who don’t work together rarely become a top-performing team.

Dick Morgan

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As popular as telecommuting has become, its actual benefit to productivity is still in dispute. Advocates for the practice cite a 2014 survey where 77 percent of respondents reported greater productivity while working offsite, while 30 percent accomplished more in less time. However, all of the respondents were telecommuters, which is sort of like reporting that ice cream is the perfect breakfast food based on a survey of 6-year-olds.

The truth is, telecommuting comes with its own set of organisational challenges. Foremost is maintaining company culture. In general, employees who work in offices tend to bond with their coworkers while absorbing company culture and values. By comparison, I’ve seen firsthand the limitations of work-from-home. When I was working for a Fortune 100 company earlier in my career, we acquired a large group of employees, the majority of whom worked from home offices.

Their arrangement had been put in place for cost-saving reasons. Not too long after they joined our company, it became clear that acclimation to our culture and business norms would be hard. With so few face-to-face connections being made, it was easier to remain in “previous-company mode.”

Productivity myths?

The upsides of telecommuting for employees are obvious (no sitting in traffic or worrying about your wardrobe) but it does have one major disadvantage: Working from home deprives both workers and employers of experiences that only happen when teams work closely together.

Related: 7 Team Building Ideas To Create An Engaged Team

It’s the victory of convenience over culture, but the pendulum may be swinging in the other direction. IBM, a pioneer of work-from-home, is recalling thousands of remote workers to physical office spaces. The company found that the age of real-time data and lightning-fast communications calls for response times that only in-person collaboration stimulates.

Nobody is arguing that all telecommuting must stop, but remote employment isn’t right for every employee or job, and groups with isolated members rarely get the chance to become a cohesive team. Telecommuting is an option to keep for the right situation, but employers should understand its benefits, drawbacks and proper applications.

Working from home is best suited to jobs that require little collaboration. Sales and customer service professionals may be more productive outside of an office. This assumes that employees’ homes are set up for work and that they have the right disposition (and the self-discipline) to focus outside of an office environment.

Not so interconnected?

connectivity

This isn’t just my opinion. The decision to eliminate working from home at Yahoo was made by then-CEO Marisa Mayer and was based on empty parking lots and troubling VPN log reports. Mayer caught flak for challenging a treasured perk, but the evidence suggests that she may have been right. According to audio-conferencing leader Intercall, more than 60 percent of people admitted to doing other work or sending emails during those conference calls and Skype chats that promised to “bring the boardroom to the living room.” If multitasking during important meetings is the rule and not the exception, what does that say about employee investment?

In my 30-plus years in HR I’ve learned that people who don’t work together rarely become a top-performing team. Real team-building comes not only with face-to-face engagement but also from going out to lunch, griping about a manager or trading war stories – none of which actually happen over a WebEx meeting.

Similarly, people who don’t know each other as human beings don’t work together as effectively – their individual productivity might be acceptable, but they won’t sync up as well with teammates. Traditional channels of productive disagreement are almost impossible to replicate online, which leads to isolation and resentment. Email arguments, for example, escalate faster and get more virulent than in-person conversations. Read any online forum and you’ll know what I mean.

Related: Are You On Your Team’s Wavelength?

I also know from experience that working from home can sometimes create “adjunct employees” with fewer chances to learn from coworkers or get noticed for promotions or new assignments. These talented, promising professionals find their overall trajectory limited because their isolation meant exclusion from company culture and opportunity. These employees were mainly known only for their output, not their talent or ideas, and they become interchangeable

At my current company, we make it a point to provide remote employees (especially those who have joined through acquisition) opportunities to visit our HQ or regional offices and also participate in company-wide events such as R&D hackathons. These personal touch points go a long way to bringing everyone together.

The best of both worlds

This is not to say telecommuting has no place in modern business. Best practices will leverage telecommuting to attract applicants who may not live near your office. In addition, it creates an option for trusted, highly valued employees who seek to limit their commuting time. The trust factor between manager and employee in a successful work-from-home arrangement cannot be emphasised enough.

I find that full-time telecommuting is often not as successful as simply having a flexible schedule. Someone who comes in two days a week and telecommutes the other three gets the best of both worlds: exposure to office culture and opportunities and the comfort of the home office. Even individuals who work remotely full time should still come in as often as possible. Enforcing this practice among my own companies has made remote or semi-remote employees more engaged with the business, its products, their coworkers and their path within the organisation.

A plan for working from home

Good managers guide every employee along a path to success. The first step for telecommuting is to determine if it’s the right fit for a particular employee. Consider variables like job function and availability before agreeing. A position that requires very little collaboration lends itself to remote work, as does an employee with key skills who simply cannot commute five days a week.

Once a request is approved, managers need to put in extra time to ensure successful onboarding. An employee who telecommutes should have as much structure as one who comes into the office, so supervisors should lay out their expectations with an agreed-upon and clear work management plan. Both parties should agree to certain performance standards and regular check-ins so that the employee does not simply become an invisible source of work. For example, what are the work-from-home employee’s core hours? Agree on these and hold the employee accountable. Another is to be clear on the ground rules for collaboration aps (Jabber, Slack, etc.). My expectation is we will use the technology with honesty and transparency.

If you’re away or busy, your status should read yellow or red. If you’re available it shows green. Simple, but effective.

Related: 4 Tips To Become A Team Whisperer (And Improve Your Employee Engagement)

Joining the team, wherever you are

One of the promises of the digital age was that people could work from anywhere – and unlike flying cars, it’s actually happening. Remote working among non-self-employed individuals has doubled since 2005, and as many as 53 percent of workers could be remote within five years.

But, as overwhelming as the trend toward telecommuting may seem, remember that remote employment is a strategic lever to help companies improve productivity and work-life integration while widening their hiring pool. Many such individuals have expressed their appreciation for their sudden upward trajectory within the company after I insisted they spend more time at the office. Teammates must work together, not just online but in person, and a smart leader helps their employees remain invested in and connected to the team’s overall success, no matter where that employee works.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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