Our Post-Pandemic Work Life May Never Be the Same (and that’s a good thing!)

Our Post-Pandemic Work Life May Never Be the Same (and that’s a good thing!)

Our Post-Pandemic Work Life May Never Be the Same (and that’s a good thing!)

09

September, 2020

While a few months ago businesses scrambled to move staff to home office environments, many of us are now starting to look ahead at what’s next. Several states and provinces have passed the peak infection rate and are looking towards declining COVID-19 numbers and a gradual return to normal. But if we assume that “normal” means working 9-5 while enduring a lengthy commute to work, is “normal” really “optimal”? We know working from home at least part of the time and can enhance a staff member’s work life balance while alleviating the need for employers to pay for additional workspace and infrastructure.

But many managers worry about how to train new staff or how to keep current staff fully engaged. These are certainly valid concerns but when managed effectively, working from home can be a win-win for both employer and staff member. Based on my experience over the past 10 years staffing hundreds of customer service agents, data entry clerks, sales reps, and licensed mortgage brokers virtually working in home offices across North America, there are some key tips and tricks to keeping remote staff members happy and productive.

Offer a virtual “water cooler” environment – It’s important that your staff feel connected and supported while working from home. Remote training platforms and communication tools are a must for facilitating skill development, performance management, and, equally important, social interaction. We use an internal chat platform to give staff members across the continent the opportunity to make social connections with one another and seek support when needed. The chat platform gives people the opportunity to share jokes, stories, family photos, or ideas with their co-workers. We don’t micromanage the chat platform or create rigid rules for engagement, and the trust we place in our staff members is reflected in their professionalism.

Keep different learning styles in mind – Deploy a comprehensive training platform that addresses diverse, individualized learning styles. Some people are visual learners, others learn by doing, and others learn through repetition. Understanding how individuals learn best from the start and delivering customized training is highly effective.

Get creative in offering incentives — Offering incentives to drive performance and staff behavior is not new to most managers, especially in a sales or KPI-driven work environment. However, we’ve found that when working with a large number of remote staff members, some mid-performers tend to disengage from incentive programs, feeling like they’ll never lead, or never win the big prize. To ensure that everyone is engaged, not just the super star performers, we offer raffles, with easily attainable ways to earn ballots. We then use a remote raffle platform to draw names for small cash prizes randomly and real-time. Staff members love it and the online raffle is often the highlight of the week!

Use video – Because 80% of communication is non-verbal, it’s important to build trust between co-workers, employees, and managers through video connections. If you’re a CEO or executive with hundreds or thousands of employees, strive to communicate as much via video as you do via email or even phone. When in-person team meetings or huddles aren’t practical, video is a great way to stay connected.

Provide flexible schedules – One of the biggest advantages of work-at-home environments is the flexibility for staff members to self-manage. Consider whether you really need everyone on your team available between the hours of 9 and 5 every day. As an alternative and where feasible think about whether tasks and assignments can be completed any time of day. As long as staff members abide by set deadlines and are delivering on their productivity commitments, many businesses find that loosening their restrictions can promote greater job satisfaction and create a more productive environment.

Look for opportunities to engage – Acknowledging birthdays, telling people they did a good job on a particular project, praising team work and collaboration, or simply saying “good morning” are small but important ways you can engage your remote team members.

Address performance issues early — Ensure that remote staff understand expectations from the start and address problems early. When performance issues crop up, provide additional guidance and partner them with a remote mentor who’s more tenured.

Grow your leadership team – Don’t think that remote workers don’t need management. One of the worst mistakes you can make when staffing remotely is letting team members get lost and feel like a number. As your leadership team grows, make sure your management team understands and abides by your corporate culture.

“One of the biggest advantages of work-at-home environments is the flexibility for staff members to self-manage.”

In summary, when managing remote teams, it’s important to respect staff members as adults. Trying to micromanage or “parent” them will never drive success. By placing trust in your remote team members, that sense of trust will be reciprocated and the business impact will show. Structuring an effective engagement and communication system for remote workers means businesses can create and maintain a post-pandemic work environment that may look a lot different and be a lot more productive than the “old normal.”

ATAC Unveils New Whitepaper: Using Work-at-Home for Business Continuity in Customer Experience

ATAC Unveils New Whitepaper: Using Work-at-Home for Business Continuity in Customer Experience

14

May 14, 2020

ATAC Inc, an organization for accelerating the adoption of work from home solutions, recently announced the publication of its Using work-At-Home for Business Continuity in Customer Experience White Paper. This white paper was written for all businesses with an interest in implementing work-at-home solutions, and explains why work-at-home solutions can be an effective option for all businesses improving efficiency and continuity of customer experience delivery to consumers this is essential.

 

“Customer experience delivery to consumers in North America and around the world has changed dramatically in 2020. Enterprises can no longer assume that the old ways of doing things when it comes to contact center management is acceptable. Rather, no matter the
vertical, companies need to adapt to the reality of cementing consumer loyalty, while at the same time having the best business continuity strategies in place.

It is for this reason that more executives are looking toward a virtualized model as a means of seamless delivery to get through challenging periods, one that uses dispersed agents that
deliver value to end-users from their residences, as opposed to collectively in cental facilities.”

 

“Enterprises can no longer assume that the old ways of doing things when it comes to contact center management is acceptable.”

atac virtual staffing solutions

“Having the right customer experience services partner in place can make the difference between a well-thought out BCP strategy and one that is slapdash. ATAC has differentiated itself as a provider of home-based virtual contact centre solutions for clients in North America, providing front-line service support to consumers alongside services that drive additional value to enterprises, all with the goal of making their contact centre operations more impervious to sudden changes that could impact delivery.”

 

Download ATAC Whitepaper here

Using WorkatHome for Business Continuity in Customer Experience. A white paper for ATAC

Five Tips to Running a Successful Business with Your Spouse

Five Tips to Running a Successful Business with Your Spouse

Five Tips to Running a Successful Business with Your Spouse

07

November, 2017

1. Divide and Conquer. The key to a good working relationship is to find out what each person is good at and then divide the responsibilities accordingly. This avoids problems that can occur when two people try to do the same things.

2. Who’s the Boss? It is important to specify one person as the boss or the person principally dedicated to running the business. This is especially helpful when children are involved because it provides one person greater flexibility to walk away from the business when necessary without interrupting operations.

3. Keep Work/Life Separate. When you run your own company, especially at home, it can often be difficult to separate yourselves from the constant demands of the business and the 24-7 expectation of many clients. Try to find one or two hours a day to put the phones away and spend time with each other focusing on something other than work.

4. Establish a Routine. Although you may be working from home, getting ready as if you are going to an outside office is essential for success. Having an established routine helps set expectations for employees, customers, family members and, most importantly, each other.

5. Have a Plan. Although it’s your own business you should take the mindset of running it like a large corporation, at least with respect to planning. We recommend writing a business plan, setting financial goals together and, at the end of each year, evaluating what went wrong and what went right, then making changes as necessary.

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Confucius says, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Taken a step further, choosing a business that lets you work with the one you love can lead to an even better life. By following the above advice and working together it is possible to control your own destiny while finding the balance you both have always wanted.

Our crowded, lengthy commutes

Our crowded, lengthy commutes

Our crowded, lengthy commutes are making us more lonely than ever

06

November, 2017

Several years ago, I was living in London when I accepted a job as a freelance reporter in Manchester. Despite the job being two hours away by train, I was eager—read, desperate—to take my first properly paid journalism position. The temporary contract job wasn’t enough to warrant moving cities, so I told myself I could hack travelling back and forth for a few months.

The strain of commuting 200-plus miles a week began to take its toll after just a few weeks. After travelling two hours to get to Manchester, it took another 40 minutes to the office. During the week, I crashed on sofas. Sometimes I would stay with my boyfriend’s family in Yorkshire—but that still left me 90 minutes away.

I felt drained. I was broke from spending so much on train fares. I was sick of carrying clean underwear and a toothbrush in my bag. My commute and work had left me little time to see friends, family, or my partner properly—they faced long working hours, fairly minimal pay, and hour-long commutes too.

One evening, as I waited at the station to go back to London, I realized my work had been late paying me and I was scraping the bottom of my overdraft. I had been commuting across the country for weeks, with nothing to show for it aside from bags under my eyes. I sat on a bench and cried, feeling embarrassed, exhausted, frustrated—and incredibly lonely. What didn’t occur to me at the time that I was far from alone.

Commuting can be bad for our health, whether it’s packed, delayed trains or mile-long traffic jams. It contributes to our anxiety, stress, and our waistlines. A recent study of British commuters found that even just a 20-minute increase in commute time is equivalent to getting a 19% pay cut for job satisfaction. Every extra minute spent travelling to and from work feels like a lifetime—and, unsurprisingly, increases strain on our wellbeing.

It’s also making us lonelier than ever.

“Commuting can be bad for our health, whether it’s packed, delayed trains or mile-long traffic jams.”

Millennials are often maligned as entitled, work-shy snowflakes unwilling to go the extra mile for their professions, but research suggests this is not the case. Stagnant wages and rising housing costs are pushing people further away from their jobs. The number of workers who commute daily in the UK for two hours or more has increased by a third in five years. This is a problem felt acutely by those aged between 20 and 35, who typically spend over a third of their post-tax income on rent.

Young British people may be the first generation to earn less than their predecessors, according to one 2016 report by the Resolution Foundation think tank. The 2008 Great Recession is only partly to blame, with earnings for young people being squeezed even before the start of the financial crisis. The same goes for young people in the US, who are $2,000 poorer than their parents were at the same age, according to the 2015 US Census.

As a result, my generation faces increasingly long journeys to work, with less to show for our efforts. In the UK, young people commute for the equivalent of three days a year more than their parents, according to a study by the UK-based Resolution Foundation. American workers are commuting longer too, according to the 2013 US Census—and nearly 600,000 workers endure “extreme commutes” of 90 minutes or more.

Facing skyrocketing living costs, and less disposable income, young people are also going out less, and spending more time on social media. A University of Pittsburgh study of adults aged between 19 and 32 years old found those who spent more than two hours a day on social media were twice as likely to feel socially isolated.

That leaves commuting one of the few times we’re consistently around other people. And yet, ironically, it’s an incredibly isolating experience.

When I was commuting to Manchester, people would ask how I was. I’d reply, “Fine,” because admitting I was lonely and depressed would mean admitting defeat. But it’s not surprising that I was feeling that way. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam lists long commutes as one of the most substantial predictors of social isolation. He suggests that every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10% fewer “social connections”—connections that make us feel happy.

We assume loneliness is a problem only felt among older generations, but it is a growing issue among young people. A survey of 2,000 Brits published by the UK’s Nationwide bank earlier this year unearthed a surprising phenomenon—nearly 89% of people aged between 18 and 34 who were polled said they had experienced “feeling disconnected or isolated” from society at some point in their lives, compared to 70% of those over 55.

We might be the generation that has instant streaming video, avo lattes, and “deconstructed food,” but we also live in an age of job insecurity and perilous casual worker contracts, burdened with enormous debt, and high living costs. It’s difficult to find a millennial worker who doesn’t feel disposable—most of them are. So if you’re offered a job with a long commute, the chances are you’re going to take it.

A lengthy transit to work seems like a relatively minor inconvenience, but long commutes and increased social isolation need to be taken more seriously.

Research shows feeling lonely is terrible for your physical and mental health. Earlier this year, medical practitioners warned that being lonely can be as bad for you as having a long-term medical condition like high blood pressure. Feeling isolated can contribute to problems such as anxiety and depression, which in turn can make you feel more alone, says Stephen Buckley, a spokesperson for Mind, a British mental health charity.

“Many people find spending time socializing to be a useful tool in boosting their wellbeing,” Buckley says. “But when you’re faced with long commutes, long working hours, or a lot of time away from home, it can be really difficult to spend time with others.”

These underlying factors aren’t going to go away overnight. But there are ways to get help if your commute is getting too much.

Online peer support networks like Mind’s Elefriends provide an outlet for people to discuss their problems online with people going through similar experiences. Networks for workers, such as freelancers, can be a good way to let off steam. Some groups organize social meetings in different cities, so you can speak to others face-to-face. This can be a lifeline when working far away from home.

A short-term answer to a stressful commute could be found in meditation apps like Buddhify (paywall) and Headspace, which have guided meditation sessions for a number of different scenarios, including traveling.

As an increasing number of people face long, strenuous commutes—employers may need to become more open to flexible working scenarios and telecommuting. According to a 2014 survey of more than 300 US workers by the University of Illinois, most employees performed at least as well as in the office when telecommuting—and some actually do better.

I commuted between London and Manchester for around five months until I was offered a full-time position in the capital, a breezy 30-minute commute from home. I don’t regret that period—if anything, it taught me how closely linked my commute was to my mental well-being and how important it was for me to stay connected to others. Even though my commute is shorter now, my experience has motivated me to work hard to maintain that connection with friends and family, even if it’s finding ten minutes for a coffee with someone at a train station. It can make a world of difference.

WRITTEN BY

Lydia Smith

Telecommuting is right for me…

Telecommuting is right for me…

… is it right for you?

Over the years, the phrase ‘work from home’ has held a laundry list of negative associations. Not too long ago, it would bring about thoughts of MLM (multi level marketing), envelope stuffing or ‘home based shipping managers’. As with any industry, there are going to be scammers and before considering ANY type of role, you must vet both the company and the opportunity itself.

When I first learned about telecommuting (or working from home) in the spring of 2004, I was in a traditional call center management position that was ending in a few weeks due to a company relocation. I was highly skeptical and researched the company whose ad I had been shown in the paper with diligence – Arise Virtual Solutions (then it was known as Willow CSN). It seemed almost too good to be true… the thought of working from home, selecting my own hours and the clients I would be supporting? I looked for the angle, but was not able to find one. I moved forward in the Arise Admissions Process and became my own Independent Business Owner, contracted to provide service to valued Arise clients – essentially, I was my own boss. These clients were brands and names I both used and trusted. I carefully weighed the pros and cons of working from home and was amazed at how much I began to save in fuel costs, child care, wardrobe expenses and TIME!

“Spending $50-$100 a week in fuel to commute to & from work costs you $1.25-$2.50 an HOUR in lost wages!”

By the end of 2004, I was contracted to support potential IBOs (like I once was) through the Arise Admissions Process. This was a role I enjoyed tremendously! Helping people vet the company, the opportunity and ultimately, achieve their goal of working from home was amazingly rewarding! By early 2008, I was working directly for Arise and was no longer an Independent Business Owner contracted to provide support. Supporting US Admissions efforts on the corporate level included social sourcing and the use of Social Media. After growing the US Facebook fan page to 20k strong, I was asked to support the launch of two separate international verticals, initially Arise UK and then Arise Canada (which I supported until my departure from Arise in the Spring of 2015). During my tenure at Arise, I supported a variety of projects, including logo / re-branding focus groups, CMS testing & launch, Admissions Procedural Guidelines and documents, graphics projects as well as opportunity enrollment and being the primary point of contact for a number of Arise’s valued Independent Business Owners. My efforts earned me two separate Arise ‘Best of the Best’ awards and multiple certificates of recognition!

After an Arise hiatus and conversation with a Canadian IBO (ATAC Canada) that I acted as an Arise liaison for years ago, I have decided to venture back into the world of Arise! Only this time, I am going back to my roots… err IBO status! This means I am looking for a few people that are interested in venturing into the Virtual Call Center / Telecommuting World. Arise is one of the clients ATAC USA supports and having someone who not just knows the ropes, but helped spin the twine, is an added value to you!

There are many Independent Businesses contracted to provide support to Arise… but none of them with ATAC USA’s combined experience and network support!

Currently, we are seeking independent contractors to help support:

A Major Office Supply Retailer
A Major Cable Company
A Major Theme Park
Plus more!

If you have questions, we here to help- just ask! If you would like to apply to ATAC USA to provide support to Arise Clients, visit https://www.atacinc.ca/apply-usa/

We look forward to hearing from you!

Jessica

WHY ATAC GOT STARTED IN CANADA

WHY ATAC GOT STARTED IN CANADA

Owners and Founders of ATAC “A & T Ascension Consulting Inc.”, a certified Virtual Service Corporation and Member of the Arise Virtual Solutions Network.

ATAC

 

 

With the start of the New Year, many people find themselves reflecting on what’s important and resolving to make personal changes. For those of us in the workforce, this often means trying, yet again, to find a better balance between our personal and professional lives. In fact, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time with our family, our children and our friends.

Six years ago, my wife and I took this to heart and started our own business together.  Now, instead of balancing work-life and home-life, we find ourselves blending both in ways that allow us to finally have the life we both craved. Neither one of us would ever go back to our full-time jobs in a typical office environment where, between the office politics and our daily commute, we spent little quality time with the people who truly mattered to us.  Yet, working together, sometimes while children are in the house, hasn’t always been easy. We’ve learned a lot over the past six years as we’ve grown our business to where it has supported over 700 work from home customer service representatives.

Confucius says, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Taken a step further, choosing a business that lets you work with the one you love can lead to an even better life.