How businesses can better navigate the continued shift to working from home for customers and staff

Ongoing lockdowns, restrictions, and social distancing measures have been disrupting businesses for more than 18 months, and the practice of remote working looks set to continue. This shift towards remote work has been accelerated by the pandemic and looks set to be a defining feature of business for the early 2020s.

Increasing numbers of businesses are embracing hybrid work approaches, letting employees work from the office or remotely as and when needed, with some employees likely never to return to the office. While this can lead to many business benefits, it’s essential to continuously assess and improve your approach to hybrid working for your business to succeed.

In particular, taking note of what is working for your business and employees, and what can be improved on, will help drive further opportunity and growth for your businesses. To get a clear understanding of what can be improved, business leaders need to consider impacts in two key areas: staff and customers.

1. Considerations for customers

Customers shouldn’t be inconvenienced by staff shifting to a hybrid working environment, so it’s essential that processes and systems work seamlessly regardless of an employee’s location. There are three things you need to do to keep customers happy while your staff work remotely:
  • Prepare: teams must be agile and prepared to serve customer needs in new and efficient ways, regardless of location. Team members need to know how to action processes both at home and in the office, so it’s essential you put building blocks in place to prepare for the unexpected.
  • Prioritise the client: the customer has always come first, and this should stay the same even when staff work remotely. When changes happen in the workplace, it’s helpful to increase levels of client communication to provide additional support or offer relevant information where necessary. Customer service needs to remain the number one priority, be it face-to-face, online, via phone, or over a video call.
  • Leverage data: data is one of the most effective tools that can inform your customer service strategy. Using available data can help businesses to prioritise customer needs and develop tailored solutions. It can also help project potential services customers may need in the future, and better plan to support them as needs change.
2. Considerations for staff

Embracing the hybrid work environment can have many positive impacts on staff, including increased flexibility. However, there are a number of key areas that businesses must consider to ensure the shift to hybrid and remote working benefits their staff and the business, without also creating negative impacts.
  • Connection: remote working should not equal isolation. It’s essential that you encourage regular formal meetings and informal check-ins with team members to help strengthen the connection with other staff. It’s also crucial to ensure that varied communication channels are available for all staff to participate and share their thoughts.
  • Processes and tools: it’s essential to have clear communication processes in place when staff split their time across home and in-person offices. Ideally, this will keep all staff up to date on the status of accounts. Leveraging additional software to digitise files also helps to save information from being lost in translation, and accounting programs, shipping software, and HR systems can all work to keep staff and business owners accountable regardless of location.
  • Boundaries and burnout: working from home can still incite high levels of stress, comparable to that experienced in traditional offices. However, the lack of physical distance from a workspace can result in the perceived need for longer hours or immediate deadlines for some staff, even if this isn’t the case. Businesses must carefully monitor employee stress and mental health levels to prevent burnout.
  • Mindfulness and wellbeing: mindfulness is an essential way to positively impact a workplace as it can help reduce stress, absenteeism, and presenteeism. It also helps increase resilience and focus and fosters a creative and productive work environment. Encourage employees to take mindfulness breaks during the day.
As remote and hybrid working environments continue to increase in popularity and become the norm, businesses must continue to proactively manage how they support employees and customers. Achieving the right balance can help businesses stand out from the crowd and compete more effectively even in a challenging landscape.

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