A primer for call center agents who can work remotely, call center supervisors with remote agents, and others in the call center industry.
A good connection to the internet
This practically goes without saying, you can’t work remotely without a connection to the internet. The better the connection, the better off you are. My local provider upped our connection to 60mbps. The last time I ran a speed test, it was topping out at 72mbps. No connection is consistent, and we’ve had power outages and storm damage. One summer, a lightning strike burned up a long length of cable in the neighborhood, and I was without internet for two days. So, it was off to the local coffee shop for meetings and marching orders, then back home to get the bulk of my work done. On another occasion I used my cell phone as a hot-spot. Know your technology and where and how to stay connected.
I’m paranoid when it comes to security. When in a public wifi setting, make sure you’re up to speed on logging into sensitive company properties in a secure manner. I can’t stress this enough.
- Log into the right network. If you are in a coffee shop called Joe’s Coffee, ask what their network name is. It’s easy for someone to set up their own network called Free WIFI, when you should be connecting to JoeMakesCoffee. This way you can avoid a Man-In-The-Middle attack.
- Turn off File Sharing on your Laptop.
- Use a VPN. Free options are okay, but I’d rather pay and have all the extra bells and whistles, and not worry about data limits.
- Use the HTTPS Everywhere plugin for your favorite browser. Chrome and Firefox both have them. It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps, because it can’t create a secure layer, only enforce those that already exist.
- Before going to a public place, log out of everything, then, when in public, only log into what is absolutely necessary. Make sure all your logins are encrypted (VPN, HTTPS) and you are using two-factor authentication. When finished, log out, not only from your apps, but also the network.
- Guard your hardware. Never leave a phone, tablet or laptop out of sight for even a second, just don’t. If you put your computer bag or backpack on the ground and it has devices in it, make sure it is within sight; if not, make sure it is out of reach of anyone sitting around you, like between your feet.
Communication with your team
The biggest challenge is staying in the loop with your company, department, on-going projects, tasks, etc. This I can personally confirm. Communication is vital. You can’t be effective without a clear list of to-dos, a priority list of jobs, and even a backlog of work.
Staying informed and engaged is difficult when you can’t hear what’s being said in large video conference meetings because of poor sound quality, too many people talking at once, someone banging on the table that holds the microphone, background noise. Coherent meetings are vital so long as you don’t fall into the trap of too many meetings—that’s a whole separate issue and perhaps fodder for another article. Speak up and complain if your meetings aren’t intelligible. Make sure handouts and other materials are posted for you to download. Video conferencing tools are constantly evolving, don’t be afraid to upgrade, take advantage of free trial periods and try new things.
Develop close ties with your team. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a question or concern about a project. Know which form of communication works best. Team members who are generally in the office will often send out a notice when they’re WFH, working from home. It’s a great help to know where people are, physically. Of course the usual things come up for any employee, in or out of the office, such as when they will be out of touch for a doctors appointment or caring for a sick child.
For a while Connect First had employees everywhere from California to Barcelona, Spain. This gave us a very small window in which we could meet at a reasonable hour. Early morning in California is early evening in Spain. I’m two hours ahead of Boulder, Colorado. As a result, I do my best to keep the same hours as they do. Being an early person, I like to do most of my work in the morning, and touch base with people in the office on our daily stand-up before knocking off for lunch. I take a long lunch which then allows me to work later and be available to people in Boulder during their late afternoon. Today, working in different time zones isn’t unusual at all, and for remote workers, no different than multi-national corporations that have offices all around the world. Welcome to the future.
Tools that work.
Gmail and all its integrated apps.
Slack: Chat, voice or video calling, and screen sharing is as close as you can get to being in the office.
Phone: Make sure your number is readily available to the entire company. You don’t ever want to miss the “Hey, our site is down,” phone call.
Caveat: Don’t fall into the trap of too many productivity tools. Before you know it, you could be spending too much time updating schedules, lists, calendars, time tracking, etc. I worked at a company where we had to log every single thing we did during the day: project, time started, time ended, and details, plus logging in and out for breaks and lunch. It got to the point where I logged one and a half hours per day logging all the stuff I did. Was it passive-aggressive? Sure, but it was also accurate and effective. The deluge of details didn’t do management a bit of good, and the time-wasting tool was abandoned. Lesson learned.
Working remotely is the ideal situation for the right individual who can be matched with the right company with a forward thinking culture. For those who do it successfully, bravo.
Here’s a short list of pros and cons for remote workers.Pros
- No commuting.
- Flexible hours.
- Relaxed atmosphere - work at your own pace.
- Top-notch coffee.
- Avoiding sickness and sick office syndrome.
- Cats on your keyboard.
- Difficulty staying up-to-date.
- Combatting the feeling of missing out on important decisions.
- No more snow days. It could be the storm of the century but so long as you have connectivity, you’re working.
- Cats on your keyboard.