Back-office organizations around the world are now operating under a new normal: virtual (remote) work. The measures government and other public institutions have taken to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic require many non-essential employees (those that are not working in fields such as healthcare, pharmacy, grocery, food production, and distribution) to stay home. This means that employees across a wide swath of industries, including financial services, insurance, telecommunications, and retail, can’t work from their offices.
Despite this sudden change in operations, customers of these businesses still expect their needs to be addressed. In fact, with interest rates continuing at historical lows in the US, many homeowners seek to refinance their mortgages — creating additional workload for many financial institutions. To continue addressing customer needs, back-office organizations must therefore master how to operate through a virtual workforce.
There are two key building blocks back-office leaders must establish and manage to succeed through a new, virtual workforce.
1. Employee Productivity
Traditionally, improving productivity has been a key and common goal across many operations leaders, as enhancing productivity helps boost efficiency. Monitoring and managing productivity of remote employees, however, is different from when employees are working in an office environment.
First, for employees to be productive working remotely, they must have access to the same systems as they would in the office setting that allow them to do their jobs. For example, an insurance claims adjuster can’t process a claim unless she has access to the system used to store customer claims. Getting employees up and running also means that employees are equipped with devices such as laptops, desktops, tablets, and smart phones, which they can use to access these systems.
Furthermore, it requires remote IT support capabilities so employees can access systems remotely and receive help to address any technical issues that may impede their productivity.
Second on the priority list of back-office leaders aiming to ensure employee productivity must be facilitating ease of communication and collaboration across employees. This refers to enabling communication between peers in the same department and other departments through voice, chat, and video, as well as collaboration through workspaces. This allows employees to find subject-matter experts (SMEs) that they can collaborate with to do their jobs.
We suggest using business communications capabilities that provide voice, chat, and video communications across the enterprise to address this need. Besides helping ensure productivity of remote employees, this technology also allows operational activities to be synchronized, which in turn helps deliver consistent customer experiences — a key differentiator of best-in-class back-office organizations.
Watch this video to learn how back-office leaders boost employee engagement as a way to ensure productivity of their remote workforce.
2. Real-time Activity Management
One of the nuances of managing a virtual workforce is the added complexity in scheduling employees. Due to the unique limitations of COVID-19, employees may find themselves needing to home school their children, care for elderly loved ones, or unable to work due to potential health issues. Back-office leaders must maximize their agility to handle this uncertainty by adopting innovative methods to optimize scheduling activities.
Among those innovative ways are providing employees the ability to work in mini-shifts, swap shifts, and offering alternate hours. Using tools such as workforce management designed to address such changes in employee availability allows back-office leaders to manage the uncertainty in scheduling activities. In turn, it ensures that the business has the proper human resources needed to maintain its operations.
While having enough employees needed to handle the workload is important, equally important for back-office leaders to manage is the performance of those employees. For example, an unwanted increase in the average time it takes to process a loan application means that a bank won’t be able to answer loan requests in the time it typically would. In turn, this slows down loan origination activities while simultaneously frustrating customers who rely on the bank to handle its workload efficiently.
To minimize such inefficiencies, we suggest using dashboards that provide real-time visibility into activity status. We also suggest using real-time analytics to observe the root causes of any inefficiencies, as lifting the curtain on them will help increase the ability to efficiently manage the workload, even when operating virtually through remote employees.
Watch this video for insights on how back-office leaders adapt to rapid changes in workload through real-time activity management.
Times of crisis are (in hindsight) times of opportunity. For back-office leaders to seize this opportunity, they must quickly adapt to the requirements of the new ways of doing business. Amidst the COVID-19 crisis, this requirement is continuing business operations through virtual teams working remotely.
Successfully navigating this transition will allow back-office leaders to differentiate themselves from their peers by ensuring business continuity, minimizing lost revenue opportunities — and most importantly, minimizing the risk of losing customer trust and loyalty.
We highly recommend that you incorporate the activities and technologies noted in the two key building blocks above to help ease this transition for your company. To learn more on how to incorporate these activities and technologies, please read the Essentials to Modernize Your Back-Office report.