Next to many unpleasant economic and supply chain effects of Covid-19 in all parts of the globe, another key effect of Covid-19 is an unprecedented global work-from-home strategy impacting all office-related operations of many different international organizations.

Working from home is not a new phenomenon. Already before Covid-19 Amazon for example offered virtual customer services in for example the USA, Germany and Costa Rica. Also, Xerox had already 8,000 home-based employees performing a wide range of functions, including customer care, tech support, data entry, image tagging, quality control, systems development, software programming and administrative or business support.

Also, Flexjobs’ latest survey from December 2019, indicated that the global job seekers were very much into remote work and that more than half have tried to negotiate flexible working arrangements with their employer.

The last weeks, BCI Global has done extensive research, issued a tailor made survey to a selection of support center clients and conducted in-depth qualitative interviews to gather the different perspectives on virtual support solutions. Many support centers will post-Corona have a least 20% up to 50% of the work done virtual, but the expectations are that people will not be totally (100%) virtual.

Employer’s perspective on virtual support solutions

From an employer’s perspective the first priority, to turn to virtual solutions during the Covid-19 pandemic, was the safety of their employees, closely followed by business continuity and dealing with changing customer needs. In order to be virtually successful, many organizations had to change leadership structures, style, and communication, and had to ensure they had enough laptops and smartphones for the staff to being able to work from home. The results have been mind blowing! The work is done and most objectives are met, proving working-from-home can be done, opening also the most rigid minds.

Regarding the overall productivity during Covid-19, 54% of companies say they did not notice a change in productivity, 22% say productivity decreased and 24% state that they increased productivity since working from home during Covid-19. In figure 1 you can see that the Professional Services sector is more or less on par with these productivity results, however sales activities and the legal sector report more productivity losses. The general rule of thumb is that the more experienced an employee is, the lower the productivity decrease is.

Figure 1: Productivity since Covid-19 by business sector

Source: Colliers International, May 2020

 

Employee’s perspective on virtual support solutions

From an employee’s perspective safety, health & family issues were the first drivers. Let’s keep in mind that the staff was not just working from home, but working from home during a crisis. Many want to retain their job & income, prove their added value and feel part of the team. Critical conditions for the employees are amongst others a private and quiet space to work from at home, a laptop, or desktop and screen and access to technology, connectivity and broadband and clear communication/objectives from managers and team leaders.

The results from the employee’s perspective have also been quite positive: their resilience is proven, they report no commuting time, dealing with family & kids at home, have proven their passion and pride and shown increasing flexibility. However, there are also some key disadvantages and even risks, as the poor workspace at home might impact their physical well-being and the isolation at home could impact their mental wellbeing.

The most popular workspace at home is an enclosed room dedicated to work (37%), closely followed by the living room (35), then bedroom (18%), kitchen (15%) and other (14%). However, bear in mind that a separate room to work in is not available to many. The more developed a region is, the easier working from home gets. And as a result, more support staff in the US report a better work-life balance then for example in APAC.

Expectations for the future

Based on the research conducted by BCI Global a combination of office and virtual/remote work is expected for the Support sector. Many support centers will post-Corona have a least 20% up to 50% of the work done virtual, but the expectations are that people will not be totally (100%) virtual.

The country/location plays an important role:

  • Local COVID-19 situation (e.g. so called ‘red zones’);
  • Development level of a country: the more developed the more potential for work at home, the less developed the less private/quite space at home and (s)lower connectivity risk;
  • (perceived) Country risk internally & externally.

A recent Gartner study from April 2020 indicated that 3 in 4 CFO’s plan to shift at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions past Covid-19, see figure 2.

 

Figure 2: What percentage of your workforce will remain permanently remote post-Covid who were not remote before?

Source: Gartner, April 2020

 

The employees have even larger ambitions, as a recent study of Colliers International shows that about half of all employees would like to work at least 1-2 days a week at home, only one out of 10 would be interested in 4 days or more at home. The regional differentiation shows again that more developed regions offer more potential for working from home as figure 3 shows.

Figure 3: How do you feel about working remotely in the future after the Covid-19 situation?

Source: Colliers International, May 2020

 

The future choice for virtual versus office work is mainly based on the personal situation, the complexity and risk of a task, the controls and compliance in place, the conditions met and the people, talent and labor availability.

The footprint and locations of the future

BCI Global developed an overview of 25 considerations in 5 categories to determine your future potential for home versus office work. Also proven frameworks and roadmaps for the future footprint and locations are available. In case you are interested to discussing these in more detail, do not hesitate to contact Josefien Glaudemans, Partner BCI Global. As you want to use this period to (re)think, plan and prepare for the future for being able to act as soon as possible in a post-Covid world.

 

 

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