Due to covid-19 driven lockdowns and social distancing measures, an unprecedented work-from-home strategy is impacting all office-related operations around the world. You can read quotes of CEO’s saying their employees can now forever work from home. But on the other hand a lot of employers fear less creativity and lower productivity levels of teams when they only meet online. What is your new strategy?

Working from home is not a new phenomenon. Already before Covid-19 Amazon 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. In its latest pre-corona survey from December 2019. Flexjobs indicated that 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 months, BCI Global has done extensive research, issued a tailor made survey to its support center clients around the globe (shared service centers, GBS centers, customer support centers, etc.) and conducted in-depth qualitative interviews to gather the different perspectives on virtual support solutions. Conclusion: 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 (very) positive: the work is done and most objectives are met, proving working-from-home can be done, open-ing 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 the below figure 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.

Productivity since Covid-19 by business sector

Productivity by business sector

Source: Colliers, May 2020

Employee’s perspective on virtual support solutions

From an employee 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 and 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, 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.

Expectations for the future

Based on the research conducted by BCI Global a combination of office and virtu-al/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/quiet space at home and (s)lower connectivity risk;
  • (perceived) Country risk internally & externally.

What percentage of your workforce will remain permanently re-mote post-Covid who were not remote before?

workforce will remain permanently re-mote

Source: Gartner, April 2020

The employees have even larger ambitions, as a recent study of Colliers Internation-al 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 the figure below shows.

Desire to work from home in the future after Covid-19 in number of days per week

working remotely in the future

Source: Colliers, May 2020

Your strategy

The future choice for virtual versus office work is mainly based on the complexity and risk of a task, the controls and compliance in place, the conditions met, the personal situation of the employees, and talent and labor availability. 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. Contact Josefien Glaudemans, Partner BCI Global, for an interesting 40 slide presentation on developing your virtual strategy.


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