Should Outbound Call Centers Stay Remote or Return to the Office? Both?

Resources to help you decide on the best options for your outbound call center, and when it’s time to return to the office after the coronavirus shutdown restrictions are lifted.

Many businesses that have been shut down during the coronavirus pandemic are re-opening. For call centers, you may wonder, is it time for your agents to return to the office?  What are the considerations for making the best decision? What plans should you have in place?

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, many office-based call centers scrambled to transfer their operations to remote, and to get their agents working from home.

Many of our dialer software customers were already running virtual call centers. We helped others to quickly and smoothly transition to a work from home operation. Several newly remote customers told us they were surprised to see an increase in productivity. In fact, some have decided to stay remote, or have decided to adapt a hybrid operation upon return. 

POLL About Returning to the Office

In a recent poll of participants at our WFH Webinar series, we asked about plans for their call centers when the shut down orders were lifted.  Here’s the how they responded. 

Poll: WFH agents after COVID19 shut down.

Communications and Clarity with Employees

If you decide to resume operations from your call center office, be sure to address potential employee concerns upfront by clearly communicating your policies and planned safety measures. You may want to offer objective information resources to educate employees. If possible, consider offering the remote option to employees who don’t feel safe returning to a staffed workplace environment. Our Work From Home page offers a helpful guide for managing the performance of at-home agents, and supporting a highly productive remote workforce.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guidelines

You’ll find many resources with detailed guidelines for employers of businesses and workplaces regarding COVID-19 on the CDC’s web page.

The CDC also offers the helpful workplace tool below to help you decide whether to re-open your business, in this case, your lead generation or outbound sales call center office. 

CDC: Workplace Tool during COVID19 Pandemic.
The purpose of this tool is to assist employers in making (re)opening decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially to protect vulnerable workers. It is important to check with state and local health officials and other partners to determine the most appropriate actions while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community.

OSHA Guidelines for Workplaces

The U.S. Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration has put out a 35-page guidebook called  “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19.” Among topics covered, of key interest to call center operators may be the chapter, “Steps All Employers Can Take to Reduce Workers’ Risk of Exposure to SARS-CoV-2.”

Whether you intend to continue as a remote call center operation or move back to the office, there are numerous legal considerations. In our second Work From Home webinar, compliance experts and attorneys Michele Shuster and Lisa Messner [Mac Murray and Shuster LLP] shared valuable tips for keeping your call center in compliance, and guidelines for developing a remote work plan for your business, as well as points to bear in mind when returning to the office. 

Read the summary and watch the webinar video for Keeping It Compliant: Legal Aspects of Running a Virtual Outbound Call Center

In addition to call center office safety measures, they suggest the following:

  • Implement some sort of screening method
  • Keep in mind the privacy rights of employees
  • Avoid discriminatory practices
  • Document policies and procedures
  • Keep records

Employees who get sick should obviously be sent home. This should be clearly stated in your policies, including criteria for returning to the office. 

The Choice to Stay Remote 

If you plan for your outbound call center to stay remote, have a look at the our free guidebook to improve your productivity:  Running a Profitable Remote Call Center: An Indispensable Guide

You’ll learn about:

  • Resources That Drive Remote ROI – Tech Recommendations, Productivity Tools, Essential KPI Reports
  • Tips for Managing Your Virtual Team for Optimal Performance
  • Compliance Guidelines for WFH
  • Future Trends in Virtual Call Center Operations
  • Remote Call Center Checklist

 With the right tools and support you can optimize your cloud-based dialer, and manage your at-home team so they are focused, motivated, and productive.

Stay Up-to-date with COVID-19 Developments

The pandemic has thrown the international scientific community for a loop. They’re working diligently along with government and health organizations to stay abreast of the most current statistics and their implications, testing and possible vaccinations, and strategies for balancing economic health. Keep up with changes by consulting trusted news resources: e.g., The New York Times is offering free access to their special coverage of the coronavirus with an FAQ section that may be helpful for your agents. 

Whether your outbound call center plans to head back to an office environment, continue with remote, or move forward with a hybrid, be sure to keep updated on the latest developments so you can protect the health of your employees and the continuity of your business.

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