Building a Remote Workforce

In mid-March when Discover Financial Services made the decision to put safety first, it meant quickly devising a plan to move 8,000 call center agents from their cubicles in 4 different regional facilities to their homes. Infrastructure services and customer service teams worked 24/7 to develop work-from-home kits consisting of monitors, keyboards and cables, then arranged drive-thru operations at each location, enabling agents to easily transfer the equipment to their cars. In all, 1,900 agents per day were equipped and ready to work off-site. And if that wasn’t challenging enough, Discover’s largest call center in Utah was forced to cope with a 5.7 magnitude earthquake.

While few companies have to mobilize thousands of workers in just a few days, businesses large and small have been forced to establish a plan, communicate it effectively and go remote during the coronavirus outbreak. Experts say communication is key to maintaining positive morale while still getting the job done. A few best practices may include:

  • When possible, adopt a beginning and an end date to the arrangement or adhere to a state or locally mandated stay-at-home order, making adjustments if needed.
  • Depending on normal work styles, try to establish consistent work hours, including times when people should be around their desks or be available to collaborate with their teams.
  • Take advantage of the flexibility a remote arrangement can provide. Trust and safety should yield greater peace of mind and empower people to get the job done with minimal supervision.

While many Discover employees were accustomed to working remotely, it will be new to many businesses. Many will find that for employees in appropriate positions, working remotely can increase both employee engagement, workplace productivity and job satisfaction.

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