Customer Experience News & Trends

9 effective health and safety practices for CX employees onsite

More than half of customer service and customer experience professionals need to work onsite with each other through the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s how to help keep them safe. 

“Many service organizations can’t implement remote work for all of their employees due to the lack of available infrastructure, the physical nature of some service and support roles or union contracts,” said Deborah Alvord, senior director analyst in Gartner’s Customer Service and Support Practice. Gartner researchers found 50% of service and support groups need to work onsite.

If that’s the case you face, you also face a great responsibility to keep onsite employees safe and healthy.

Protect employees’ safety

First priority is protecting employees’ health. Follow these nine tips to help them:

  • Make space. On-site employees should follow the six-feet rule and all other CDC guidelines while in your customer service center and communal areas. Post reminders about the six-feet rule in areas where they work and congregate. Supply employees with safety gear your state or municipality requires.
  • Say no to visitors. Only let employees who must be at work – your dedicated support and service professional – in the office. Employees who don’t need to be at work shouldn’t drop in to pick up items, to work for a short time or for any other reason. Restrict deliveries – from essential supplies to lunch drop-offs – to a single entrance where necessary sanitizing can be done.
  • Be cordial and protected. Ignoring each other onsite can lead to more feelings of isolation. Remind employees they can still greet each other, just stay six feet apart and wave, or give a thumbs-up or peace sign.
  • Meet remotely even onsite. When your team needs to meet have them use the same tools and technology remote employees use to meet. Give them access to apps such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting and Skype For Business so they can meet from their workstations on their computers or personal devices.
  • Set new schedules. Try flexible work hours and staggered or rotational shifts so fewer people are in the office at one time. Use the time between shifts to sanitize workstations and communal areas.
  • Redesign workspace. You’ll want to create partitions between employees. Raise cubicle walls or have service pros only work in cubicles that are distanced from each other. Add plexiglass dividers in common areas, such as the break room, so people can sit together (six feet apart, of course) and interact safely.
  • Rethink roles. If employees in certain roles perform similar, sequential tasks, consider making each employee a single-task expert. Then one person can perform one task onsite for a period of time and leave. Then the next employee can pick up the next task, work for a period of time and leave it for another task expert to complete. Similarly, if you have a group of employees with the same role and responsibilities, try pooling the tasks. Have one person on a rotating bases work in the office each day, handling the tasks that must be done onsite while others work remotely.

Protect employees’ health

Some onsite service and support workers face more stress than their colleagues who are working from home. Consider this: They steady operations with limited resources while still being concerned about their health and safety. Plus, most have stressful situations at home – children who need to be schooled from home, loved ones who need extra attention or care, lack of stability and uncertain futures.

“Social distancing might impact an organization’s culture and its employees’ productivity and engagement. But taking pre-emptive steps to address these implications by developing an effective employee communication plan, and enabling managers to handle employee needs and responses, will help minimize the impact,” said Gamika Takkar, principal in Gartner’s Customer Service and Support practice.

Leaders need to encourage onsite employees to practice positive mental health habits now more than ever. Some tips:

  • Visit the virtual water cooler. Let employees set up their own group virtual meetings just for social purposes – perhaps during break or lunch times when they’d normally be chatting around the water cooler. They can share stories, commiserate and pass along best practices.
  • Exercise the mind and body. Encourage employees to walk during breaks or lunch (if they aren’t meeting virtually) alone or in pairs walking at a safe distance from each other. Set up a room with a screen and access to free virtual Yoga classes. Give them access to online professional and personal development classes (not just work-related training).
  • Pay attention for signs of distress. Frontline employees are at a heightened risk of stress and burnout. Managers want to listen for exasperated tones and actual acknowledgements of “I’m so stressed” or “This is too much.” Also watch for signs they’re overwhelmed: lethargy, struggles to focus, apathy. If you recognize it, steer them toward help through HR.
  • Recognize their efforts regularly and tailor rewards to individuals and the circumstances. Applaud them for their efforts during challenging circumstances. Ask others in your organization who benefit from their support to send regular recognition. Publicly – through social media and even advertising – thank them. Make sure rewards fit the times. For instance, gift cards to local lunch hotspots that aren’t open aren’t a good idea. Gift cards to online retailers, cash and flexible time or more time off are.
  • Give them a break. Onsite employees need to get a hard break from work. Don’t reach out to them or expect them to respond after hours. Remind remote workers that their colleagues onsite aren’t available to do any of their work or even just a favor.

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