Even Dolly Parton would have to admit it: the days of working ‘9 to 5’ look numbered as organisations of all sorts begin to wake up to the benefits of flexible working.
This week the government announced that every employee now has the right to request flexible working hours, a rule affecting 20 million UK workers - read more
It will have widespread ramifications for UK workplaces where the transition from rigid practices to more flexible working methods is taking place on a piecemeal basis.
When it comes to the flexible working revolution - or more accurately evolution - customer contact professionals, and more specifically business process outsourcing (BPO) professionals, have been in the vanguard of devising and implementing new, more efficient and more flexible ways of doing things in terms of both people and processes.
Several CCA events this week afforded excellent opportunities to consider flexibility from different perspectives - both BPOs and also that of organisations either looking to introduce greater flexibility via new outsourcing partnerships or to ‘grow their own’ by introducing flexible working for existing employees.
We debated these issues at a meeting of BPO directors co-hosted with Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). HIE has addressed flexibility issues in its dealings with major BPOs that have established customer contact operations in rural and island locations. These include home-working operations that serve both UK and international markets across time zones. In a 24/7 world, they provide a means of rising to the demands of increasingly flexible ‘always-on’ customers.
We’re also concluding our agile workforce research work this week in partnership with Arise. We anticipate that the results will shine new light on the relationship between flexible working and productivity, as well as service improvements and reduced costs.
It will add to our research archive which already contains evidence that agile or flexible working can deliver a range of benefits including:
- enlarging the recruitment pool for businesses seeking different skill sets
- addressing business continuity issues
- reducing the physical, environmental and financial impact of large scale customer contact operations in high-cost locations
- fostering more collaboration
A key driver of the government’s policy on flexible working is the rapidly ageing UK population and falling birth rate which together represent a demographic timebomb that many employers have failed to confront.
In customer service, we have had to roll with the changes for so long, that to a greater or lesser extent, we have become flexible by default. We have had to juggle resources and adapt to mixed service delivery models, extended service hours, and a need for collaborative problem-solving.
Through CCA network we can bring together innovative in-house operators and pioneering BPOs who have devised different approaches to flexibility for a diverse client base - jointly, they represent a powerful repository of expertise at a pivotal time.
We must grasp this opportunity to use a renewed focus on flexible working to act as a catalyst for change across the wider organisation.