This week the number of people with COVID in the UK seems to have exploded. About 5m, or 1 in 13, apparently have active COVID cases. It does seem as if everyone knows someone under the weather.

With so many being folks ill, it is of course having an impact. Many people are off work, with even flights being cancelled and with the getaway for the Easter holidays starting it has frustrated many plans.

But closer to home it is also impacting the contact centre industry. Reports of increasing absences and the pressure on service levels have been becoming louder, and certainly mentioned more often in many conversations.

With restrictions being largely been lifted it is not, I suppose, a surprise really. With lower levels of hospitalisation and mortality, I suppose this could be the beginning of us just starting to live with the virus. It does still seem to have come all in one big rush mind you.

Of course, the difference we have between now and before is our ability to work remotely. Most of us have done it, many of us are still doing it and this is now presenting new challenges.

If you are interested in finding out what others are doing, back in the office, what strategies they have, how has this changed, you can get access to our dashboard by completing the survey (anonymously if you wish) at the link below.

Hybrid/Remote working survey: An update

To work or not to work?

With the new variant appearing, for most, to be milder in symptoms, we also now have a conundrum. To we carry on working, pushing through COVID, or not?

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In my own case, I felt ill, but not really ill enough to completely stop, and yet not really well enough to run at full speed.

Admittedly on day 3, I got bored and in the modern world of not wanting to fall behind, did peck away at emails, having odd calls to try to keep things moving.

In all honesty, looking back, I am not sure how effective it was… brain fog was certainly an issue… yet I did it because I could.

With my lateral flow tests angrily blinking positive (I mean it was so solid I could have drawn it in with a sharpie) for over 10 days it was most certainly a good thing for everyone else I was not in an office and working remotely. Staying out of circulation meant I could not give it to anyone else.

But what about those in Operations and contact centres, without the luxury of flexibility I have had.

In a contact centre you can typically self certify off ill for 5 days, needing a doctor’s note beyond this. Yes, these days you may be able to work remotely, however, it is one thing doing the odd email, something else completely talking with customers all day… do need you to be top of your game for every call.

With furlough stopped, no more free lateral flow tests and guidance to return to work if you feel okay, there is now pressure to be back with a lack of visibility over who is still infectious, yet returning to the office and maybe not performing at their peak.

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Of course, also remember the situation pre COVID, where we all used to go into the windowless office, with that stinking cold, dosed up on Sudafed.

Hindsight is 20-20

In hindsight, it was not great, and goodness knows how many more people we all infected. Fortunately, there is a better way (remote work) and we now have the tools and habits to make this more likely to work.

Staying at home, working remotely, increasing flexibility around working hours (working in short bursts) and trying to re-allocate lighter duties all seem sensible. Indeed, some of the newer WFM tools and techniques can plan around this extra complexity too. We are in a better position now than we have been if we do it right.

Of course, you would hope we have learnt… although it is not convincing as yet, to whether we have… we will see how this one pans out.

If you have experience of working through COVID, returning to work too early, or suggestions on new ways of working to manage, let us know in the comments.

Have a good week everyone.

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