April 21, 2020

Combatting Absenteeism in the WFH Era

Article

In the weeks since lockdowns in states across the country began, millions of employees have had to work remotely, which has had major ramifications on employees’ daily routines. Commuting might no longer be a time-sucking part of the day, but there are plenty of other non-work-related ways in which time can be spent in the home.

Long-term prognostications of what societal change might occur due to this change aren't useful. We’d like to focus on brainstorming how to combat the most immediate challenge posed by these changes: absenteeism.

Absenteeism is a habitual pattern of absence from a duty or obligation without good reason. In the workplace, it has traditionally been viewed as an indicator of poor individual performance, and an implicit breach of contract between employer and employee. With physical absence now mandated by law, absenteeism in a work-from-home context simply means not working.

The New WFH Reality

Part of what makes work fulfilling is the camaraderie felt among co-workers that see one another regularly. That feeling of shared purpose and mutual obligation toward achieving a goal bonds colleagues and is a motivating force. Daily facetime is essential to maintaining high morale. This, and managerial oversight, are part of what makes an office a productive place in which to get work done. This dynamic has been upended.

Many people’s work and personal lives are blending together in ways that are unsettling. Helping children with homework, walking pets, preparing lunch, and grocery shopping are all activities that are demanding attention during normal working hours. Simply put, it is easy to get distracted these days, or convince one’s self that some work can be handled “later” while other tasks are dealt with “now.”

This shift is not anyone’s fault, but it’s everyone’s responsibility to do what they can to keep productivity and morale high, especially during challenging times. It’s important to set boundaries between working hours and non-working hours to prevent burnout and a feeling of endless work.

Thanks to video conferencing applications like Zoom and Google Hangouts, getting facetime with our teams is not much of an issue. Thanks to Slack, instant communication is also not an issue. Cloud-based document storage & retrieval is simple for anyone familiar with G-suite, and we’ve been using email for decades, its capabilities also make working from home easier.

Support teams faces a different challenge

From banking to healthcare to travel, geographically dispersed support teams have faced an onslaught of demand for their time and attention in recent weeks. While confusion abounds as to who can get PPP loans and from whom, and queues stretch on for weeks to get travel re-booked, support and operations professionals are facing an unprecedented challenge.

Ticketing apps don’t provide a solution to this problem. They turn workflows into endless, daunting marathons that result in burnout, evasion, and absenteeism. Further, employees are less able to help customers when needs are highly sensitive and detailed if they are not on-site. They might not have access to their usual knowledge bases, and tribal knowledge is dispersed.

There's an app for that

Platforms that unify the channels in which customer interactions take place (phone, email, chat, etc.) and deliver relevant knowledge pertaining to particular customer issues can help customer-focused teams immensely,regardless of industry. AI-powered knowledge delivery is essential to preventing burnout and ensuring efficiency, as it provides for rapid, accurate solutions to problems.

Perhaps most essential is the ability to collaborate across the whole team, ensuring that no question gets left unanswered. Issues can be re-assignedacross the team or transferred between members, and managerial visibility into every interaction makes oversight simple.

When uncertainty reigns and teams are dispersed, employees should be equipped with the best possible tools to help them combat absenteeism and ensure productivity. If you’d like to get in touch about how we might help in this, please shoot us a note (partners@goboomtown.com).