Work at home idea for call centre staff

Norfolk has given a cautious welcome to a hi-tech scheme that aims to revolutionise the working lives of thousands of call centre staff across the UK.Workers will be able to operate from home at any time of the day or night rather than having to be based at call centres thanks to the breakthrough Remote Worker system developed by solutions provider Amicus.

Norfolk has given a cautious welcome to a hi-tech scheme that aims to revolutionise the working lives of thousands of call centre staff across the UK.

Workers will be able to operate from home, day or night, rather than having to be based at call centres thanks to the breakthrough Remote Worker system, developed by solutions provider Amicus and is due to be unveiled in London in November.

Call centres suffer from high staff turnover despite flexible hours and greatly improved working conditions. Being able to work from home would be a bonus for staff trying to balance family commitments and the need to earn a living.

Using Remote Worker, inbound calls are directed by Amicus to a hub and transferred using Avaya technology to an available agent via a BT broadband connection. Virtual private network technology allows employees to access secure information from their corporate network.


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Amicus managing director Geoff Thompson said: "Remote Worker heralds a new era in home-working for customer contact staff that will benefit all parties. Home-working reduces the stress of and time spent commuting to and from the call centre, and will enable our staff to gear their working hours around their family commitments."

Erica Bell of Norwich-based Virgin Money, which has about 430 staff in Whiting Road including 100 call-centre workers, said: "While we've no wish to change the way Virgin Money works, we can see the possible benefit of 'remote workers' when handling call overflow peaks and troughs and the flexibility it would give working parents."

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But she added: "At Virgin Money we pride ourselves on customer services and the level of service we provide is partly accredited to the Virgin culture. We like our staff to feel part of the company and we try to make our call centre a fun place to work."

Marjorie Eade, co-ordinator of the Norwich and Norfolk Financial Industry Group, said: "Anything which widens employees' workstyle choices is to be welcomed. Norwich is a growing financial city and is always looking to offer flexibility to its employees. For some people, the discipline and social aspect of going into the office every day is important, but there are of course people for whom there are big benefits to working from home.

"This sort of scheme can only be welcomed by Norfolk where we have a strong base of skilled people but where some of them will find it difficult to fit in with regular working patterns at certain times in their careers."

Lucy Haughey, of Norwich Union, said: "This is an interesting development. However, we doubt whether this would be appropriate for Norwich Union as use of this system is dependent on the level of technical sophistication a call centre requires. The regulated nature of the insurance business and its customer services would also not be compatible with this concept."

Remote Worker will be launched at ECMOD2003, a catalogue and mail order trade fair, on November 19 and 20 at Earls Court.

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