During a virus outbreak, fast digital response can be key to work sustainability

You need a coronavirus protocol to optimize work 

How does a 300 plus strong customer management team prepare for the next wave of the pandemic? What was their key to survival in the first wave? What new practices have they adopted based on recent experience that would have been unthinkable before? These and similar questions were answered by Telenor Customer Management Director Ákos Molnár at the Sustainable World conference of 9 September where he was invited to share his experience about the benefits fast digital response can provide to ensure the sustainability of work during a virus outbreak. He also introduced the special coronavirus protocol developed by his team in prepping for the second wave of the pandemic. 

Telenor’s customer management team managed 1.5 times more customer calls in home office mode when Hungary was hit by the coronavirus this spring. 

A 300 plus strong customer management team like that of Telenor usually spends their time in a single office or in several large offices. Due to the complexity of systems required for them to work efficiently, the need for occasional teamwork and management support as well as privacy considerations, their work processes tend to be location-based. Home office is not part of their routine. 

Telenor’s Customer Management Department set the reduction of their environmental impact as a goal for this year, in addition to their business KPIs. Their plans were changed by the turn of events. In March 2020, the entire team was migrated to home office, a totally new working environment for them never tested before. At the same time, the lockdown resulted in a 1.5-fold increase in the number of calls managed by the team at the usual high quality. Some analogue processes were immediately replaced by digital alternatives. The team stayed motivated despite the increased workload and they made home office, the new global trend in the labour market, a success. Staff turnover rates and the number of sick leave days declined, while performance was up even in the face of higher workload, overtime work and customers more tense than usual. 

The optimism of home office was replaced by the desire for human contact 

During the first wave of COVID-19, the customer management team made the most of their potential without one-on-one mentoring and face-to-face meetings. After a certain period of time, however, human contact had to be restored in order to maintain motivation and quality of work. 

The timing of the easing was just right to get back to normal. Based on regular surveys conducted with the team, the management found that the ideal ratio of home office would be up to 70% in the long run. Face-to-face meetings, experience and knowledge sharing require the physical presence of employees, managers and new entrants alike. Although the freedom provided by home office has become a constant need, it cannot fully replace the traditional way of working. Sustainability is also interpreted differently now than it was six months ago. In the pre-coronavirus era, sustainability meant the accomplishment of environmental goals in the first place. Now the primary goal is to make working conditions, motivation and service quality sustainable. The broad adoption of home office also has a positive impact on the environment.

Facing the second wave of COVID-19: every company needs a coronavirus protocol 

No matter which industry a company operates in, besides taking general precautions it should develop a coronavirus protocol in order to help identify risks, evaluate them and enable fast and efficient response. In the event of a potential positive case, the availability of such a protocol makes it possible to isolate the affected colleague or team as soon as possible. With a carefully developed coronavirus protocol, you can continue to meet in person and work together, if no lockdown is imposed. 

Telenor’s coronavirus protocol is based on a voluntary reporting system in which colleagues should file a report if they plan to travel abroad or did so, had direct contact or share the same household with someone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID. They can use an internal administrative system to report any symptom including but not limited to common COVID symptoms and they are requested to stay home and keep away from the workplace community in that case. 

“The coronavirus protocol covers three key fields: the condition of the affected person, their private environment and their impact on the working environment. To set up a well-functioning system, you should establish a framework and ensure that colleagues act in a flexible and disciplined manner. Managers play a key role in that. This way, it is easier to keep employees motivated and maintain high service quality and workplace safety. I hope that one day we no longer have to address emergencies, but can focus on making our business more sustainable and environmentally friendly again”, said Ákos Molnár.