Telecommuting in 2021 and beyond

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July 22, 2021

By

July 22, 2021


ILLUSTRATION: RLT_IMAGES/DIGITALVISION VECTORS/GETTY IMAGES

ILLUSTRATION: RLT_IMAGES/DIGITALVISION VECTORS/GETTY IMAGES

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we all struggled with a high level of uncertainty, even after pest management was ruled as an essential service. At ABC, we immediately instituted a hiring freeze, since we did not know what the demand for our services would be. Thankfully, the phones did ring and people who were now working from home needed our services even more.

Because of the hiring freeze, we had to meet this increased demand with the same amount of labor as the previous year. We had to become more efficient, and did so by focusing even more on routing and scheduling. As the company’s overall revenue went up, our revenue per service specialist also went up. This made the company more profitable and put more money in the pocket of each of our service folks. At the end of 2020, because we have profit sharing for everyone who works at ABC, the year-end profit bonus checks were much higher than in previous years.

PANDEMIC AS PROVING GROUND

In March 2020, when everyone was required to shelter in place, our office staff took their computers and phone systems home. The team did a fantastic job answering phones, scheduling work and taking care of our customers from the comfort of their own kitchens or living rooms. We answered more calls with higher quality than we ever had in the past — and again, with the same number of people as in the previous year. This also affected our overall profitability.

Working from home works very well on several different fronts. From a business perspective, we hit and exceeded all key performance indicators we measure. Just as importantly, our employees loved working from home because they saved time and money in transportation costs, and had less stress.

TECHNOLOGY IS OUR FRIEND

From answering phones at home, to the convenience and efficiency of virtual team meetings, technology allowed us to keep working efficiently. Using video messages to communicate to the staff also proved to be an effective tool.

We became very intentional on communicating virtually to everyone, since we were not seeing them face to face. For most of last year, I would record a three-times-weekly video message to the entire team, letting them know what was going on and what we were planning and working on. We are still using video messages, but the frequency is down to twice a month.

In June, our office staff began a permanent weekly schedule of two days in the office and three days working from home. We have a Monday-Wednesday team and a Tuesday-Thursday team. Our managers work in the office Monday-Thursday. The entire office staff works from home on Fridays.

We also continue to broadcast company meetings, instead of having everyone come into the office at the same time. We continue to use virtual team meetings about half of the time.

Our expectations are that we are encouraging a happier, more productive office and field staff.
We hope we will be able to attract more potential candidates to the job. We think there will be less stress for our folks with less travel time each week, which also saves them money on fuel and vehicle maintenance bills.

On the two days per week our office staff is in the office, we are focusing on culture and team building. More events, rewards and team lunches are ways we plan to make the most out of the days we are together.

Looking long-term, flexibility is going to be very important to each individual. People want more control over their schedules; to compete with other industries and employers, we need a model in place that provides different, and possibly unique, schedule options.

I am excited about the future, but I also realize how we do business in the future likely will continue to evolve and change. I hope we will build a model that works for all — and that 2022 will be a walk in the park!

About the Author

JENKINS, who rotates this column with his brothers Raleigh and Dennis, is president of ABC Home & Commercial Services, Austin, Texas. He can be reached at bjenkins@goanteater.com.

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