As we transition back to the call center, we all need to do our part to keep our teams safe and prevent the spread of the virus.
We thought it would be useful to review the various workplace safety and prevention guidelines that have been released from various public health departments, to determine how they can be applied in the workplace.
We’ve summarized how the key points of each document pertain to you and your call center team, but we encourage you to also read the source documents thoroughly — and seek guidance from your local Chief Medical Officer and public health department — before implementing any protocols.
And if you need some help putting together a post-pandemic strategy for your call center, our strategy workbook will tell you everything you need to know. Download it for free here.
COVID-19 Health & Safety Best Practices for the Call Center
Every contact center is unique, so we can’t stress enough how important it is to assess how your workplace functions, to ensure you’re taking the proper measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
That said, some best practices to guide your post-pandemic safety measures are:
- Practice physical distancing
- Minimize contact with droplets of saliva
- Keep hands, surfaces, and objects as clean as possible
- Prevent contact with potentially infected people
Now, let’s look at how we can implement some of these best practices in the call center.
Implement physical distancing protocols in your call center
For contact center workers — and office workers in general — the major risks come from contact with shared equipment, such as headsets, keyboards, printers/photocopiers, as well as shared-use spaces and surfaces in common areas like washrooms and elevators.
Here are some ideas for mitigating those risks.
1. More space between desks
When it comes to the issue of social distancing in the workplace, this is one of the most logical solutions. This is particularly useful in a contact center, where workstations are typically small and close together.
So — unless you’re able to rapidly increase your office space — the best solution is to reduce the number of agents you have on the floor at once. This will instantly make physical distancing easier.
You could try a ‘hot-desking’ method, or a split-shift situation, as they have enacted at Micron; splitting employees into two ‘teams’, who alternate each week working in the office and at home.
- Reduce contact in common areas
The public spaces in your call center present a big risk; it’s both safer and easier to keep your common spaces closed. The kitchen, lounge, etc. should remain off-limits.
For those areas that you can’t keep closed — such as the corridors and elevators — make sure you put down floor markings and signs to ensure people maintain a 6ft (2m) gap at all times.
3. Rules about the use of shared equipment
One problem unique to the call center is the wide use of shared computer and communication equipment. The very nature of headsets makes them incredibly high-risk. Computers and keyboards are not far behind. You basically have two choices:
- Assign each agent their own personal headset and computer, which they’ll be responsible for cleaning themselves
- Implement professional sanitization of equipment between shifts
With regards to other equipment around the office, such as photocopiers or servers and networking infrastructure, the easiest solution is to assign one person who will be singularly responsible for operating that piece of equipment and cleaning it after use.
Provide personal sanitization equipment to your agents
As you may have experienced in a store near you, a great way to minimize infection is to provide staff with hand sanitizer. The supply shortage has made sanitizer expensive — your agents will appreciate you providing this for them on site.
Due to the close-quartered nature of the call center, we would recommend providing sanitizer at all active workstations as well as in the lobby, washrooms, and entrances. Depending on the layout of your call center, you may also want to install some portable sinks.
Implement extra cleaning
Even if your team follows your COVID prevention guidelines to the letter, you will still need to implement extra cleaning shifts in your call center.
This should be performed by a professional sanitization company, with special care and attention to high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and plates, elevators, panels, and desks.
Don’t forget to ensure the cleaning company keeps a record of their activities — particularly if they’re cleaning mixed-use equipment.
Decide on PPE guidelines
The efficacy of PPE for most people is still open to debate — with all the sub-standard PPE equipment on the market and misinformation circulating online, it can be tough to know which options are right for your business.
Depending on how your contact center operates, mandatory use of gloves and masks in the office and common areas may help your team feel safer.
We would advise you to do your own research, consult with your Health & Safety board, and perhaps seek professional advice on this one.
Determine if you need COVID testing and contact tracing
If your contact center is at particularly high risk of an outbreak — for example, if it is a very large organization or employs people from several localities — you may want to look into how COVID testing and contact tracing can mitigate some of this risk.
Although testing may not be 100% reliable, contact tracing is a proven, effective way of isolating cases quickly and reducing further infection. And yes, there’s even an app for it (several, actually).
Create your post-pandemic strategy
The last thing anyone wants is to head back into quarantine for another 3 months. But, unfortunately, that’s still a possibility. You need to prepare your contact center for whatever the future holds post-pandemic.
Preparing proper a post-pandemic strategy will give you options when things don’t go to plan. To learn how to put a successful post-pandemic strategy together for your contact center, download our free workbook here.
COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines from Public Health Body
The sources used for this post are listed below. We would advise that you examine them thoroughly — and seek out guidance from your local Health & Safety authority — before making any changes in your workplace.
- Occupational Health & Safety Wiki COVID-19 Guidelines
- Workplace Safety & Prevention Services COVID-19 Guidelines
- Public Services Health & Safety Administration COVID-19 Guidelines