Millions of Americans have been working from home for over a year now, and for many of us, remote work is becoming our new normal. In fact, according to an article in The Atlantic, approximately 21% of working Americans were still remote as of March 2021. Many employers have decided to keep their teams remote for the foreseeable future as well.
In the ARM industry, we’re used to working in person, and there have historically been many benefits to working in the office. For example, it boosts morale, keeps motivations high, allows for mentorship and roleplaying, creates a set schedule for breaks, and allows the collection floor to leave challenging phone calls at work when they clock out for the day.
When ARM professionals are working from home, they can easily lose sight of breaks, self-care, and the stress management required for those who work in a call center environment. After all, the line between work and home is now blurred, which means small changes need to happen to keep employees feeling safe and supported and to avoid burnout.
Like many professionals in our industry, I’ve worked from home since March 2020. Right away, I noticed myself working longer hours, which increased my stress levels. Fast forward to now. We’re over a year into the pandemic, and I’ve had plenty of time to adjust to remote work life. I want to share with you some of the tips and tricks I’ve used to keep my team connected and keep my own stress levels stable.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I did a webinar with Arbeit about this topic, which you can watch below as well.
Let's jump right in, starting with how to help collectors roleplay, even when they aren't in the office.
Implement Weekly Challenges
Roleplaying is an important factor when it comes to training and up-leveling debt collectors. That’s why I knew I needed an easy solution to implement for collectors who work remotely.
What I came up with was weekly roleplaying challenges. These are engaging activities collectors can use to practice scripting and new skills while actually on the phone with consumers. The weekly challenges I’ve developed focus on pre-scripting, empathetic communication, negotiation, and asking for payment in full.
The way these challenges work is actually pretty simple. I have fillable PDFs with different activities for collectors to complete while on the phone. Once they finish the challenge, they can email their filled-in PDF to their supervisor, and their supervisor can save it in their employee file to document their progress and offer feedback.
The key is to develop weekly challenges that are relevant to the unique skill sets your team needs. For example, if you’re collectors struggle to stay in control of the call, you can give them challenges that will focus specifically on using techniques to keep the call moving forward.
This ties right into our next topic: up-leveling communication to avoid conflict and create connection.
Up-Level Your Communication Game
When working remotely, communication becomes that much more important. After all, written communication like emails and instant messaging can easily be misinterpreted, so making sure you know what to say, when to say it, and how to say it when communicating virtually with clients, colleagues, and consumers is a must.
A great way to up-level your communication is to invest in communication-centered professional development. This could include taking online courses—such as my Communication Code courses, which you can find here and here—or attending virtual conferences, webinars, or summits.
If you’re a decision-maker at your agency, investing in your employees’ communication skills may become a priority, especially if you have noticed miscommunication over emails or instant messaging. If you need to see data to justify investing in communication training, you’ll love this guest blog post by my operations specialist Dan Byrd all about using data to inform continuing education decisions.
The benefits of communication training for remote employees include…
Enhanced job performance
Fewer consumer complaints
Better connections between colleagues
And those are just a few of the returns on investment! Communication training is truly transformational for remote employees.
Let's move on to how you can manage your own stress levels while working remotely.
Keep a Consistent Routine
Before many of us worked remotely, we had a set routine, and no matter how monotonous it may have seemed, our routine likely kept us on a great path personally and professionally.
For example, your routine before the pandemic may have consisted of waking up at a certain time, having a certain breakfast that fueled you for the day, getting to the office by 8 a.m., working until 5 p.m., going to the gym, and so on.
When I left the office back in March of 2020, my routines fell apart. I started working longer hours because the workday no longer existed within the bounds of office hours; my office was now at home, so I could work from dawn to dusk without missing a beat. And guess what? This put me on the fast track to increased stress and burnout.
The key for me was creating a new routine—a routine that would work for remote work. A remote work routine can look however you want it to. You can eat the same breakfast every day, or you can take a walk during a mid-day break. You can also give yourself a hard stop time for your workday, and you can follow through by turning off your email notifications at that stop time.
I personally suggest prioritizing movement in your routine. According to research by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adding physical activity can actually improve your cognitive health, which can also improve your everyday functioning. Adding a brisk walk, a hike, a bike ride, or any other physical activity you enjoy to your routine will definitely be beneficial.
The truth is, working in a consumer-facing industry—whether you're on the phone or not—can be exhausting, and we need routines to keep thriving in our careers. So, list a few routine items that work for you, and start practicing them every day.
Are you feeling inspired or rejuvenated after reading some of these quick tips for making remote work in the ARM industry more enjoyable and effective?
I’d love to hear your feedback! Either comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org!
While you’re here, you may want to check out my Collection Advantage online training program, which is now available for individual purchase. With remote work becoming the norm for many businesses, online training is the future of professional development, and I’d love to make an impact on you or your team.
Book a call with me today, and we can start planning your next big professional development move, whether you’re remote, in the office, or hybrid.