There is no longer any sound reason to open and keep formal contact centers; the same also goes for most office-type work from administration to finance, marketing/sales and yes to media/PR that no longer requires face-to-face interactions to perform. Instead these functions should be sent home.
There are no benefits to be gained from expending scarce capital and operating dollars on such overhead that does not contribute to and one can argue detracts from production, and profits. Overhead which is also responsible for causing transportation demand leading to traffic congestion, air pollution, and harm from emissions and accidents, and high individual and corporate taxes.
There is also never been a better time than now to shift contact centers, and other functions from formal offices to home offices. The benefits: such as savings of $10,000 per worker/year, reductions in healthcare costs and lost output by avoiding illness spread and commuting-related accidents, and higher productivity have become even more salient and necessary to achieve in a tough economy. Even if one cannot vacate the premises it can still make sense to shut the lights off and go home.
Going home can also be a lifesaver for employees. Teleworking can save them $4,000 to $5,000/year through avoiding commuting, apparel/cosmetics, and transportation costs, plus it can garner them workspace-in-the-home tax deductions if the work full time. These benefits can make the difference in keeping their homes, and foreclosures, even if they are asked to take company/department-saving compensation cuts in exchange for working from home.
The technology is there. There are vast amounts of information on this and on best practices, such as via TMC's vast array of articles, whitepapers, and Webinars and on the The Telework Coalition's website. I wrote a book five years ago, Home Workplace, that contains still-salient how-to advice.
So what is preventing what should be an even faster shift to telework? And why are outfits still opening formal contact centers which in this tough climate they may be forced to close anyway?
The answer lies in the mirrors of especially mid-managers and executives. These are the individuals who feel they must 'see' people or know that they can 'see' their charges to be 'assured' that they are working.
How Victorian. Have they never heard of the telephone? E-mail? Instant messaging? Or the concept of managing by performance rather than by counting butts on seats?
Or is the real reason for this reluctance job security? Teleworkers outperform formal office workers, thereby requiring fewer supervisors. A teleworked contact center can have agent-to-supervisor ratios as high as 22:1 if not higher compared with 8:1 or 12:1.
If a manager or executive cannot manage or lead without having to have people being seen then they or their superiors should take a hard look at whether they should be holding those jobs. If they cannot set and enforce performance expectations, have trust in their employees, and hire and promote people in those roles to meet those goals then are they really suitable for those positions?
There can be some real cost savings and output gains by collapsing the tiers, eliminating such roles, letting go those staff, and only having those individuals on board who can manage by performance---ideally from their homes. Lean, flexible, and more responsive companies are the order of the day: those that are less encumbered by offices, and office-holders.
Organizations are in no position to miss out on cost savings and on productivity gains. Society, and taxpayers can ill-afford spending scarcer public dollars on unnecessary transportation, environmental cleanup, and healthcare costs.
Time to take a hard look, as pop singer Michael Jackson once crooned, at the persons "in the mirror" and make some much needed changes in how to do and manage business, and organizations.