When it comes to agent scheduling in contact centers, flexibility is the name of the game. On the one hand, employees are always searching for flexibility in the hours they work. Contact centers, on the other hand, require flexibility so that they can supply the appropriate number of agents to keep up with varying demand. For both of these interests, it is useful to have a certain amount of flexibility built into the shift patterns and schedules.
To achieve flexible scheduling, companies employ a variety of tactics including reserve shifts, “on call” agents and banked hours. Depending on the strategy, overtime may or may not be offered to the agents for the work they are doing. In the end, though, providing more flexibility can actually result in a reduced number of employee absences.
While the term can be applied differently in different organizations, the basic principle of banked hours is that agents can save hours at a time they’d rather not work on the condition that they will be made up later. By “banking” these undesired hours, the agents are not forced to work at an undesired or inconvenient time and the company has someone to call on in the case of an unexpectedly high call influx. Each company can set a limit for how long the banked hours can last, depending on its own needs.
By banking hours that an agent has already been paid for, they are essentially in debt to the company. For this reason, it can be helpful, and sometimes necessary, to officially set a limit on the amount of hours an agent can bank before they have to start paying them back. If there is no rule in place, agents will continue adding up their hours with no end in sight.
This is one of the major risks of the banked hour technique for adding flexibility to scheduling. Keeping this risk in mind, a number of contact centers only allow hours to be banked over the course of one week, and those hours need to be made up by the end of the next week. For example, if one agent worked 5 hours less than their normal 40-hour workweek, they need to work an extra 5 hours over the next week. With this technique, the company can avoid employees taking advantage of the system.
While the banked hours system adds a degree of flexibility for the employees and the company, it can make it difficult to create an effective employee schedule. It is important to strike a balance between the needs of the business and the needs of the agents. There are ways, however, to account for banked hours in the normal schedule. For example, short and long Saturdays can be implemented. With this technique, all agents begin work at the same time, but they are allowed to leave at a variety of times, depending on the amount of time they owe. Someone who didn’t bank any time can leave at 2 pm, while someone who banked 3 hours will leave at 5 pm. This way, the contact center can be sure the hours will be made up at the end of each week and without any added difficulty for normal scheduling purposes.
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