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Five years ago, AnswerConnect was at a crossroads. We had outgrown our small office, spilling over into the entire building. We considered expanding into another office building, perhaps in another city, but as CEO Michael Payne puts it, “The model of having large office complexes filled with people was unscalable and extremely resource intensive. While we knew of no direct competitor in our space offering work at home at that time, we believed that a remote model was more sustainable, more competitive, more scalable, and much more in line with our underlying core values.”
Lead Business Support Associate, Geneva Lieser, was the guinea pig. “It was an exciting thought to work from home. I was all for it,” she recalls. “The savings on commuting alone was huge, 1.5 hrs of my time each day, and about $200 in gas per month.”
The IT team put together software and a computer for Geneva to take home. (That’s another thing we’re really good at: Software not available? Build it!) “It was slow call-volume wise, there were only a few accounts on the new system. Time in between calls was spent chatting with IT on issues I was experiencing, and having software updates added into my computer a lot. It would be hard to count the number of screenshots taken during that period.” Her diligent reporting and testing helped make a solid system for remote associates to work and receive support.
Geneva’s favorite parts of working remotely? “Sweats, waking up 30 min before a shift, not eating out or driving to the office, playing with the critters that inhabit our home on breaks and lunch (they are not allowed in the office of course). Working from home is very addicting.”
Five years later, Geneva’s sentiments are echoed by nearly 300 remote workers taking calls, replying to chats and following up on leads. Her experiment was a success, allowing AnswerConnect to expand both the business and the employee pool significantly. Remote work gave employees the flexibility to work from anywhere in the state and schedule their time around school, kids or other commitments that would normally be obstacles to full-time employment.
“Many people told us that work-at-home would fail because people would not work.” Michael says of those first few days. “In all large groupings of people, be they schools, cities, or companies there will be a few who abuse the rules. However, most people are fundamentally well-intentioned and hard working. Our experience has been that people work just as effectively at home as in an office.”
That decision to trust in the inherent goodness of employees’ intentions continues to pay off. The number of employees working from home is climbing in step with a long list of satisfied clients, enough to make us consider hiring remote workers in other states. We’ve built a thriving virtual community where associates can get instant support—or just chat with fellow work-from-homers—and regularly put together live social events to give co-workers face time. This teamwork combined with our always-innovating IT department adds to AnswerConnect’s unique edge over its competitors.
Geneva couldn’t have put it better: “We all work shoulder to shoulder—remotely—in a really great way.”