Scheduling for the Contact Centre

Here areas some thoughts on what has been different so far this year in the life of a Scheduler, and how we can adapt to the new world and returning to "normal"

Hello WFM friends.

I have a video version and a text version ?

If you prefer to have a read, it’ll only take 2 mins and it’s all here ??

In today’s blog, I have looked at 5 different aspects of the scheduling process, what’s been different so far this year for many schedulers and how we return to ‘normal’ in the world of scheduling.

Shift Patterns

Many centres have been giving their agents different start times as they work from home.  This might be either where the agent has needed to start at different times or where they have been able to offer more appropriate start times for the centre’s requirements.

Split shifts have also been used as a way of catering for the typical two peaks of the day that a lot of centres see and also fits in with the lifestyle of agents working from home

Many centres have also changed their opening hours which is generally meant opening later in the morning or closing earlier in the evening, so this has also resulted in the first and last shifts of the day being amended.

Some of my customers have found that they may have a similar amount of total contacts but customers are tending to use social media to contact them rather than picking up the phone. This has resulted in agents having a more varied schedule with different contact work included as well as phone calls.  This can also result in different shift patterns as customers tend to use these non-calls contact methods at different times of the day to the traditional phone call peak times.

So as work returns to the office you may consider keeping some homeworking in order to benefit from these more effective shifts.

Or can these new types of shifts be continued when the agent comes into the office, has the situation this year simply been a catalyst to making changes to shifts to suit both the business and the agents?  In all cases ensure agent’s preferences to be taken into consideration, it’s not for everyone.

If you have a good WFM tool, for example Calabrio Teleopti WFM, then you’ll be able to run What if Scenarios with say half WFH shifts and half office shifts or 20% and 80% – then the impacts of each scenario can easily be assessed.

If you do decide to continue to have homeworking as a more permanent part of your business, I have a blog and video detailing how this can be managed please see links here.  There is a lot to consider, you have probably done half of it already! But check out the blog/video to help you decide.

Schedule Labels

I think it’s important that if you are using a WFM tool or even if using Excel, that there is an easy to see ‘label’ displaying where the agent is working i.e. are they at home or in the office.  This should be visible to the agent themselves, your team managers and any support staff.

For the agents if they are doing some days at home and some days in the office then this is a quick and easy way for the location of their working pattern to be displayed to them and communicated to them. 

It should enable the WFM team visibility of where an agent is for planning purposes, for example there may be certain tasks that are only possible to do when working in the office such as dealing with written correspondence, or there may be some systems that agents working from home are not able to access.

Real time analysts and team leaders will need to know the agents planned location so they know who to expect to walk through the door in the morning!

Finally it may also be important in terms of facilities in your building for example if there is an evacuation or how many meals the canteen are expected to provide. 

Here are 2 ideas of how this can be done with a WFM tool.

In this first example the agents in this centre mainly work on phone calls only and when working from home will always be on the phones.  Therefore, it is easy to rename the current activity to ‘Phones Office’ and create a new activity called ‘Phones WFM’ with a new colour/icon.  In the example below it is easy to check the working location of the agent.

In this second example the agents are in a centre where 8 or 9 different types of work are scheduled including calls, emails, chats, social media, correspondence, complaints etc.  In this case rather than replicating all of these activities, simply create a new activity called ‘WFH’ and add 15 mins of this to the start of the agent’ schedule when working from home.  Ensure that this activity is configured as ‘not paid’, ‘not working’ and not part of contract time.

If you do set this up then it goes without saying make sure that everyone is fully briefed and understands what these labels are to avoid confusion!


Your agents may be tempted to cancel their time off as they cannot go away to far away lands. 

We all need to take a break from work to recharge the batteries from time to time, make sure your agents are still taking time off that they have booked and continue to book time off.

Don’t snowplough all your centres’ days off to the end of the year, it will just move the problem to another time.

Where people are still working from home, it’s a great opportunity to encourage time off to be taken in half days or part days.  Administrating these types of smaller chunks of holidays is really easy with a WFM tool – booking and authorising is just the same as full days.  If you currently only allow time off in full days then consider using the current situation to move to a more flexible approach which benefits the business and the individual – it’s a win win!

Booking small chunks of time off even down to 15 mins off is a great way of extending your lunch or leaving early/starting late rather than a shift swap or using up a full day.  For the business it can mean more targeted placement of time off and an even distribution of time off throughout the year.

Offline time

Work with managers to create break/lunch ‘buddy groups’ to keep contact with people to a minimum (similar to how schools are managing).  This means your agents could be with the same 3 people most of the time in the office.  This can be done automatically with most WFM tools.

Keep up with team video calls to help with team comradery, especially if you have some still at home and some in the office.  This can help reassure those still at home that going back in the office is ok. 

One to ones are not a luxury!  Keep them up no matter how busy you are.  Unfortunately, in my experience these types of meetings are typically the first thing that gets cancelled when centres are busy, but when you measure the total of offline time, this is a very small part of the overall picture.  The benefits to the agents’ well-being, morale and productivity far out way a possible extra 30 mins in a month of taking calls if they are cancelled.


With most WFM real time monitoring tools the intraday analyst can monitor and measure adherence for home working agents in the same way if they are in the office.  After all many larger centres may have the intraday team located in a different part of the building. 

The key is the activity of the agent can be monitored in the same way and if they need help or make a schedule change request the communication channels should be just the same i.e. calling the WFM team, WFM tool request etc.  It is rare that this process would be physically approaching the team.

With web views available on both desktops and modules the methods of feedback and self-monitoring by the agent should be the same too.

Achieving adherence targets can be a different story!  People working from home may have distractions (little darlings!) and also extra time may be needed between calls if they need to contact a colleague for advice.  So it may be prudent to aim for a lower adherence target at this time.  Any agents you have concerns about, make sure you feedback to their manager, the agent might be struggling with the working from home, it’s not for everyone (again!). 

I hope this has given you some food for thought for you schedulers on the route back to the office.

Take care for now


Jo Kirman

Jo Kirman


QPC are your Contact Centre experts delivering bespoke solutions and best in breed technology to ensure your success

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