Around 85% of staff in shared services and contact centres were working from home as of last month - up from 20% prior to the Covid-19 crisis, according to the Customer Contact Management Association. 

The finding emerges from a survey of CCMA's 55 members including global technology financial services and outsourcing firms employing over 23,000 staff published today.

Over half of companies surveyed now have their entire workforce working remotely, though looking ahead to 2021, 57% of respondents anticipate that staff will be working on-site.

However, CCMA Ireland warns that the government must address the key issue of broadband to support new ways of working.

On a positive note, the survey finds that 40% of respondents plan to recruit additional staff during 2020.56% of respondents expressed optimism that the worst of the pandemic was over, though 16% fear the worst is yet to come. 

42% of respondents reported a positive increase in productivity since working from home was introduced, though 29% had experienced a decrease. 

In terms of managing remote teams, companies reported a number of key challenges including staff engagement (67%), and the quality of broadband connectivity (67%).

Within the next 12 months, companies expect to see an increase in "hybrid" working models (45%) along with an increase in automation (22%). 

The main challenges for staff working from home were lack of engagement with co-workers (69%), lack of childcare (67%), lack of adequate office space at home (58%) and broadband connectivity (49%) - with broadband described as the primary technology challenge faced by staff 

Survey respondents said their priorities for the next six months include maintaining high customer service (45%), increasing staff engagement (42%) and automation of customer service (38%).

CCMA Ireland Managing Director Dorothy O'Byrne said the report demonstrated that the industry had responded well to the Covid-19 crisis, and had been able to maintain effective customer service support - adding that it would continue to focus on providing high levels of customer service while supporting and engaging with staff. 

The survey reveals that the call centre workforce is predominantly female (53%) and young, with an average  age of workers was 31. 90% were aged between 24 and 40.