JetBlue was founded with the goal “to bring humanity back to air travel” and operates a very different model than other airlines.
In 2000, they began to transition their customer service department to remote working. Now, 80% of their customer support workforce works remotely, although they are still based in the Salt Lake City, Utah area.
JetBlue has grown tremendously since 2000, and their at home customer service team of about 2,000 has grown as well. During this period of growth, JetBlue has developed and maintained a robust remote working culture, that works well for both leadership and employees with a 96% retention rate.
WHY MAKE THE TRANSITION?
JetBlue transitioned to remote working for a variety of reasons, the first of was to create a more diverse workforce. Now, 70% of their customer service team are “educated, high-ability mothers who wanted flexibility in their jobs” (HBR).
Reducing employee turnover was a second reason to make the transition. Founder David Neeleman “figured that the reservation agents — who take more than ten million calls a year — would be happier at home than in some call cubicle warehouse” (CBS).
A third reason was the reduction in real estate costs. Employees are provided with a computer and phone to complete their work, eliminating the need to outfit an office for those employees.
HOW WAS JETBLUE SUCCESSFUL?
A successful transition to remote working takes more than simply providing a computer and phone. Effective communication practices are critical for remote employees. JetBlue created the Customer Support Values Committee who communicates with employees about training, compensation, scheduling and other concerns. Executives visit employees at their home offices and invite them to come into the central office for training and new company initiatives.
A second important aspect of a remote work environment is creating a flexible and adaptive working culture. JetBlue call center employees work predetermined 8 hour shifts, but if they are experiencing a low volume of inbound calls, supervisors give the option for employees to take time off.
A third important part of creating a remote working culture is to foster a sense of community. Although remote employees do not see each other in an office setting, there are many other ways for them to interact. JetBlue created online forums for their employees to ask questions, take part in contests, and even share their favorite recipes and home office improvements. There are also company-wide recognition programs, community service initiatives, and fundraising efforts. JetBlue makes a point to make remote employees feel a part of the company with “frequent newsletters, informal notes and face-to-face get togethers” (Gaebler)
Supervisors “reach out to employees by phone or email, often for the sole purpose of relationship building” along with keeping track of performance reports, and monitored calls (Gaebler). Together, all of these aspects create a strong and enduring remote working culture where employees are happy and successful.
JETBLUE REMOTE WORKING REVIEW
JetBlue’s transition to remote working should be seen as a success. As soon as call center employees began to work from home, their productivity increased by 25% (CBS). One employee called the telework solution a “win-win”. She said working from home was a great solution for “information jobs that don’t need an office and don’t need to be exported overseas” (CBS).
Most managers and supervisors supported working from home, but not all. Bonny Simi, president of JetBlue Technology Ventures, said “Bosses need to just relax …They don’t have to see the employee for the work to get done. That’s the hardest shift in mind-set for some managers”(McKinsey).
Remaining flexible, communicating well, and creating a strong work from home culture where everyone understands their role are all important to fostering a successful and lasting transition to remote work.
INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?
Preparing for a New Era of Work – McKinsey
To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home – Harvard Business Review
A Day in the Life: Customer Support – JetBlue
Jet Blue Work at Home Customer Service – Gaebler