Mental Health / 05.04.2021

Caring for the Physical and Mental Wellbeing of Your Customer Service Agents: A Guide

workplace stress

It Has never been more critical for organizations to care for their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. Workplace stress causes U.S. businesses alone around $300 billion per year due to absenteeism, employee turnover and lost productivity. These figures are particularly applicable to businesses that operate call centers, as the job of a customer service agent is considered among the most stressful occupations.

Failing to manage call center agents’ wellbeing effectively can become hazardous to their health. Organizations must help their customer service agents cope with stress and keep their employees safe and happy to ensure the business runs as smoothly and successfully as possible.

This article examines how customer service leaders can reduce workplace stress and improve agents’ physical and mental health.

The Contact Center Problem with Wellbeing

Call centers are widely associated with workers being monitored electronically, having tightly controlled schedules and breaks and intense pressure on their performance. Add in working from small cubicles, following monotonous word-for-word scripts for many hours per day and the inevitable dealings with angry, frustrated customers, and it’s a disastrous recipe for stress-related issues.

As a result, research has routinely discovered high levels of anxiety, burnout and stress in call center workplaces, creating issues like absenteeism and high turnover for organizations.

For example, a Cornell University study found 87% of call center workers reported “high” or “very high” stress levels in their workplaces, while 77% reported “high” or “very high” personal stress levels. More than 50% of the call center agents surveyed said they felt emotionally drained, suffered sleep problems, felt burnout and were prescribed stress- or anxiety-related medication because of their work.

Common Causes of Workplace Stress

All workplaces have some causes of stress or tension, but the most common causes of work-related stress include:

  • A low salary
  • Excessive workload
  • A lack of opportunities to grow or advance in an organization
  • Work or tasks that aren’t challenging or engaging
  • Not being able to control job-related decisions
  • Unclear performance expectations and job requirements

The effects of stress don’t typically disappear when employees walk out of the office for the day. Persistent stress can dramatically affect their wellbeing, causing issues such as headaches and stomachaches, sleep loss and mood swings. People dealing with stress often counter it with unhealthy comforts, such as smoking, using drugs and alcohol and unhealthy eating or overeating.

This typically leads to further problems like high blood pressure, insomnia and anxiety, which cause or compound severe conditions like depression, heart disease and obesity.

How Employee Stress Impacts Your Business

Physical and mental stress can lead to employees being absent from work more frequently or underperforming when they do make it to work. This may hinder overall employee morale, decrease productivity levels and increase staff turnover—factors that have an overarching negative effect on an organization’s efficiency, productivity and profitability.

Employees dealing with stress will more than likely cause customer service challenges, which may affect client relationships and reduce customer satisfaction. At the same time, high turnover rates can be hugely costly, as you also need to find and train the replacements of the agents you lost.

How to Care for Your Call Center Agents’ Wellbeing

Call center leaders need to take steps to address workplace stress and better support their agents’ physical and mental wellbeing. However, it’s essential to carefully handle these concerns because, while addressing such issues can encourage organizational growth, it can also trigger insecurities and even more problems. For example, suggesting a weight-loss program may harm someone struggling with prolonged weight issues and insecurities.

  • Be flexible: It may not be possible to cater to every individual’s needs, but businesses need to adapt to changes that improve employees’ productivity and morale. For example, being open to schedule changes and providing manageable expectations can go a long way to a happy workforce.
  • Educate managers: It’s crucial to educate managers and supervisors on how to handle chronically stressed employees. Training can help managers spot potential signs of anxiety and stress and give them the skills required to provide support and improve employees’ wellbeing.
  • Make employees comfortable: It’s essential to create a working environment that encourages productivity and makes people feel comfortable throughout their working day. Closed-off cubicles may increase stress, demotivate people and limit communication with fellow employees. Creating warm, light, open spaces can encourage happier, more motivated employees and prevent workplace-related health issues like agitation, depression and fatigue. Furthermore, offering relaxation techniques—such as deep breathing exercises, meditation and mindfulness—and providing appropriate break times can have a significant impact on employee morale and job satisfaction.
  • Encourage good conversation: A good discussion is reliant on two active participants, so organizations must encourage and assist agents in providing meaningful and useful advice to customers. This may elevate customer happiness and increase agents’ job satisfaction levels.
  • Offer support: Organizations should aim to foster a culture of mindfulness in which employees are more aware of their thoughts and feelings. They can also, where appropriate, offer support, such as stress management resources, counseling and guidance and professional mental health referrals.
  • Introduce automation call center technology: Organizations can assist their customer service agents with conversational service automation, which uses artificial intelligence to understand customers’ real intent and analyze their emotions. In this day and age when positive customer experience is key to developing customer loyalty, customer service automation is crucial to helping agents resolve customer problems more quickly and efficiently.

Encourage great conversations and a happy call center workplace with Conversational Service Automation solutions from Uniphore.