What is really a mental health issue? How does it manifest itself at work? And what are the consequences in a call center? To better understand this problem, which is unfortunately still taboo, and to provide answers that will help support employees and owners. We will look in-depth at this issue and what strategies can be adopted by contact centers. And here’s what you should know about mental health and stress among call center employees.
Understanding Mental Health
According to the World Health Organisation, “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
In other words, it is a state of mental equilibrium dependent on biological, social, and environmental conditions. It is a result that mirrors the sum of internal and external conflicts, without being destabilized.
Why is it such a taboo subject?
Before getting to the heart of the matter. It should be noted that simply talking about “mental health” automatically means talking about mental problems. The subject is so taboo that in the professional world, we put polite periphrases to talk about it. After all, it’s easier to talk about cold at work than to talk about stress, burnout, or anything else. But why is that?
Mental health is an easy source of amalgam. From a cultural perspective, if someone complains about stress or begins to show signs of trouble. They will be labeled directly as cranky, sensitive, or weak. And that’s where the first problem lies, it’s seen as a personality trait, not a symptom.
On the other hand, mental disorders are frightening. Indeed, it is not so easy to admit such a state to oneself. It is one of those subjects that we don’t know much about, that we don’t talk about enough in the professional world. And where fear exists, silence reigns, which adds more fuel to the fire.
So where does this fear come from?
Although, the answer varies widely among employees. However, it is easy to observe a pattern. The cliches about mental problems in the workplace are so tenacious. That most employees tend to take an extreme view of the subject. Because if something isn’t going well, then everything must be going very badly. Faced with such a misperception, most will give in to denial and say that everything is fine, rather than talking about it to deal with the problem.
In the world of contact centers, where performance and numbers are at the forefront. It is difficult to talk about mental health and the fear it inspires. Today more than ever, recognizing the warning signs is the first step toward a solution.
How do mental health and stress issues manifest among call center employees?
Between the urgency of achieving business goals, managerial pressure, and talking to customers on the phone all day long. The causes that can trigger mental issues are many. However, an imbalance between professional and private life is the main factor.
The world of work has changed drastically and the age of the workforce has increased dramatically. And agents have to cope with difficult and stressful living conditions. between Covid, periods of unemployment, financial difficulties, and more. This results in anxiety disorders, accumulated stress, or worse, burn-out.
Stress causes a series of symptoms in agents, all indicative of a persistent malaise. Which only feed the pathologies they cause:
- Low self-esteem,
- Concentration problems.
The repercussions on your agent’s health are difficult to stop. Especially when the person suffering from it is locked in his malaise, for fear of being misunderstood or simply rejected.
We can also note that transportation time to work has an impact on mental health. 28% of people with a commuting time to work of more than 1.5 hours are affected by distress leading to a mental disorder, compared to 21% for those with less than 1.5 hours of commuting time.
The causes of stress in the workplace are multiple. The biggest example includes lack of recognition, fear of not being up able to meet targets, overly demanding hierarchical supervisors, and monotony of tasks.
The ICD-11 International Classification of Diseases, defines diseases, disorders, injuries, and other health conditions. Burn-out is characterized by three dimensions:
- A lack of energy or exhaustion ;
- Withdrawal from work, or negative or cynical work-related feelings;
- A loss of professional efficiency.
The symptoms of burn-out often lead to insomnia, irritability, difficulty concentrating, or anxiety.
It is an emotional, physical, and psychic exhaustion. The agent will feel empty, as a result, he will devaluate himself, lose his sense of accomplishment, and think that he’s no longer up to the task.
Concretely, when faced with situations of this chronic stress. The burnout agent is no longer able to cope or simply work.
The duty of call centers
The causes of a mental problem can vary widely. They can be related to personal life, a complicated professional situation, and often a combination of both. And while recognizing a mental problem in itself is a major test for an agent, contact centers must also be aware of it.
These challenges are not always easy. But it is necessary to start with smaller changes in order to create more favorable working conditions for your agents.
- Allowing more breaks in an adequate manner ;
- Consider part-time work for a fixed period of time;
- Redistribute tasks that are problematic for the rest of the team;
- Propose an alternative role in another campaign for agents;
- Assign a senior agent who can guide the work and be a good listener during calls;
- Promoting autonomy among agents at their workstations;
- Promoting continuous training;
- Encouraging personal development.
Supervisors should be leaders
It is always said that there is a difference between a manager and a leader! From that perspective, supervisors must create a work environment conducive to mental well-being that will benefit not only your agents but also your contact center as a whole.
Today, it is estimated that only companies that do so can achieve a return on investment five times greater than their investment. This is why it is necessary to :
- Understand that the supervisor’s involvement is vital.
- Plan briefs with their teams every week, just to see how the agents are managing the campaign and other pressures.
- Think about ideas to reduce stress such as team building.
- Empathize: how does your team feel and how are they dealing with new stressors?
- Organize frequent individual briefings with each agent.
The Role of human resources
Besides payments, recruitment, and administrative work. Human resources employees are also responsible for ensuring a healthy workplace for everyone. Therefore, you can implement HR related programs such as :
- Training sessions and coaching to supervisors to give them a better understanding of their role;
- Provide supervisors with concrete examples of practices to integrate into the daily management of their teams;
- Awareness sessions on stress and anxiety to all employees in order to demystify mental health disorders and allow them to identify potential stress situations;
- Mandatory health breaks of a few minutes during the busiest periods of the year;
- Employee assistance program to ensure that employees receive the attention and help they need to manage stressful situations related to work or their personal life;
- Sensitize and train supervisor;
- Recognize the risk factors specific to the work environment;
- Identify the profile of agents and their needs.
Communication is everything!
Your most powerful tool to reduce stress and avoid agent overwork is regular communication. It is not only a key management asset but also a crucial responsibility when in call centers. When you talk to your team members, listen carefully to understand how they really feel and how they deal with new stressors.
However, with the prevalence of remote work in the contact center industry. It is difficult to maintain effective communication, especially when performance concern is a priority among business owners. That is why it’s important to have technology such as NobelBiz‘s Omni+. A solution that allows you to maintain an appropriate work pace while ensuring effective communication at all levels.