It has been estimated that job stress and stress-related work absences cost U.S. businesses over $300 billion a year. In a 2011 survey by the American Psychological Association, it was reported that 36% of workers typically feel stressed out throughout their day, and for 20% of those employees, the level of stress ranges from 8 to 10 on a 10-point scale. Additionally, only two-thirds of workers were motivated to do their best, and 32% intended to look for alternate employment. But working for a call center isn’t that bad, right? How hard can it be to answer phones?
When most people think of stressful jobs, careers like firefighters, surgeons, police officers, and rescue workers come to mind. However, one of the tensest working conditions involves sitting at a desk and talking on the phone; yes, the telephone answering service operator. If your business is healthy, then calls will come in continuously. So call center operators are faced with an unending stream of work, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. And that makes the call center environment extremely taxing.
Operators will tell you that during peak times, calls come in frequent, overwhelming bursts. Although there may be an occasional declination in the volume of incoming calls, this does not automatically imply a break for operators; staffing is usually decreased proportionately to match the lessened volume during these periods. Whether the call volume is on an upsurge or in a lull, it does not change the nature of the calls themselves. Call center operators are often bombarded with irate callers, and as a result, employee absenteeism and turnover are prevalent in this low-paying industry.
The life of a call center operator can be stressful and isolated. The job does have its share of benefits, though. A fast paced, high-energy environment can be quite rewarding. Additionally, the around-the-clock nature of the business provides numerous options for shift workers. Nevertheless, as with any position, there are days when you feel like ripping your hair out.
To help prevent an industry-wide baldness epidemic, we offer these 21 tips on how to relieve the stress of your occupation as a call center operator.
Sit back, take a deep breath, and clear your mind. You’re going to be dealing with people from the time you sit at your desk until the time you clock out, so just take it easy.
Don’t take it personally.
On the phone, you’ll have to deal with many rude people; it’s not a matter of “if” some of your callers will be rude, but “when” and “how many.” So why fight the inevitable? Let them be rude. Just be polite, apologize for the inconvenience, and keep smiling. Separate yourself from the situation. Avoid internalizing. After all, they’re not angry with you, so don’t let them get to you. Chances are you will never hear from them again – so keep their problems, needs, and requests at arm’s length.
Leave home at home.
Everyone has personal problems. Let them stay personal. Bringing these issues to work will only compound the problem. Think of your workplace as a mini-vacation from screaming children, dirty dishes, and crazy spouses – the list goes on.
Work at work.
The same rule applies from the very second your shift is over. At the end of the day, drop those unresolved problems at the time clock. Don’t worry about unfinished work. It will still be there tomorrow. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it’s ok to leave a few things on your desk. When you are at home with your family, be in the moment. Forget about the office altogether. Compartmentalization will help you keep work-related stress from spilling over into your personal life, and vice versa.
Take your breaks.
This is scheduled time off, so make the most of it. Relax. Take your shoes off, put your feet up (ok, well, maybe not literally). Go for a walk, find a book, listen to some music; those 15 minutes are your time to get away from your desk. Enjoy every moment, because soon you’ll be back on the phone.
Make sure you drink water and lots of it. Though it may not seem so, being on the phone that long can take a toll on you. You need water to function successfully, both mentally and physically. The more water you drink, the stronger your performance (and the less likely you’ll be coughing into callers’ ears because your throat is dry). Furthermore, who knows, it may increase the number of bathroom breaks you end up taking.
Get away for lunch.
Unless your employer makes a habit of chaining you to your desk on your lunch hour, go out and get something to eat. If you pack a lunch, sit outside if weather permits. Even if you can only get as far as eating in your car, go for it! Turn the radio on. Bust a rhyme. Enjoy your long break outside the four walls of the call center, and take advantage of that hour to unwind. A little time to yourself can help you power through the rest of the day. And you have earned it.
Personalize your workspace.
Transform your workstation into a happy place that you can call your own. Pictures of family, cartoons, calendars, and small plants can make your space feel like home. Maybe even a few fresh flowers or a little desk lamp – whatever it takes to perk up your partition! You live in a cubicle 8 hours a day, so make the most of it.
Clutter is often a major factor contributing to stress. Eliminate it. Don’t be furiously searching for something you are sure you put “right next to the mouse pad.” Organize your area. Knowing where everything is will make work less stressful, and make life much easier.
Bobby McFerrin said it best. Don’t worry, be happy; after all, you’re employed. These days, many people are not as fortunate, so, on some level, be thankful. Although it might feel like a minor consolation, being stressed about a job is usually better than stressing over being unemployed. Stay positive. Be polite and be professional. If you think or act like your job is going to be awful, it will be. Keep an air of optimism about you. If you keep a “glass half-full” mentality, your job won’t be as grueling. Take a cue from Monty Python, and always look on the bright side of life.
Recognize your triggers.
The first step in tackling stress is figuring out what it is that is causing you such duress. Self-awareness is an important component in becoming a better person and a better employee. If something is bothering you, you can choose to ignore the source or fix the problem. After you have identified your triggers, do what’s necessary to get rid of them one step at a time.
Curb caffeine intake.
Everyone loves a cup of coffee or two (or three or four…) to get them through the day. Recent studies have shown that coffee has long-term benefits for brain and heart health, and has a positive effect on mood. But you know that old saying, too much of a good thing can make you sick? Well, too much caffeine can actually jack up your heart rate and increase your stress level. How productive will you be if you’re on edge from a caffeine binge? So, if that coffee mug is usually superglued to your hand, then pry it off, and try to switch out a cup or two for flavored water, herbal tea, or some other caffeine-free option.
Do your job.
You are a call center operator, so you might as well be the best darn operator your call center has ever seen. Do your job and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Always take pride in your work. Be all that you can be! Hard work leads to recognition by your superiors, and heck, maybe even a bonus. A successful day on the job is a stress reliever in and of itself.
Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs DO NOT relieve stress.
On the surface, these vices may seem like the perfect way to mask that anxiety. They aren’t. These habits only serve as a temporary fix; they don’t resolve your issues, they just cover them up. And then what do you have? More stress. In addition, these substances put your physical well-being in jeopardy. So, just say no. Your body will thank you.
Realize you can’t control everything.
What goes on in the call center is often a result of circumstances beyond your control. The types of calls, the call volume, and the conditions may line up to create the perfect storm, causing chaos in your contact center environment. You can’t be Superman and solve every problem, but you can do whatever is in your power to help as best you can. When you accept that every profession has limits, your job won’t be as tough on you.
Live a healthy lifestyle.
Take a walk on your break, eat correctly, exercise, meditate, get plenty of sleep, and stay away from harmful substances (see #14). A healthier lifestyle leads to a healthier you! The better you feel, the less stressed out you’ll be. Take care of yourself – mind, body and spirit.
Surround yourself with things you love.
This includes on and off the clock. As previously mentioned, at your desk, create a sense of happiness and peace, an environment you will enjoy going to each day. At home, surround yourself with things you love. Whether it’s family, friends, sports, music, books; whatever the case, if you love it and it makes you smile, fill your life with it.
Take a day off.
It’s as easy as that. Schedule a day, in advance, where you can just stay home and relax, fit in your “me” time, and recharge your batteries. Take a day trip. Get a massage. Whatever you do, imbue your “mental health day” with as much relaxation as you can fit into 24 hours. It’s well-deserved time off. Use it to the fullest.
Stretching is one of the simplest stress relief methods out there. Get out of your desk chair and stretch to lengthen those muscles. Walk around for a minute. Sitting in a chair 8 hours a day can wreak havoc on your circulation. So stretch from head to toe and get your blood pumping. It will energize you!
You get up, you go to work, and you go home. You are not there 24/7, and you won’t be there your entire life. Avenue Q seems to put it best, “Don’t stress, relax, and let life roll off your back. Except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now.” It’s just a job. So you work hard, you put your best effort into every task, and at the end of the day, you let go. Don’t let workplace tension tear you up inside. Life is too short to be angry and frustrated all the time.
Remember: life is a journey. Enjoy the ride…