Burnt-out employees have a significant impact on contact centres, with low morale, as well as increased staff shortages and attrition, just some of the side effects.
Why Should Contact Centres Focus on Avoiding Employee Burnout?
Working in a contact centre can be an exceptionally difficult job. Agents can become emotionally and mentally exhausted, stressed and just generally tired if they are scheduled to work long hours in peak times.
Management, technology, equipment, and training to do the job, as well as co-worker relationships directly influence employee fatigue, or worse yet, lead to the newest workplace trend, quiet quitting.
With a direct and immediate impact on business outcomes, the importance of maintaining an engaged and seasoned workforce can have enormous benefits including:
- Understanding communication, marketing, and sales goals
- Providing outstanding CX
- Attracting new customers and employees
- Growth within the organization
- Maintaining and promoting mental and physical health
Thanks to Jamie White at Alvaria
With this in mind, we asked our panel of experts for their advice on how to avoid employee burnout.
22 Ways to Prevent Employee Burnout
1. Identify Signs of Burnout
Identifying burnout is the first step in tackling the problem. If you’re seeing higher-than-normal rates of absenteeism and churn, you’ve probably got a staff burnout issue. But what can you do to tackle it?
Regular check-ins with staff are vital in taking the wellbeing of your employees seriously. If possible, train mental health champions across the business to be on hand to provide assistance, and give staff access to wellbeing resources to offer help when needed.
Ensuring staff have the right technology to do their jobs to the best of their abilities is key too. The right technology can ease workloads and increase job satisfaction, reducing stress and staff churn.
Thanks to Ben Booth at MaxContact
2. Assess Potentially Stressful Situations
Stress and exhaustion are the main drivers of employee burnout.
In order for a call centre to avoid situations where employee burnout is likely, they should assess potentially stressful situations.
Some examples of this in practice would be:
Assessment: Call quality can cause frustrations and undue stress for both call centre agents and customers.
Solution: This can be avoided by conducting regular call quality tests. This helps avoid a potentially stressful situation, which will ensure a better customer experience in addition to helping reduce employee burnout.
Assessment: A call centre is affected by what is currently happening within the organization(s) it caters for, as well as any future plans.
Solution: Stress from unexpected peak periods can be avoided with open communication with the organization(s) to enable adequate availability of trained staff during potential peaks. Assessments can assist in minimizing stress, preventing excessive overtime and thereby avoiding employee burnout.
Thanks to Caroline Leonard at Spearline
3. Build Resilience in Your Team
It’s impossible to isolate yourself from stress and problems. In fact, stress can even be beneficial to performance in short bursts, so in the real world resilience is key.
Take a three-step approach to helping build resilience in your team.
3 Steps to Build Team Resilience
- Reserve your agents’ resilience for when it matters and minimize repetitive daily frustrations (ask for agent opinion as to what these issues are).
- Promote healthy coping strategies with spaces or policies to support inward coping strategies such as quiet time and outward strategies like socializing, team building, physical activity, or distraction.
- Restore the balance with breaks from stress to reset. Sometimes to do this, supervisors need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. There will almost always be a call queue, idle agents are an urban legend; however, if giving an agent a break maintains engagement and enhances effectiveness, do it!
4. Provide a Spectrum of Support
What may be viewed as support to one may feel intrusive to someone else. A culture of openness and a range of support processes leave the door open for agents to engage in a way that is comfortable.
Employee networks and events encourage community, problem solving and the sharing of experiences in a safe space.
For some, on-site work is a crucial part of this – first-hand experience listening to other agent conversations helps identify new strategies and builds camaraderie. Everyone has bad days!
The comedy timing and witty banter of colleagues is also an incredible way to dissipate tension.
Another form of colleague support is when supervisors adapt their role to the circumstances, so at peak demand troubleshooting problems provides much needed functional support, tangible back-up in tough times.
Thanks to Juliet Fehr at Odigo
5. Don’t Force Employee Engagement
Employee turnover is one of the biggest obstacles to team, company mission and vision. Employee churn is problematic in every industry. Competency, service quality and customer satisfaction all suffer when there is a lack of engagement.
Sometimes to promote engagement, we end up forcing the issue. Mandatory meetings, additional off-the-clock sessions and pay-your-own-way events are terrible ideas with good intentions.
Work-sponsored and financed educational programmes, best-practice sessions, lunch and learns, knowledge sharing and teambuilding exercises, all done within the workday or made optional, send the right message without requiring sacrifice and risking burnout.
6. Discover How Your Team Feels
In order to discover how your team feels, you’re going to need to ask them. Some will be honest, most will not. True feedback requires multiple channels of input for management to gather a complete picture.
Anonymous surveys as well as interviews or one-on-one meetings can help make employees feel like their voices are heard.
Prioritize listening and open-ended questions over leading questions so you can understand how to support your team more.
Observe how your team performs and interacts together, and in relation to other teams. Be prepared to identify disengagement and address it as soon as possible.
Thanks to Jamie White at Alvaria
7. Analyse Agent Performance Data
With 74 percent of your contact centre agent workforce at risk of burnout, it’s time to do detective work on what’s happening and why. You can do so by analysing the quantitative and qualitative data you collect on agent performance.
Obvious signs of agent burnout can include frequent schedule changes, no-shows at shifts, and higher-than-normal attrition.
Less obvious signs can include negative sentiment gleaned from text and voice analysis of customer interactions, simple mistakes, and longer call resolution timeframes.
When you observe these trends, seek to understand why they’re happening and what changes are required to empower agents and make them happy again.
These changes can span process, technology, and culture changes. However, the investments you make in helping agents support customers and grow their careers at your company will pay rich dividends in the years to come.
Thanks to Perry Gale at Cyara
8. Provide Flexibility for a Better Work–Life Balance
Supporting the health and wellbeing of work-from-home (WFH) employees is essential to avoid burnout – and the task is often quite different from supporting health and wellbeing in a bricks-and-mortar (B&M) setting.
A key reason for this is personal isolation. For some, WFH can be a very lonely experience, a problem that needs to be managed proactively.
Management best practice can include:
- Holding regular 1-2-1 sessions with team members
- Really ‘getting to know’ homeworkers (enabling managers to spot and sense behaviours that are out-of-the-ordinary)
- Providing a virtual ‘live’ workplace environment (so that people can feel they’re around colleagues during the working day)
- Setting expectations as to what is required and what support is available.
Much of the responsibility for conducting these actions falls on team leaders (TLs), often necessitating fresh TL training focused on managing in a WFH setting in an open and honest way, recognizing the symptoms of burnout, and constantly communicating.
It’s often said that ‘over-communicating’ and ‘over-compensating’ is no bad thing in a WFH setting. But it’s also important to recognize the reasons people want to WFH, and the most important of these is work–life balance (WLB).
Put simply, individuals often want to WFH because they’re keen on eliminating the time wasted commuting to and from work, and rather than a 9–5, are keen to work around their other daily priorities.
For this reason, giving people the ability to, at least partially, self-select their own working hours is crucial. Crucial to delivering a better WLB, but also to relieving stress and hence employee burnout.
Thanks to Kirsty McCarrick at Sensée
9. Give Employees Greater Autonomy
Choosing where you work makes you happier, with 60% of employees preferring hybrid work, according to Jabra’s 2022 edition of the Hybrid Ways of Working Global Report.
Employees say that being able to decide where and when they work positively impacts their wellbeing, happiness, and productivity levels. However, only 39% are working in such arrangements and only 20% of employees have full autonomy to choose where they work.
With contact centre attrition rates increasing, to retain staff, there are clear benefits to giving employees the power to choose their desired working space.
But this strategy won’t succeed without also giving all workers the right tools and support to be productive in any environment.
This means creating an office and virtual workplace where staff feel motivated and engaged, reducing noise levels and distractions that can impact concentration levels and contribute to stress and fatigue.
Thanks to Nigel Dunn at Jabra
10. Introduce Virtual Agents to Provide Support
An agent’s job can be extremely stressful. The average annual turnover rate for a contact centre is 30–40%. They must resolve complex enquiries with frustrated customers as well as repeat information again and again, which is very monotonous.
Forrester Research has revealed that companies which combine AI with human agents have simultaneously reported improvement in both agent (69%) and customer satisfaction (61%).
Intelligent virtual agents can reduce workload stress for agents with self-service and automating repetitive tasks.
Additionally, they can relieve a greater amount of stress by assisting the human agent during call escalations.
The agent should know everything about the previous engagement, so the customer never has to repeat themselves and the agent doesn’t have to put the customer on hold to look for information.
With assistance from the virtual agent, the human already knows what happened in the previous interaction and can continue the interaction with ease, starting the conversation on a positive rather than a negative.
Thanks to Jason Griffin at Five9
11. Acknowledge Employee Effort
Every member of your team must feel like their work and contribution is valuable. There is no worse feeling than your work or presence going unnoticed.
Recognition of work done and accomplished keeps your employees motivated and engaged, which promotes productivity.
In absence of recognition, simple acknowledgement of effort can suffice. Don’t forget that even mistakes are an opportunity for engagement.
12. Use Incentives
When in doubt, money is always a good incentive. Bonuses are useful for attracting talent, but especially in our current work environments, the emphasis on money and ROI can be complicated when seeking continuous engagement.
Find something new that differentiates and makes your organization unique; this will help engagement and contribute to company culture as well.
A unique set of benefits will attract a unique set of employees and support the culture you promote.
Ideas such as happy hours or even discounts and partnerships with a specific store can be an easy way to keep your employees connected and invested.
Thanks to Jamie White at Alvaria
13. Manage Agent Workloads
When workload matches capacity, agents have the appropriate time for personal development, professional growth, and rest. Unfortunately, contact centres often lose this balance, causing agents to chronically feel overburdened.
Many contact centres understand the solution: staff to a level where occupancy does not exceed 85 percent. However, unexpected demand and staff shortages frequently force the hand of managers desperate to meet demand.
Moreover, as contact centres introduce digital channels, demand rises higher. After all, opening up another channel encourages communication, which is excellent for engagement but tricky for agents to manage.
The answer? Task and conversation mining, isolating automation opportunities to ease team strain. Yet this takes time.
As such, the first remedy is to get a grip on workforce management (WFM) and gain an accurate view of contact volumes and demand drivers. In doing so, operations can build more precise schedules, predict spikes, and design better routing systems.
14. Create Agent Autonomy
Agents lack the luxury of planning out their workload. Also, many have little access to support systems or say in decisions affecting their working lives. These factors take a toll on wellbeing.
Realizing this, many contact centres closely consider how to build agent autonomy. Doing so involves offering more control over what they do, how they do it, and when they do it.
Creating new roles, such as subject-matter experts and charity reps – which agents can apply for – provides agents with more choice in what they do.
Enabling agents to go off-script, find their own voice, and shift conversations between channels is excellent for giving agents a say in how they do it.
Finally, in terms of when they do it, use the agent app that comes with modern WFM systems. This allows agents to shift-bid, shift-swap, and set schedule preferences.
Thanks to Paul Day at Calabrio
15. Set Realistic Expectations
The wrong goals will disengage some and prompt burnout in others, especially high-value high achievers.
Regularly reviewed personalized goals are ideal to keep the balance between motivation, achievability and job satisfaction.
They also keep lines of communication open for other wellbeing topics: ‘I can see your performance has changed, is there something we can do to help?’
If this isn’t a realistic starting place for your organization, smart use of KPIs can be beneficial even though it seems counterintuitive.
Identify what your contact centre can achieve in a range of demanding situations. This data can generate kind targets and act as a stress gauge signalling underperformance even when conditions are taken into account.
Endemic burnout should be a red flag to take action, albeit too late: environmental improvements, support meetings and wellbeing initiatives.
Thanks to Juliet Fehr at Odigo
16. Efforts Should Be Systemic and Individual
When you consider the broader systemic issues often attributed to burnout, factors that often appear include company culture, work expectations, and leadership.
As a result, all efforts to address burnout should be at both a systemic and individual level. Unfortunately, many organizations focus only on the individual level, ignoring broader systemic opportunities.
Culture is a broad term but boils down to:
- Do staff feel safe and comfortable at work?
- Are they empowered to raise issues?
- Do managers and leaders genuinely care and have work–life balance as a KPI or a box-ticking exercise?
This feeds into work expectations. Managers constantly deal with pressure to ensure operational efficiency and high levels of productivity in call centres.
However, it is important leaders continuously evaluate work expectations and ensure employees are empowered to give feedback and discuss work–life balance.
Additionally, it’s vital management doesn’t just listen, but also acts on feedback.
Thanks to Cara Greene at 8×8
17. Prioritize Employee Experience
Prioritize the employee experience and ensure that workers can thrive, regardless of location.
This starts with identifying technologies that will enable both in-office and remote employees to be productive and collaborate, whether talking to customers, meeting with supervisors or taking an online training course.
Professional headsets that are designed specifically for contact centre workers deliver speech clarity and offer background noise cancellation, enabling agents to focus on conversations with customers at ease. These features can improve both the customer and agent experience, and ultimately impact customer satisfaction – a key performance indicator in contact centres.
Headsets that are being worn all day should also be ultra-lightweight, while specially designed ear cushions can relieve pressure and are comfortable to wear in any environment.
With agents relying on technology more than ever to do their job, this will all go a long way in helping to reduce fatigue and stress.
18. Increase Inclusion in Virtual and Hybrid Meetings
So much of our time is now spent in virtual environments, and for workers that might be struggling, having quality time and personal interaction with their managers is essential.
Four in 10 employees say they feel left out of the conversation in hybrid meetings, and a lack of proper technology can make relationship-building in these virtual environments more tenuous and difficult than it needs to be.
So how can technology be more inclusive and help keep staff motivated and engaged? Video increases inclusion and can have a positive impact on employees’ wellbeing and productivity levels.
In fact, 62 percent of employees say they feel more included and present in meetings when everyone has their camera turned on, Jabra’s research shows. Every participant should have a place at the table and have equal opportunity to contribute to meetings.
Thanks to Nigel Dunn at Jabra
19. Create Opportunities for Positive Recognition
Call centre agents are the voice and often frontline of your brand and deal with frustrated customers daily, with no time to spare to enhance their learning or skillset.
If agents are disengaged and exhausted, this can greatly impact your overall contact centre performance.
Providing your agents with tools that can automate the mundane admin tasks, such as call summarization, that often bog them down in an already time-pressured environment can help them do their job faster and better and give them more time to spend improving their knowledge and putting the customer first.
It’s also important to listen to 100% of your agents’ interactions so you can better understand their needs and highlight opportunities for improvement.
One way of doing this is through real-time feedback during calls, or shortly after, which can give much needed positive reinforcement on performance and build job satisfaction.
Another way is through in-the-moment coaching to help proactively resolve calls more successfully, increasing their knowledge, confidence, and performance – leading to a happier working environment and better positive customer outcomes.
Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
20. Create a Fair and Open Community
It’s tricky for team leaders to ensure each agent’s contribution receives fair praise and does not go unnoticed, especially in remote environments.
Yet having a system to monitor agent achievements is increasingly critical, as a perceived lack of fairness exacerbates burnout.
Unfortunately, conventional performance analysis techniques, such as call listening driven by random selection, fail to keep up. Nevertheless, these “luck of the draw” assessments fuel many reward and recognition schemes.
Luckily, quality management solutions that offer a 360-degree view into agent activities allow leaders to spot excellent performance in real time. As such, supervisors may offer timely, confidence-boosting recognition that reignites their purpose.
Sentiment and keyword analysis tools embedded into the solution enable immediate recognition, paving the way for data-driven feedback that removes perceived bias.
Moreover, giving the team an unhindered view of this data perpetuates a feeling of fairness across the agent community.
Thanks to Paul Day at Calabrio
21. Reduce Agent Stress With Self-Service
Some 60 percent of organizations are already using artificial intelligence (AI)-guided self-service tools, and more than three-quarters plan to increase AI and automation investments in the year ahead.
AI-guided tools, such as interactive voice response (IVR), chatbots, and virtual agents, reduce the strain on agents by gathering customer data and answering common questions.
That enables agents to focus on higher-level duties, such as addressing urgent or complicated requests. Ongoing customer experience (CX) testing also ensures that these channels work as planned.
By deflecting more calls to self-service, organizations can gain space to build culture. For example, managers can offer greater flexibility with scheduling. Agents gain more autonomy over when they schedule shifts and for how long, improving their work–life balance.
Offering career tracks, rotations, mentoring, and coaching can help agents look to the future. Finding meaning and purpose in work helps agents reduce their day-to-day stress loads.
22. Streamline Service Interactions
Predictive intent is the new watchword of almost every industry. Organizations want to be able to anticipate what their customers will do, which includes how they interact with contact centre channels and agents.
Historically, agents have had to spend time unearthing customer needs and motivations on phone calls and chat sessions.
Now, technology such as natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning can use profiles, online behaviour, past contact centre interactions, and channel use to predict why customers are initiating a new interaction.
This information can help contact centres route chats and calls to the right agents, who can more quickly triage and solve problems.
In addition, managers can get early indicators of common customer complaints and prioritize fixes. By so doing, managers can help protect agents and avoid issues that lead to their burnout.
Thanks to Perry Gale at Cyara
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