Top tips for dealing with call centre stress

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It seems that finally the message on work-related stress is hitting home and companies are focusing on their most valuable asset, their staff.

There has undoubtedly been a change in attitude over the last few years and well-being is the new black. Maybe it’s wanting to promote a great company image or maybe it is simply down to cold hard economics – stress costs!

It may not have a column on a budget sheet but its impact on the bottom line is substantial. Stress is one of the biggest challenges facing managers on a daily basis.

Spot the stress in your attrition figures

It is the biggest causes of sickness absence, under performance, low morale, increased litigation and ultimately high attrition levels. Exit research data tells us that there is a discrepancy between perceived reasons and the actual reasons people leave an organisation. When questioned, the majority of staff stated their main reasons for leaving as stress, while it rarely makes the top five in employers’ surveys. Nothing starts a mass exodus like high stress levels.

Start recognising stress

The first thing a manager needs to do to reduce stress in the workplace is to recognise it. This includes knowing when and how it affects them because one thing is guaranteed … if you’re stressed it will have a knock-on effect.

Spot the symptoms

Stress manifests itself in a variety of ways but symptoms may include changes in behaviour… smoking or drinking more, being unable to sleep, a change in eating habits. Or you may become indecisive, lose concentration, become irritable angry or anxious, or start feeling tired and listless. Stress can also be the underlying cause of aching muscles, headaches, stomach problems, high blood pressure and palpitations.

Lead by example

It is important to ensure that on a company wide level all possible actions are being taken to reduce work-related stress with improved work practices and management techniques. It is also important to take smaller, more immediate actions on a daily basis: encourage your staff to make small lifestyle changes and lead by example…

De-clutter your desk

Stress can make us feel overwhelmed by the simplest of tasks so be methodical and regain control. Do one thing at a time, write down your tasks, daily, weekly or monthly and cross them off when they are completed. Also have a good clear-out and de-clutter your desk.

Recharge your batteries

Take time to relax, focus and recharge your batteries to tackle the day with renewed vigour.

Get a massage

It is well documented that a massage even for just 10 minutes is relaxing and de-stressing, but it will also manually disperse the build up of the fight or flight chemical stress response, including reducing any tight muscles and headaches (ever wondered where the phrase ‘up tight’ comes from?). A short massage will give an energising boost to your day, leaving you refreshed and invigorated. There are many self-massage books available with techniques which you can use to treat yourself or you can seek the service of a professional therapist.

Take a break

When you get a break, use it! Leave your workstation, change your environment. Don’t be tempted to eat your lunch at your desk,  go do something different, get some exercise, lose yourself in a book (why not start a ‘take one leave one’ bookshelf?) or take in an mp3 player and listen to your favourite uplifting music.

Go for a walk

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress. During your lunch break leave the building, whatever the weather, and walk, briskly and purposefully. (It was Billy Connolly who said “there is no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing!”) Put together a few different routes that are achievable within your break times, map them out and invite your colleges to join in. The combination of exercise, fresh air and a change of scene will have a marked effect on your stress levels.

Cut down on the coffee

Caffeine, including coffee, tea and caffeine-charged energy drinks can exacerbate stress levels. Replace them with juice or water or caffeine-free alternatives.


Contact centres have very dry atmospheres due to air conditioning, etc. so you need to drink water frequently throughout the day. All of our organs, including our brain, depend on water to function effectively. It not only hydrates the body but it helps to alleviate tiredness and headaches and reduce any voice problems.

Drinking and smoking

Monitor your drinking and smoking. When we get stressed it is all too easy to really on these crutches, but they will mask the extent of the problem and frequently make it worse.


Take advantage of any help available. Most companies offer a range of well-being programmes and initiatives that you can participate in. Speak to  your HR or well-being representative.

While it is impossible to eradicate stress completely, as an employer it is your legal and moral duty to be pro-active and ensure the negative impact of work-related stress is kept to a minimum.

Acknowledging stress and having positive attitudes towards it in the workplace ensures an open and positive response to it. It gives people ‘permission’ to be stressed. All too frequently employees are too afraid to mention the ‘S’ word in case it is treated as a sign of weakness. By taking the initiative, introducing a few simple ideas and leading by example you can start the attitude adjustment from the ground up. The advice may be obvious, and you may well have heard it all before but it can’t be stressed enough!

Donna Phillips

Donna Phillips

Donna Phillips MICHT MGPBT  is Director/Senior therapist at Therapy Solutions Providers of stress reducing, energising and performance improving Call Centre Massage. (


Author: Jo Robinson

Published On: 24th Jun 2009 - Last modified: 1st Jun 2017
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  • hi! My name is roxanne and i’m from Romania.I work in a call center of a bank since 2007 and for 4 mounth i’m begging my manager to move me on other platform where i’m not takeing calls. I feel like i have no energy to do my work, sometimes i’m crying after a difficult call with a customer that scream….and i told all of this to my manager and he don’t want help me. Please tell me is is some thing wrong with me or my manager should give me the help i need so much?????

    roxanne 25 Jun at 20:20
  • Hi Roxanne. I was an agent and was promoted to managment so I can honestly say that I know how you feel. You must consider though that if a caller can reduce you to tears, then maybe customer service is not the industry for you. I have had to have this converstation with agents in the past but only because it was painful for me to see how customer service can affect people. And that is not to say that you are not good at what you do, posting this entry alone speaks to your work ethic because you are taking time to remedy the situation. However, you cannot control your emotions though. You must be the nicest person and this is why it hits you so hard, because you cannot understand why people are the way they are. It comes with the territory though. Again, you will do fine. Just find a job/career that does not make you feel that way.

    Nicole 26 Jun at 04:47
  • Roxanne, having worked in call centres for over 16 years I know how you feel and have suffered similar feelings myself. A move to another platform I am afraid would only bring more of the same as the problem is systemic (designed into the system).

    Traditional managers always believe that it is you that has the problem, wrong job, wrong skills, can’t cope etc.

    A good (systems thinking) manager would come and spend time with you in the work, learning about the type and frequency of demand that you receive, understanding from the customers perspective why they are angry (usually due to the fact that something has gone wrong) and what matters to them, and then taking action on the system to stop it from happening in the future. Of course they would also learn that most of your colleagues feel as you do, the reason you get angry customers is because the company and system of work let them down and when you understand the cause of the failures and fix them, angry customers go away and staff are happy in their work.

    You should try and get your manager to come and work with you in the work, if they don’t come or do do but fail to take action then perhaps then you should consider leaving; not because you have failed you just have bad managers.

    Good Luck!

    Tracey 26 Jun at 13:21
  • hey this is really appreciable , u have used the fantastic echniques to make a stress free environmrnt for an call center. this are rreally practical notions you have used i m also working in a company as a call center co-ordinator and seen that agents are using these techniques to be stress free. thanks and regards for your fruitful mail.

    purvi 27 Aug at 09:36
  • Hi, I’m new to the call centre world. I feel that most of my calls are good but I’m still learning. Can the operations team target an individual? I feel like their’s a personality clash involved and they have the “POWER”. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
    Signed, am I losing my sanity?

    vicki 17 Jan at 10:48
  • I’ve recently taken over a sales team of 7 Team Leaders who all have teams of 10. We constanstly have over 20 calls queuing, the Team Leaders are consistently stressed dealing with supervisor calls, reporting, sales targets, me giving them more work and they are at breaking point. What can I do?

    Eldavo 15 Jul at 18:27
  • I WORK IN A CALL CERNTE ,AND I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN,YOU WALK INTO THE BUILDING AT THE START OF YOUR (SHIFT)VERY 1960″S)im surprised they dont still make you”clock on”,,very demorolising work places,,they are obsessed with “TIME”,,and they wonder why staff morale is low

    JO 22 Sep at 21:32
  • Hi there i’ve been working in a call centre for 5 years, its always been outbound, target driven, time keeping, insurance enviroment, always wanting,wanting, but never giving bosses,no incentives,no increases, no bonuses, team leaders and sales managers gets all the glory we just get worked lyk a machine, every year has become more and more difficult for agents with more call centres opening leads are over processed, clients becoming more irratible, i quote ” THIS IS THE 5TH CALL 4 2DAY DONT U GUYS GET IT, NOT INTERESTED” this is the most stressfull job in the world and yet air traffic controller ranks no1 what a joke, i could do that with my eyes closed, try been a call centre agent then, and then only will you know, not angry just facts, really stressed please help. reply

    vinesh 26 Oct at 08:50
  • My wife has just started work at a call centre, being a carer for a multiple disabled family. Unfortunately she suffers from very high blood pressure and has to seek help from her local gp. She has become very anxious, sleeping very poorly. I understand she has limitations on access to the toilet and her health is being compromised due to her inadequate working conditions,training has been non existent. It appears that call centres have adopted Dickensian workhouse ethos,anybody can be replaced without a care. I thought we have supposed to have evolved and slavery abolished?

    bemmyboy 26 Mar at 09:02
  • My husband works in a call centre for a large company and they have handled his stress and anxiety incredibly badly.

    Every time he starts to get better he gets knocked down again either by the customers, targets or never being given any rights.

    He endures unrealistic targets, formal warnings for being 2 minutes late because of bad traffic, formal warnings for having a sick day… never allowed to take holidays without about six months notice, holidays that he does book six months in advance being mucked up and cancelled, days off being cancelled at less than a day’s notice, customers shouting at him, incompetent bosses shouting at him aggressively and writing down lies about him in reviews, forms to be put in the queue for a change of hours going missing and being put to the back of the queue… the list goes on.

    I was really pleased when he got the job because I thought it was an admirable company. I wish he’d never taken it now.

    The stress of dealing with customers plus the stress of poor management plus the stress of a company that just does not care about its workers has totally changed my husband and I just don’t know how to help anymore. They are so frustratingly poor and this is a company I’d thought were great all my life. They’ve lost my custom now!

    concernedwife 4 Apr at 12:32
  • I feel the same way. I work in a call center and I do not know who I am anymore. I am stressed beyond my control.

    Tina 4 Jun at 20:35
  • How can I reduce my anger when customer say bad word s toward me?

    Yaya 18 Jul at 02:41
  • hi i been working i CC around 7 y, job is stressed, i had people on line who wanted to sing psalms from bible, who cursed my sould, who told me that aliens are taking her internet and some did see political conspiricy. Most important thing while working in cc from my point of view is be objective, other sectors are you “jokers” and always stay calm in talk with person. Sometime i have psychos on line think about them like that, they are not normal and you need to accept that. My biggest problem on job is that my TL’s and directors actually don’t know there job they actually ruin concept of CC and they don’t know how to organize CC … that is what make me stressed still at job. Or some sectors that don’t answer to your questions , emails, customer wishes…

    Josip 30 Nov at 19:11