Agent Health = Business Health

by Tamara Schroer on July 24, 2012

Let’s face it, working as a call center agent can be physically and emotionally stressful. Long hours spent sitting in a chair, potentially irate callers itching for a confrontation over a complaint, spending the entire day staring at a computer screen — the routine can try even the best, most patient and otherwise healthy agent.

I’ve written before about the importance of ergonomics in agent health and satisfaction. Here are a few more tips to improve your agents’ overall emotional and physical well-being and thus ensure not only their health but that of your business as well.

  1. If you haven’t already, pay special attention to your call center agents’ ergonomics. This will set the tone for the rest of the agent’s tenure in your company since they spend the vast majority — if not all — of their time at their workstation. Headsets, computer monitors, task chairs, even the height of the table and the angle of the document holder, all make a difference in how well the agents can handle the physical demands of the job. Make sure  everything is up to modern ergonomic standards.
  2. Develop and maintain regular training programs. Agents in many well-run call centers can spend weeks in training upon first hire before they ever take their first customer call. However, it’s equally important to give them ongoing training and continuing education programs throughout their time with your company. Whether through online courses or in-person training sessions, the programs should include a mix of both professional and personal development topics. Not only will your agents appreciate the opportunity to enhance their skills, they will also love getting a break from the day-to-day routine and spending time away from their workstation.
  3. Provide appropriate incentives and reward systems. Knowing that their performance is not only monitored but potentially rewarded when it meets or exceeds expectations can be just the motivation your agents need when their energy fades or they’re facing a tough day. Small incentives can be just as powerful a motivator as big ones, so long as they’re appropriate and convey the company’s sincere appreciation of the agent’s contributions to the company.
  4. Monitor your agents’ use of vacation time, daily breaks and overtime. An enthusiastic agent can burn out quickly if they don’t take a breather now and then. Make sure your agents take periodic breaks throughout the day away from their workstation, and if you have full-time agents, make sure  they take their scheduled vacation days, too. Overwork can contribute to absenteeism and health issues, not to mention depress workplace morale.
  5. Offer wellness information specific to agents’ needs. Agents working at home as well as those who work in a call center have different needs than other corporate employees. There are a number of health-related resources they can tap into that address their unique health concerns, from proper workstation ergonomics to exercises that can be done while seated in a chair. Living a healthy, productive life is often about educating oneself about nutrition, emotional well-being, and exercise. Help empower your agents by arming them with the right information and tools.
  6. Build a community of support. At Working Solutions, we have an in-house agent community where agents can post questions and share information as well as learn more about new and open assignments. We also have a thriving Facebook community, where agents can chat with us or with each other. Especially for home-based agents, an active, online community is essential to alleviate the isolation and stress of working as a call center agent.

If your company manages a call center, what are some of the things you do to help your agents maintain their overall health? I’d love to see examples of how other companies help their agents stay healthy.

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