Before Covid-19, a typical pre-work routine involved showering, changing into work clothes, and commuting to an office building. Now, many contact center employees work from home and their routines have changed.
Some employees wear sweatpants and a “Zoom top” i.e. a nice shirt or blouse for video meetings. They may or may not have showered since webcams do not transmit “smell-o-vision.” On top of that, their “office” commute involves taking a few steps into their living room. While that may sound convenient, many employees are now working longer hours they did at the office, an unintended consequence of working from home.
Blurring the line between work and home life can create burnout. If your email program “dings” during dinner time, do you rush to check if your boss has sent something? If you use an instant messaging program like Slack, do you feel the need to respond immediately, even outside of work hours? Also, what do “work hours” mean, when you are “living in your office?” That is a challenge contact center are now facing. An Agent’s hours are clearly defined by your Workforce Management team. On the other hand, supervisory and support team members may feel the need to be available for their Agents around the clock. Since they are working from home now, they may be tempted to answer a work call or email, even if they should be enjoying personal time with their family. If you are running a 24/7 contact center, people may feel they are always on duty. That is a recipe for burnout.
Why does that matter? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), workplace stress causes an estimated 550 million lost workdays in the US. That is a huge loss of productivity. It also represents a major impact on people’s lives. Working from home aggravates that stress because many employees feel they need to “demonstrate” they are not slacking off at home.
What can you do as a contact center Vice President or Director to help your team avoid burnout? Here are three quick tips:
1) Help your team prioritize their most important tasks:
Important tasks are easily sidelined by an urgent customer escalation or sudden surge in contact volume. Help your management and support teams maintain a balance between urgent tasks and long-term goals. Otherwise, they may try accomplishing everything, at the expense of burnout and lost productivity. Establish clear cut, realistic goals for the number of coaching hours, escalations, huddles, training, and special projects they will do per week. Then, help them execute those goals and maintain a healthy work-life balance to avoid burnout.
2) Set “Work hours”:
Agents have defined shifts. Meanwhile, contact center management and support staff can work much longer hours. For example, a Team Leader may try to match their Agents’ 4:00 PM - Midnight shift time. However, they will also Zoom into a 9:00 AM management team meeting and an 11:00 AM training session. So, they are effectively working much longer days which can lead to burnout. Instead, encourage them to block time off in their Outlook calendar for when they are NOT at work. Also, pair Team Leaders who are on the same shift as “Partners.” So, one of them can answer urgent Agent questions and escalations if the other Team Leader is in a meeting or coaching session.
3) Role model the desired behavior:
If you want employees to have healthy work-life boundaries and avoid burnout, you need to demonstrate the correct behaviors. For instance, stop sending non-urgent email outside work hours. Even when you tell team members not to respond until tomorrow, many of them will check it and feel obligated to reply this evening since they know you are working. Instead, save those emails in your “Draft” folder to send out tomorrow morning. Establish a “Service Level Agreement (SLA) for internal email response times, much like you would for customer service emails.
Use these three tips to help your team maintain healthy work-life boundaries, even while working from home.
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