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Remote work in a call center: how to avoid burnout?

call center burnout

Despite all the advantages of remote work, working in a call center from home is exhausting and stressful. According to experts from the international HR community The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 75% of call center operators suffer from emotional exhaustion. This leads to 62% of agents leaving their jobs due to burnout. In this material, we will examine what operator burnout is, what factors contribute to it, and how to prevent burnout while working remotely in a call center.

What is call center agent burnout?

The All-Ukrainian Association of Contact Centers (UCCAI) provides the following definition:

Call center agent burnout is an emotional, physical, and psychological state of exhaustion that arises from prolonged stress at work.

Meanwhile, SHRM defines call center agent burnout as a syndrome characterized by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and decreased personal productivity.

Working in a call center has always been a field with high turnover. The transition to remote work, initially due to COVID and then full-scale war, has led to even greater turnover. HR departments are faced with serious questions: how to reduce burnout among remote call center agents and how to reduce turnover?

Factors leading to burnout among remote call center workers

Today, it can be confidently stated that working in a call center in Ukraine is predominantly remote. This situation is due to the fact that contact centers cannot ensure a safe working environment for all their employees during air raids. Working in a call center from home has become almost the only option for people needing a stable and reliable income. However, it turns out that not everyone is ready to work remotely at the same level of efficiency as in the office. Let’s consider the main factors contributing to burnout among remote call center operators.

Blurred boundaries between work and personal life

Customer service or technical support can be emotionally demanding. When interactions with clients occur in the office, any negative emotions that arise tend to stay there. However, when phone calls are taken at home, emotions are visible to close relatives, creating a blur between work and personal life. This lack of separation adds pressure on agents: they must control their emotions better, refrain from expressing frustrations to loved ones, and maintain a calm demeanor. The heightened need for self-control and the inability to release tension in front of family members contribute to increased stress and faster burnout.

Social isolation

Working in a call center from home eliminates live interaction with colleagues. Eight hours of communication with clients without the opportunity to share one’s problems or difficulties with someone, hear words of support from colleagues, receive friendly or professional advice, or share experiences oneself. It is the absence of informal live communication with work colleagues that leads to feelings of loneliness, which is one of the reasons for burnout among call center operators.

Technical issues with setting up workspaces

Currently in Ukraine, remote work in call centers is complicated by technical components. Not everyone has the opportunity to arrange a separate workspace. Loud phone conversations may disturb family members or neighbors. Not everyone has a powerful enough computer for installing and maintaining stable operation of call center software. Additionally, due to air attacks in certain regions, power outages or internet disruptions may occur periodically. All these technical issues further increase the level of stress and hinder effective work.

Lack of time management skills

Working in a call center remotely requires strong time management skills. It’s necessary not only to complete the required number of hours but also to control breaks for rest and meal times. Remote agents who do not adequately manage their work time encounter health problems and poor well-being, which accelerates burnout.

Increased workload

High competition in the call center outsourcing market has led to an increase in workload for agents. In order to provide exceptional customer experience and achieve the set performance indicators of the call center, an agent must not only have communication skills but also be proficient in modern technological solutions. Remote work in the call center requires agents to quickly learn how to use dashboards, CRM system call center, auto-dialing systems, master WFM tools, and more. When the number of calls suddenly increases or complex problems arise, agents need support from managers. Without this support, remote employees feel helpless and abandoned.

Poor adaptation and lack of recognition

A large number of employees who have recently started working remotely in the call center complain about poor onboarding. An effective adaptation program poses a real challenge to HR departments. Without support and adequate feedback from management, agent motivation quickly diminishes. Additionally, it is crucial to have a clear quality assessment system in the call center and to recognize the achievements of the best employees because without this, it is impossible to maintain the necessary level of engagement, motivation, and ensure employee experience.

General level of tension in the country

Indeed, it must be mentioned that if an outsourced call center serves clients from Ukraine, its agents face high pressure from clients. Whether handling inbound calls or making outbound calls to clients from a database of numbers, they often encounter pressure and aggression. This is not surprising, as war, economic instability, and increasing incidents of phone scams have had a significant negative impact on the emotional state of the population. People are suspicious of calls from outbound call center lines and can be overly aggressive when calling technical support themselves. Insults, negative remarks, and even threats towards call center agents are unfortunately quite common. Often, this emotional tension becomes the main cause of burnout.

How to prevent burnout among remote workers: recommendations for call center managers

Remote work in a call center without employees experiencing burnout is possible. However, it requires efforts from both management and the employees themselves. Here are some recommendations for managers to help prevent agent burnout and reduce staff turnover.

Show interest in the well-being of your agents

Remote work provides fewer opportunities to ask employees, “Hi, how are you?” However, it is extremely important to do so. A simple phone call or group chat is beneficial for both employees and management. While the former get the chance to voice their concerns, the latter can receive early signals of burnout and make adjustments to work processes accordingly.

Implement quality monitoring systems

When working remotely in a call center, you may not see your employees, but you can hear how they interact with clients and see how they communicate in text-based service channels (web chats, messengers, email). Contact center quality management software allows you to track interactions between agents and clients and signals a need to reduce workload if quality decreases.

Implement WFM systems

Workforce Management (WFM) systems aim to organize agents’ working time for maximum efficiency. On one hand, such systems allow agents to maintain a balance between work and break times; on the other hand, they automate processes for clocking in and managing agent shifts. For example, the Shift Swapper, call center scheduling software by Global Bilgi, enables agents with similar skills to swap their shifts without involving a supervisor or manager.

Invest in training programs

Remote work in a call center entails almost complete autonomy for agents. The better the training a new employee receives, the fewer problems they will encounter in their work later on. Investing in training means not only providing initial courses but also regular group and individual training sessions to improve qualifications. Developing professional skills and career advancement opportunities provide remote agents with additional motivation and prevent burnout.

Encourage team building and social connections

Indeed, remote work in a call center does not eliminate the opportunity to work as a team. VoIP call center software provides extensive video conferencing capabilities. These should be used for online chats with the team. There are plenty of reasons to organize such meetings:

  • Company anniversary celebrations;
  • Recognition of top performers;
  • Weekly meetings;
  • Online contests, and so on.

This way, call center agents can stay updated on company news, get to know colleagues, receive feedback from managers, and simply feel like part of a team.

Provide psychological support whenever possible

Psychological support from specialists can be crucial both in preventing burnout among remote workers and in creating a caring culture within the organization as a whole. For example, the company Global Bilgi, in partnership with the psychological platform Rozmova, offers its employees the free opportunity to attend sessions with professional therapists. This approach improves trust and relationships between the company and its employees, enhances the psychological well-being of staff, reduces stress levels, and stimulates individual employee development.

How to work in a call center remotely without burning out in the first month?

And now, here are a few tips for those who are already working in a call center or are considering becoming a remote call center agent. By the way, if you’re planning to work in call center, you might be interested reading our article “Will AI replace call center agents?”.

Establish boundaries between work and personal life

“Easy to say,” you might argue, and you’d be right. But delineating work and personal life is crucial to prevent burnout. The best way to maintain work-life balance is through self-discipline. You work a certain number of hours. Try to focus during those hours. Do you have extra time from not commuting to the office? Use it for household chores, and don’t get distracted during work hours. Do your job well, and take pride in the results.

On the other hand, don’t work beyond your scheduled work hours, take regular breaks as planned by the WFM system, start and finish work on time.

Organize your workspace if possible

Remote work in a call center doesn’t require much. The call center equipment list for a work from home mainly consists of a desk, chair, laptop, and headset. It’s great if you can work in a separate room. At the very least, a screen can help separate your workspace.

Psychologists advise dressing appropriately even for remote work. No one requires a suit and tie, but neat formal clothing can help with internal organization. Additionally, you’ll always be ready for a video conference, for example, with your manager.

Maintain social interaction

Maintaining communication while working remotely is a challenging task. Therefore, it is extremely important to participate in all team video meetings, group meetings, and other online activities. This is a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and learn more about them. Google experts recommend sharing short project status updates, news, etc., with the team every day. This will not only provide a topic for conversation but also help team members get to know each other better.

Thanking colleagues is another useful habit that contributes to social interaction. There is always a reason to express gratitude, and treating each other politely creates a reliable foundation for understanding and teamwork.

Take care of yourself

Working in a call center from home can be quite exhausting, especially on a large project where incoming calls come one after another. However, it’s important to take short breaks during which it’s recommended to step away from your workstation, do some physical exercises or eye gymnastics. It’s important to eat regularly, engage in favorite hobbies during non-working hours, and allocate enough time for sleep.

Set goals for yourself

Being a call center operator is just the first step on the career ladder in a company that deals with inbound contact center services. Customer service is a huge industry that is rapidly growing and requires top-notch professionals both in the call center sphere and beyond. High turnover only contributes to rapid advancement. Most team leaders and project managers in large contact centers are former operators. Additionally, you can develop in other departments: quality control, training services, personnel recruitment, marketing research, etc. Set yourself a goal, and it will no longer be just temporary remote work in technical support, but the beginning of a career with great prospects.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Difficulties in the early stages are present in any profession. Remote work in a call center is no exception. At first, an agent may feel that after a short training, they will have to deal with irate customers and call center technologies on their own. It’s important to remember that the company hired you not to quit due to burnout after a month. It’s simply not economically viable. So don’t hesitate to ask for help from your team leader, project manager, or psychological support service (if available in the company). Remember that you have a goal to earn and grow. And if you need help along the way to achieve that goal, be sure to ask for it.

Working in a call center remotely without burnout: conclusions

Burnout occurs in every industry, but the constant emotional stress associated with working with clients makes it particularly prevalent among call center agents. Resolving the issue of burnout is a priority for management because human, financial, and operational costs are too high to ignore. Mitigating factors that lead to burnout and actions that prevent it retain the best agents, strengthen morale, improve employee engagement, and save thousands on recruiting and retraining new employees.

Now, with the majority of call center operators working remotely, it is especially important to take maximum measures to prevent agent burnout. Solutions lie in communication, training, empathy, and a people-first culture. While call center KPIs are paramount, managers must strike a balance between performance targets and optimal workload, appropriate schedules, and employee support. Agents should be informed about growth opportunities. This increases motivation and prevents burnout.

About author

Фахівець з маркетингу компанії Global Bilgi
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