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What is burnout? How managers can deal with burnout in call center reps?


Article Summary:Stress, unclear expectations, and a lack of work-life balance make burnout a real risk for call center workers. Employers must recognize the signs of burnout and take proactive steps to prevent and address it.

Working in a call center environment can be highly stressful and taxing both physically and mentally. Agents are expected to handle a high volume of customer calls back to back with minimal breaks in between. They must remain cheerful, polite and helpful even when dealing with difficult or angry customers. Additionally, call center targets and metrics add more pressure to perform. It is no surprise then that burnout is a real risk for those in this line of work. As employers, it is important to recognize the signs of burnout and take proactive steps to prevent and address it.

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when an individual feels overwhelmed and unable to meet constant demands.

The three key dimensions of burnout are overwhelming exhaustion, feelings of cynicism and detachment from the job, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.

Long-term stress leads to a depletion of one's physical or emotional resources, which in turn results in burnout. Some common signs include fatigue, increased irritability, lack of motivation, withdrawal from responsibilities, lowered immunity, and increased use of alcohol or drugs.

Burnout reduces productivity at work and damages relationships. It is important for individuals experiencing burnout to recognize the signs, understand what is causing the excessive stress, and take appropriate measures like time off, adjusting work responsibilities, improving self-care, and seeking counseling or medical help when needed.

Who experiences burnout?

Burnout can affect anyone, but certain types of individuals and jobs seem to correlate with higher risks.

Professionals in helping roles that involve a lot of emotional labor, such as healthcare workers, social workers, teachers, and caregivers, often experience burnout due to consistently high demands with few rewards. These careers require large amounts of empathy, yet provide little autonomy or control over one's workload.

In addition, burnout also happens in call centers due to the stress, unclear expectations, and a lack of work-life balance. Call center work is undeniably challenging, with customers often contacting in distress. While some customers opt for self-service options, conversations remain crucial for issue resolution. Despite the rise of messaging and chat for customer service, many still favor phone calls.

Signs of burnout

I. Physical symptoms

A. Fatigue and low energy levels

B. Increased illnesses due to weakened immune system

C. Sleep issues such as insomnia

D. Muscle aches or pains with no apparent physical cause

II. Emotional symptoms

A. Feeling cynical or negative about one's job

B. Lack of motivation and difficulties getting started on tasks

C. Feeling emotionally drained

D. Moodiness, irritability, or negative attitude

III. Behavioral symptoms

A. Isolation from others and withdrawing socially

B. Increased errors or accidents due to lack of concentration

C. Increased alcohol, tobacco, or drug use as a coping mechanism

D. Missing deadlines or work commitments due to lack of focus

IV. Mental symptoms

A. Difficulty thinking clearly and making decisions

B. Constant worrying or negative thinking

C. Perfectionism and inability to delegate tasks

D. Pessimism about the future and feeling a lack of accomplishment

V. Work performance signs

A. Lower productivity and difficulties meeting goals

B. Increased absenteeism or use of sick days

C. Difficulty adapting to changes and new challenges

D. Interpersonal conflicts with coworkers or customers

How to prevent burnout in yourself

There are a number of proactive steps one can take to help prevent burnout from occurring.

It is crucial to establish clear boundaries between work and personal time to achieve a healthy work-life balance. One should refrain from working outside of typical working hours whenever possible to recharge and unwind. Taking regular breaks during the workday, even if just for a short walk, can help reduce stress and fatigue. It is also important to utilize vacation days fully to step away from work responsibilities and avoid an accumulation of stress over time.

Staying physically active through exercise can work to release tension and endorphins that boost mood. Making time for hobbies and leisure activities unrelated to work helps maintain perspective and a sense of purpose beyond one's career.

Connecting regularly with friends and family through quality social time is vital for emotional well-being and preventing a sense of isolation.

Finally, being self-aware of warning signs like increased irritability, exhaustion, and disinterest in previously enjoyable tasks can help prompt taking proactive measures to course-correct before burnout sets in.

Implementing strategies to prevent burnout requires commitment and diligence, but positively impacts both mental health and career longevity.

How managers can deal with burnout in call center reps

As managers, it is important that we recognize the signs of burnout in our team members and proactively work to prevent and address it.

Some effective strategies for doing so include:

Promote a healthy work-life balance

Managers should encourage reps to take their allotted break and lunch times each day to recharge away from their desks. We can also be flexible with work schedules when possible to accommodate personal commitments outside of work. Regular wellness days where reps can work from home or have a half-day are other options. The goal is to avoid a situation where work completely takes over one's life and leaves no time for rest and rejuvenation.

Limit overtime as much as we can helps reps avoid fatigue

Constantly working beyond one's scheduled hours should be the exception rather than the rule. While call volumes may spike at times, we must be mindful not to rely on overtime from our teams every day. This ensures reps have reasonable workloads that allow for a healthy work-life integration.

Foster a supportive environment

Fostering a supportive environment where reps feel comfortable expressing any issues they face is important for burnout prevention. Managers should have one-on-one check-ins regularly to get a sense of how reps are coping. Reps should also feel confident to approach their managers if they start feeling overwhelmed by their work. Early intervention is key to addressing burnout before it worsens. Managers must actively listen to concerns and work with reps to implement solutions.

Train reps to effectively manage stressful customer calls

Training reps to effectively manage stressful customer calls can also reduce burnout risk. For instance, coaching reps on constructive confrontation and de-escalation techniques empowers them to handle irate customers in a calm manner. Regular role-plays during meetings can help reps practice and improve their skills. Managers should also model positive behaviors when taking calls ourselves. This sets the right example for reps.

Rotate job responsibilities for reps at regular intervals

Rotating job responsibilities for reps at regular intervals prevents burnout from repetitive tasks. While specialization has its advantages, constant phone duties without variation can become draining. Managers can implement duties like record keeping, training, quality monitoring on a rotational basis. This breaks the monotony for reps. Flexible job designs keeping reps engaged is ideal.

Recognize and appreciating reps' efforts

Recognizing and appreciating reps' efforts goes a long way too. Small acts of praise and rewards for good performance can boost morale. Celebrating team achievements and individual milestones with recognition shows that hard work is valued. This creates an environment where reps feel motivated rather than overwhelmed on the job.

Invest in better call center technology

Call center tech must be up-to-date, user-friendly, and boost teamwork for better employee and customer experiences. Outdated software hinders collaboration and frustrates employees, affecting service quality. Prioritize customer and employee satisfaction by addressing burnout.

Take our Call Center for a spin—for free—to see how it can work for your business.

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The article is original by Udesk, and when reprinted, the source must be indicated:

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