Maintaining mental health in a contact centre environment
By Stephen Marriott, Disability Consultant and Training Specialist, Remploy
Communications company ‘Rockwell’ claimed that their contact centre, established in 1973 was the first, enabling ‘Continental Airlines’ to run a telephone booking system. This has been proven to be a rather bold claim, with the first contact centres (able to handle lots of calls) coming to pass in the late fifties and sixties. Since then, the sector has boomed globally, driven largely by a change in consumer behaviours and demands, and the continued improvement in technology.
However, I must say, in my view, working in a call centre environment as already mentioned, isn’t for everyone. It’s possible to be taught how you should phrase certain things and various techniques that might make the job easier. The bit you can’t coach or teach people is the motivation to dial the next number! Quite often, staff have to adopt a rather ‘Teflon’ attitude towards their jobs. In other words, they don’t go home reliving the calls of that day.
Staying calm and maintaining focus is pretty much vital for those who stay in the industry for a length of time. For some, working in a call centre is something that just happened to them, whilst for others it was a choice. Whether people are in one category or the other, some will find they are suited to the role whilst others won’t. There will doubtlessly be targets for the results of the calls and indeed for the length of calls. It can be a very pressurised environment with those around you seeking to do well, and sometimes being quite relaxed. Whilst at other times, not so much, as they look to seek better results from their calls.
Building in some protective factors to one’s routine would be the start of considering our own wellbeing. The ability to walk away at the end of an unsuccessful day simply saying ‘Oh well, it’ll be better tomorrow’ is the beginning, or in the words in the song from ‘Frozen’ of learning to ‘let it go’...
Another key tip for managing the high-pressured environment and stress levels that come into play is to take onboard the lessons of the day - the things you did well versus the things you feel did not go so well. In the case of the things that didn’t go so well, continually think of ways to do things differently next time or the time after that, and learn not to take things personally in these situations. More than anything, ensure that amongst the things you do in your daily life there is time for you to simply switch off and do nothing! Yes that's right, allowing yourself the permission to switch off will be key to your success at managing a work-life balance effectively, ensuring this does not impact on your mental wellbeing.
Alternatively, you may prefer doing something you enjoy but it simply means ‘being in the moment’. It means only thinking about the thing that you are doing, whether that be walking the dog, going to the gym or taking part in a recreational activity. For some, learning to do absolutely nothing is something they can learn about with meditation or yoga. Much of the teaching relates to being able to empty your mind of everything.
You're not alone
Working in the telesales environment can be busy and noisy and you could be surrounded by many people all doing the same thing. It can be really energising and inspirational but it can also be an extremely lonely place. It’s vital you remember that you are not alone, your colleagues are facing the same challenges and there is a vast amount of support available both in and outside work to help you ‘offload the day’ and prepare you for the next challenge. The customer service element is a constant, always wanting the people you’ve spoken to, to feel that you did a great job with them. Providing excellent customer service at all times helps you to stay a little aloof by knowing that nobody could have done any better, whether the call was successful or a complete failure!
Times have changed and more companies these days are embracing and caring more for their staff with courses and wellbeing classes and many other things. The ability to walk out into the world, after a day at work and not think about work until the following day will be the thing that ensures your wellbeing. Some things that will never change surround the attitude required to make calls and, if the call was negative, simply forget it and dial the next number. The ability to do this is probably best summed up by the catchphrase of Nev Wilshire from the ‘Call Centre’ TV programme from a few years ago ‘some will, some won’t… so what, next’. That phrase can sound a little harsh and direct but the sentiment behind it is actually well meant. The simple meaning being - don’t dwell on the unsuccessful call, dial the next number!
Looking for help?
Here, at Remploy we are able to offer a variety of services to help maintain and promote positive mental health and wellbeing. Whether you are looking to upskill, and build the confidence of your line managers, or help protect the mental health of your customers we can help. We also deliver a free Access to Work Mental Health Support Service for both employers and employees, funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. You can find our more by following one of the links above or by getting in touch.
Stephen joined Remploy as a Development Services Employment Adviser towards the end of 2009, and quickly transferred his presentation skills to tutoring both groups of 18–24 year olds as well as the over 25’s. In 2010, Steve qualified specifically in dyslexia awareness and has since gained a wealth of experience in dyslexia vocational evaluations both internally and externally on Remploy’s retention programme.
Stephen attended a Remploy in-house Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) course in 2014 and became aware that he had himself experienced bouts of mental ‘ill’ health. This changed his perspective and he went on to develop his understanding and become a MHFA facilitator himself. With over 10 years service for Remploy, Stephen has developed a wealth of knowledge, skills and experience which now enables him to deliver externally-based services surrounding training and consultancy to a variety of organisations.