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Promoting Mental and Physical Well-Being in the Contact Center

Working in the contact center can take a massive toll on your physical and mental well-being.  When combining the stress that comes with never-ending customer requests, pressure from all types of internal stakeholders, and the sometimes crippling weight of life outside of work, the result may be too much to bear.  How can we create an environment that gives life instead of sucking it out of us?  How can we foster the type of relationships across our teams that encourage instead of tear down?  This article will provide dozens of simple ideas to help you promote both mental and physical health for your team.  By focusing on the whole employee, you can dramatically increase their capacity to deliver an outstanding customer experience!

Employee Wellness

A word to leaders:

Mental and physical health are deeply sensitive subjects. As leaders, we must understand and respect our employee's boundaries. Unpeeling the layers of psychological and physical health in the contact center is incredibly powerful and can foster growth. It can also open unhealed wounds that trigger insecurities or deeper issues with members of your team. Do not force any of your team members to participate in activities with which they are not comfortable. Before implementing any of the ideas below, we strongly encourage you to speak with your Human Resources department to verify what's appropriate for your organization.

Mental Health

Mental health is a topic we often avoid in an office environment. We are typically encouraged to leave our “baggage” at the door and come to work with a smile. Negative interactions with clients or coworkers may trigger an emotional response in an individual from a life experience beyond the call center. It is the leader's job to be mindful of these instances. While you do not need to know exactly what has happened in an employee's past (unless they're open to sharing), it's important to understand and acknowledge  that reactions to stressful situations often go deeper than just what we see on the surface level. Mental health should not be taken lightly, as we all are humans with brains and many layers to our stories. We recommend approaching these ideas with consideration, care, and understanding. Never force any of your team members to participate in these initiatives, and always talk with your Human Resources department before implementing any mental health programs in your contact center.

Institute a “code lavender” procedure with your team.  Common in healthcare practices, an employee can place the code in a group chat or something similar to receive encouragement after a tough call. - Nate

Light queue?  Insert a quick and fun mental health break together in the form of a virtual game.  Air Console is perfect for this, and will also build community even for remote teams. - Nate

Find ways to serve together in the community.  Many organizations have a corporate social responsibility group that can help you to organize this.  Huge bonus points if you can serve alongside one of your customers with a common mission. - Nate

Offer a lunch and learn on something completely non-work related. Try to pick a topic that's interesting to many of your employees.  We hosted a photography workshop, and it was a huge hit.  Employees were sharing with their friends how great it was to work here. - Nate

Encourage your team to download the “Happier” app and optionally guide them through the “5-Minute Happier Workout” on a regular basis. - Nate

Add a meditation area to your office and encourage agents to take quick breaks away from their desks to meditate or simply take a few deep breaths. - Jenny

Foster a culture of mindfulness by offering daily, weekly or monthly guided meditations that you’ll do in a quiet area of the office, as a team. There are also many free mindfulness/meditation training videos available, such as those by Jon Kabat Zinn. -Jenny

Bring real plants into the office, if you don’t have them already. This won’t solve all your problems, but it helps to have a bit of nature around you during the day at the computer. If you can’t have real plants, surprise your team with fresh flowers from time to time. -Jenny

If your office does not have windows or natural light, give your team the option to work outside, if location and weather permits. - Jenny

Make a big deal for work anniversaries and birthdays.  One of our favorite ways to do this is have the employee select an obscure holiday and celebrate it in their honor. -  Nate

The team that learns together stays together.  Hold a monthly book club meeting with a relevant resource and give different employees the chance to facilitate - Nate

Ensure that you not only have an Employee Assistance Program but that your people know about it and have easy access to it.  “I have benefited from this kind of support myself, and it's something I consider really important for contact center staff, especially given the degree of emotional labor that can be involved in contact center work.” - Kaye Chapman

Physical Health

Physical health in the workplace is often focused solely on weight loss. However, your customer service team are more than just a number on the scale. Health is defined by various aspects, and weight is not the sole definer. Sensitivity must also be applied, as physical health and mental health are directly connected. For example, you may not know that your best agent is suffering from an eating disorder and the company “weight loss challenge” is incredibly triggering. Again, never force an agent to participate in an activity that makes them uncomfortable. Be mindful of all body types, disease, and illnesses and avoid fostering a culture of stereotypes and stigmas. And don't forget to approach the ideas below with consideration, care, and understanding. Always talk with your Human Resources department before implementing new physical health programs.

Conduct your one-on-one meetings in the form of a wellness walk. - Nate

Have a “Tomato Tuesday” contest.  Buy everyone a small tomato plant and host a “lunch n’ learn” to teach them how to properly grow it.  Once the tomatoes are ready, hold potluck with entrees featuring the key ingredient - tomato.  Our office had a ball doing this! - Nate

Plan an “Iron Chef” competition and choose a healthy food as the “special ingredient.”  This will help educate folks on how to incorporate the food into their everyday meal. It's also pretty fun. - Nate

Schedule a time each day to go and walk several flights of stairs with anyone willing to join you. - Nate

Look at a program like “Real Appeal” that provides resources and group accountability toward fitness goals. - Nate

Get a cheap but highly effective laser tag set to get your team out of the building and running around for a few minutes.  Our contact center has loved this!  - Nate

Invite a wellness professional to your office, every month or so (budget permitting), to discuss and have the team engage, participate and learn about activities like massage therapy, yoga, hip hop dance lessons or other types of creative and engaging wellness topics. -Jenny

Survey your team to ask them how they would want to incorporate a physical activity or other health initiatives into their day. Typically, they know exactly what they want to do; you just have to ask. -Jenny

Have ergonomic check-ins with your team! Make sure they are comfortable in their chairs and have the necessary items to ensure comfort and safety while sitting at their desks. -Jenny

Offer standing desk options to your team. -Jenny

Hire a certified health coach to come to your office to meet with agents one on one to support them with their health and wellness goals. Sorry, shameless plug! -Jenny

Start a community garden for your office park.  Not only will you produce some awesome free food, but gardening is a fantastic way to burn calories. - Nate

Naps are not just for kids.  There are so many health benefits to taking a quick rest during the day.  Create a nap room to encourage this healthy habit. - Nate

Ergonomics matter, so assess them on a regular basis.  This includes your screen, desks, chairs, keyboards, and mouse.  We spend a great deal of time at work, and a basic check could prevent serious health conditions in the future! - Kaye Chapman

Institute a daily wall sit habit in your office.  This started a bit as a joke, but now everyone in our office looks forward to the 1-2 minutes when we all stop what we’re doing and do the wall sits.  It is a time when we can share a few laughs, blow off some steam and get to know one another a little better. - Erica Mancuso

And there you go!  We hope you gained inspiration from at least a couple of these ideas.  You may notice a lack of the traditional weight loss contest or other similar competitions.  While these can be very helpful in some environments, we’ve had better results with initiatives that are collaborative.  It's powerful to have your teams work toward a common objective together, supporting and encouraging each other toward the goal. 

Do you have any great tips for promoting physical and mental well-being?  Be sure to share them here!