Published: January 09, 2019 | Comments
What workplace distractions have you experienced so far today? I’ll bet
you’ve had a few.
Contact center leaders face distractions like interruptions, frantic
agents, frustrated customers, email after email, and on and on.
Distractions and interruptions are huge issues in workplaces of all types
around the globe. A recent study by RescueTime discovered that 35 percent
of workers check email or instant messaging at least once every 3 minutes
throughout the day. In addition, 40% of employees say they never get 30 minutes of uninterrupted work time.
These issues may sound familiar in your workplace.
Contact center agents face unique demands while working. Those demands
● Noise - There are constant conversations from peers across the work
space. Equipment fans and hums are audible. There might even be music
playing in the background. Usually the decibel level is high and
● Workplace Layout - Getting from one place to another can be a maze.
Traffic patterns can cause noise right behind agents working with
customers. Cubicles cut down noise somewhat but they also reduce beneficial
● Isolation - Agents move fast and independently. Headsets reduce ambient
noise but they isolate agents who are trying to be nice, responsive, and
effective at solving customer issues “in a vacuum” - by themselves, with
only the contact center database to refer to. Sharing of insights from the
day or asking for help is all too rare.
● Fatigue - The pace of customer requests via calls or chats or messaging
never stops. Agents can’t take a breath easily much less recharge for a few
● Unhappy Peers - Toxic players who are constantly venting and/or
complaining exhaust even your best agents.
Ultimately what you want are agents who are fully present and fully engaged
- and distractions inhibit both those desirable qualities.
The challenge is that every agent may prefer a slightly different work
environment - different than yours, different than their best friend, etc.
It’s difficult (and expensive) to create a completely different physical
work setting for each player but you can create a less distracting
environment for many.
Social styles and personality types can be quite different across your
population of leaders and agents. Extroverts want to talk through their
frustrating customer interaction immediately afterwards or celebrate with
their peers a call that went perfectly. Introverts need quiet time and
space to process a call that didn’t go well or even to “pat themselves on
the back” for a call that worked great.
Extroverts can be energized by interruptions. Introverts are usually
frustrated by them.
What can contact center leaders do to reduce or eliminate distractions?
You can’t rebuild your workspace (not quickly or cheaply, anyway). You can,
however, make subtle tweaks to the layout and space to reduce noise and
create spaces that serve a wider range of social styles and team needs.
For all these suggestions, seek the perspective from your agents. They live
and (obviously) work in the environment and will likely have suggestions
for improvements in each of these areas.
- This might be a tough change to implement; you may not have space. And,
engage in this process anyway. Examine traffic flows in your center. Where
you can, create “traffic lanes” - wider walkways - that don’t back up onto
open cubicles where agents are working. Create direct line/lanes from
cubicle communities to restrooms or kitchens or conference rooms, etc.,
away from agents at work.
- Create quiet space (or at least “quieter” space) where individuals can
unplug for a few minutes. Small tables with 1-2 chairs encourage individual
disconnection which is vital for those with introversion preferences.
- Create spaces where small teams can meet (and cheer and learn) without
their noise distracting agents at work. Conference rooms with doors that
close are outstanding - if you have them and they’re available to teams.
Outdoor picnic areas can work well during nice weather.
- This may be one of the most difficult issues to address. The nature of
your workspace may amplify voices and equipment noise. High ceilings and
cool industrial design look great but they’re hard to make quiet. Acoustic
panels can make a huge difference and are not that expensive.
- These changes won’t reduce distractions - but they will increase your
agents’ capacity to bounce back from them! Some small ways you can boost
health and energy include refreshments that taste good AND aren’t high
sugar. Replace sodas with low sugar electrolyte drinks. Replace high fat
snacks with healthier proteins and nuts. Encourage movement - get people up
from their chairs at least twice an hour, even for a few minutes. Get a few
stationary bikes which will provide some exercise in a short time frame.
Encourage walkers by posting steps taken daily or miles walked weekly.
Reducing distractions and interruptions where you can will increase your -
and your agent’s - sanity, productivity, and creativity.
Don’t get frustrated. Get better. Invest time and energy in creating a more
effective work environment for every agent (and leader).