A call center job may pay well, but it's also a demanding one. Call center agents are vulnerable to developing mental health problems because of their daily exposure to verbal abuse from stateside callers. Add to that the constant pressure to reach impossible targets from their superiors and you have a witch's brew of mental malaise. Here are some of the mental and emotional health issues that plague impact sourcing workers today and what their managers can do to help them.
Insomnia and Other Sleep Problems
It can't be helped. A shifting work schedule can throw an agent's body clock off balance. Once that happens, you may not be able to get it back on track. Long-term night work can lead to a dysfunctional circadian rhythm. This means agents who've been working the graveyard shift for a long time will have a harder time falling asleep during the day, and they'll often end up tired and sleepy at work.
Studies also found that BPO workers are likely to have anxiety disorder and depression because of the lack of sleep and stress they experience at their jobs.
Problems with falling asleep and having undisturbed sleep can be solved through several techniques. One way is to avoid caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee, sugary drinks like soda and juice packs, and drinks made with dark or milk chocolate which has theobromine.
Avoid using a smartphone, tablet or laptop before going to bed. These devices have screens that emit blue light, which suppresses the production of melatonin (the hormone that helps you fall sleep).
While it's true that the stress hormone, cortisol, reduces the production of melatonin, and causes sleeplessness, the reverse also applies. An increase in melatonin can drastically reduce the levels of cortisol in the body. Doctors use melatonin therapy to help insomniacs and elderly patients fall asleep earlier at night. This improves the duration of their sleep, and normalizes their sleeping patterns.
Many online and brick-and-mortar shops sell melatonin in tablet form, but it's best that you and your outsourcing staff consult a doctor first before buying a bottle for self-medication.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
The unpleasantness of dealing with irate callers all day may often de-motivate call center agents who are new to their jobs. As a result, anxiety builds when a new week starts. It makes them hate Mondays, or whatever day they're starting their week on.
Some managers choose to ignore the signs. A team member is obviously feeling anxious whenever the first day of the week comes around. And, their team leaders or managers will rather focus on pulling up their stats and beating the other team's numbers than take time to help the agent. They couldn't be more wrong in managing a team this way.
To sweep away those new week blues, take a look at what Katrina Onstad did to take back the weekend and use it to revitalize her body and soul. Rather than push agents to work overtime on a weekend, or schedule a meeting on a day they're supposed to be resting, give them back their "weekend" -- two days off they can use to refresh their lagging spirits.
Emotional Stress and Depression
A study was done in 2013 on Philippine call center workers regarding the outcomes of the emotional labor they perform for their employers. According to the researchers, the subjects reported high levels of emotional stress, which led to them experiencing "job dissatisfaction, reduced organization commitment and ultimately increased intention to turnover."
The same findings came out of a study done nearly ten years ago. Researchers have been warning companies of the mental health issues that beset impact sourcing workers in service- and knowledge-based industries, which include outsourcing:
Larger proportion of employees became involved in service- and knowledge-based industries requiring heavy technological preparedness and mental stress. If the pace of change exceeds the capacity of the workers to cope, negative stress reactions can occur. These include psychosomatic reactions (e.g. depression, insomnia) as well as vocational consequences (e.g. job dissatisfaction, decreased organizational commitment, reduced job performance, and absenteeism).
What Can Managers Do to Help?
A good place to start improving the mental wellness of your agents is to restructure your company's work environment. Provide a quiet room for your impact sourcing workers. They can go there to take a break and perhaps rest for a few minutes before tackling a new set of tasks. Set aside a place where your employees can socialize freely without disturbing their co-workers who are still on the job. A closed-off dining area or pantry can work wonders.
You can also help your agents cope with the pressures of their job through an employee wellness program that include yoga classes with breathing and stretching exercises, and discreet counseling services. Periodically check your employee's behavior for signs that they're undergoing a stressful event in their lives, and give them the chance to heal.
It's also a good idea to have an annual intra-company sports event that not only teaches sportsmanship and teamwork, but also nurtures a corporate culture that promotes an active and healthy lifestyle.