52 mental health & wellbeing ideas for your workplace that won’t cost you a penny

Mental health & wellbeing in the workplace has NEVER been more important and the beauty is, there is SO MUCH you can do without it costing you a penny. 

Here are 52 ideas that have all been found to make a positive impact.

Requires minimal resources

Advanced planning/resources

Longer term investment of time

Free, simple resources with GREAT individual and team activities predominately focused on raising awareness – accessed here https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/get-your-workplace-involved/resources/activities

Revisit your absence management process and documentation to include a focus on mental health & wellbeing. Soften the direct question and create a selection of open questions to use as a guide to prompt good conversation around health.

Create a gratitude board where people can post messages of gratitude for their colleagues. Gratitude like this has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve relationships and self-esteem.

Create a stress board and get people to share their go to ways to de-stress. This reinforces messages that everyone experiences poor mental health, helping to reduce the stigma and create positive conversations.

Create a diversity and inclusion task force, bringing people from across the company to share ideas and build momentum in evolving the company’s strategy. Giving everyone a voice matters and helps people to feel valued. Unconscious bias affect how we behave, so challenge positively.

Host 10 minute mental fitness breaks which could be physical exercise, puzzles, quizzes, walk for 10 minutes. Create an immediate injection of a mood booster!

Encourage your team to schedule and take breaks with a focus on reducing eye strain. Ask your team if they have taken a break (non authoritarian) . Make sure your messaging, behaviours and actions align. Breaks can help to reduce or prevent stress and maintain performance.

Bring your team together to talk about how stigma has affected them, how it might affect people and build understanding of the impact of stigma. Create a set of commitments that become part of your mental health & wellbeing strategy, which stand up to and challenge stigma. 70% of people may not get the help they need because of stigma.

Identify some local charities that you and your teams can volunteer at for a few hours or half a day. Charities are so grateful for the help and volunteering is one of the five ways to wellbeing. If volunteering is too much, you could always create a food box and encourage people to bring in a few items. Once full, take it to a food bank or homeless shelter – you won’t regret it.

Purchase some plants for the office – simple, easy and great for wellbeing. Being connected with nature has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress.

Host a series of mindfulness activities every few weeks – there are some great guided videos on youtube, or even via an app. Just caveat it that people should make their own choice to attend. It can improve sleep, reduce anxiety and reduce rumination.

Have monthly 121’s with your team, using it as an opportunity for the individual to share how they are doing. They should talk 80% of the time, you 20%. The more regular you engage in conversation, creating an open culture the more greater the opportunity to make an impact in how they feel, their performance and much more.

Create an email switch off policy – and give people the choice on whether they opt in or opt out. This encourages work/life balance.

Create a flexible working approach, offering part time, term time or annualised as a starter! Flexible working is really about getting the work/life balance right.

Host walking meetings – this gets people moving more reducing musculoskeletal problems, and it is great for creativity, inspiration and wellbeing.

Create the opportunity and space for people to share their own stories of mental health – this helps to create a culture of openness. By others sharing their stories, it can encourage people to get help if they are struggling. It also helps to  challenge stigma.

Create a wall of gratitude where people share 3 things they are grateful for every day – shown to help create positive thinking and reduce stress.

Create a targeted approach to reduce the amount of meetings or the length of time spent in meetings – this helps to reduce the amount of time sitting in a sedentary position.

Create a space where people can stand and work instead of sitting. Helps to reduce musculoskeletal issues, in turn, helping how we feel. 

Create a positive workplace relationships taskforce that explores how bullying is tackled, how team work is encouraged and ways in which positive relationships can be created, endorsed and supported. Building relationships is one of the most important things we can do for our wellbeing but not only does this one do that, it also creates an open culture, challenges stigma and helps to really align your people strategy to your business.

Host a virtual team building event. Team building really brings the team together – here is a great selection of ideas to get you started https://teambuilding.com/blog/virtual-team-building-activities.

Build a peer support/buddy system to create networks of encouragement. It can feel pretty lonely at work sometimes, if you are a lone worker or even working more virtually. Carousel your buddy system so you get to spend time with new people.

Run ‘move more’ (friendly) competitions between individuals or teams – you could use gamification if you are tech friendly. Great for physical and mental health and one of the five ways to wellbeing.

Create a survey using Surveymonkey (you can get access to a free version) and use it as an opportunity to get a pulse check on how your staff are feeling. Asking for input and feedback makes people feel valued.

Create a wellness wall of ideas and ask people to share how they keep physically and mentally healthy. Sharing ideas gives inspiration but also shows that all of us have to do things for our wellbeing.

Create social groups of interests – such as runners or book clubs that get people coming together to be social (Even virtually). Being part of a group adds a greater sense of commitment to doing the things you love and we should definitely do more of that.

Implement mental health & wellbeing objectives and goals for the workplace. Align your leadership to what you want to your culture through objectives.

Have Senior Leaders pledge their support publicly for making mental health matter in the workplace. This statement sends a message to challenge stigma, but also that management recognise its importance.

Whenever you are making changes, creating new ideas, bringing in new technology – engage your people in the conversation. This increases motivation and helps people understand the bigger picture.

Create a staff forum where ideas, thoughts and frustrations can be raised in a safe environment and shared with management to support in resolving or actioning. This helps people to feel valued and gives confidence in creating an open culture.

Set expectations around establishing a work/life balance such as avoiding working at weekends, checking phones on days off etc. Make sure messaging matches behaviours and actions.

Promote personal learning – the Open University has LOADS of free courses, GREAT courses. Give time to people to complete their training. Learning is one of the five ways to wellbeing.

Carry out a policy and practice review – performance/disciplinary etc. and consider the impact to staff. Consider how it is done, what support is put in place and how poor mental health is recognised.

Share Wednesday Wellbeing tips via your communication channels. Simple and effective.

Use Mind resources to educate you and your teams on mental health & wellbeing. Change starts with educating.

Coach/mentor one of your team or a colleague on a specific skill or area for development – helping others is one of the five ways to wellbeing and so is learning.

Create a culture of openness with those in a management positions openly exploring how their experiences have affected them. This creates a culture of openness and can mean people may source help having seen others have gone through challenges.

Raise awareness of mental health through quizzes. Have a different topic each time such as abuse, diversity, wellbeing. Awareness is key to mental health and wellbeing.

Create a way for people to make suggestions and ideas. People feel much more motivated when they feel valued and can influence their work.

Download the monthly wellbeing calendar and share it as part of your communication strategy. Easy and full of great daily ideas.

Bring people together through sharing talents! Play music, write a poem…whatever it is! Having the opportunity to be creative and bring your whole self to work is magnificent.

Create a take your break activity with different themes; energise, calming and relaxation. Take 15 every 90 minutes. Breaks help to prevent and reduce stress, rumination and can get people moving more!

Create a campaign to raise money for a charity. Have people choose from a list so they feel they are making a difference to something that matters to them. Helping others is one of the five ways to wellbeing.

Share an inspirational quote of the day – this will set people up with a positive outlook for their day. Reinforcing positive messages can help challenge negative thoughts.

Make signposting resources available and accessible. Knowing where to go to get help is crucial.

Introduce objectives for Leaders that ties directly back to your wellbeing survey. Make a direct difference to your people.

Create a wellbeing hour – a specific hour per week for employees to dedicate to activities that support their wellbeing. This is recognising the importance placed and giving something back to employees to invest.

Run a coffee/tea morning, bringing people together. Or, run a coffee connect, all about facilitating informal chats about mental health.

Create a mood tracker that enables a pulse check day on day. Ask how do you feel today on a scale of 1-10? Everyone can share their score confidentially and it allows management to respond and react dependent upon what is happening.

Create mental health champions who can help organise and facilitate as well as champion the efforts to create an open culture.

Make it an action to call every member of your staff and ask them how they are. Then ask them again.

So there we are, 52 ideas to get you started. How we focus on preventing poor mental health in the workplace doesn’t have to be complicated, we just need to keep taking steps forward.

If you need any help with your mental health & wellbeing strategy, just get in touch at [email protected]

Why coming out of lockdown is going to be harder than going in!

As the world starts to open back up, there is a growing buzz in the air. Pubs are open, we can go out for dinner at a restaurant and start going out for day trips again!

Its. Just. Like. Normal.

No matter the veneer you shine gloriously on it, underneath it all is the hard reality that things really aren’t going to be “normal” for some time and businesses have more of a challenge ahead of them.

No more so, than with how we support people, motivate them and engage them.

And here is why…

When we went into lock down, we created this shared identity. We were all in it together. We were told Covid didn’t discriminate. We as individuals found solace in knowing we were not alone.  With that, came the understanding that businesses were dealing with unprecedented circumstances, there was an appreciation of the difficulties being faced.

Most of the economy shut down. Many millions weren’t working.  Many who did created this incredible unit of keeping the country running.  It brought out our desire to help, to support others even with people we didn’t know.  All the schools were shut and people were trying to juggle working, home schooling children and whilst we were all going through difficult times, the common theme kept us going –  we were all in it together.

But of course, now we know that in some instances that just wasn’t the case.  Reports now show how black and minority groups are at greater risk of Covid than any other.  Cummingsgate called into question rules for the elite vs everyone else. Care homes were the forgotten frontline.  Some children are going back to school, some aren’t. Some schools have refused to open and in September you can look forward to a nice penalty if you don’t send your child to school. If you want to get married there is no food or drink allowed, but if you want to pop down the pub for a pint and a nice curry at your local Indian, it’s no problem.

That sense of “we are all in it together” has long gone.  And in its wake, it leaves behind a fragmented society where different groups of people face different restrictions and impacts.

But why does this matter for business leaders and their employees?

When we were all in it together, there was a common sense of understanding, shared beliefs and values. There was this idea of fairness and equality.

Now, we have part furloughed, part not, split workforce in the office, differences with childcare, some having to juggle home learning, others not.  Some choosing to keep their children off school.  Some people are fearful of coming out and don’t feel safe.  Others couldn’t give a damn and that has meant conflict has ensued between the approaches being taken.  We even have localised lockdowns!

This disconnected and fragmented approach in coming out of lockdown creates more headaches for business leaders who need their teams to come together – arguably more so now than before.

So, what can businesses do now?

Keep the communication going

Employees are still going to need you to show them that their health, safety and wellbeing is a priority.  Demonstrating what you have done, what you are doing and what will be happening is important.  Frequency of communication to provide reassurance is crucial – regardless of what role or circumstance they are in.

It is really easy to think we are out of lock down now so our communication efforts can reduce. Don’t be fooled!

With the continued uncertainty, people need to feel that there is a sense of control and that voice can help to provide reassurance.  That, will help you guide people through the upcoming weeks to months and no doubt through more changes to come.

Clear the ears and listen

Enable everyone to have their say. We need to hear the stories and the experiences of everyone. We need to understand how they have been and are affected.  We can then work with them to identify reasonable adjustments that need to be made to support them.

When we include everyone, it makes people feel valued, appreciated and feel that what they have to say matters.  This approach will help to unite your people and bring them together.

Develop Resiliency

Change is inevitably upon us.  Businesses will be adapting, changing and flexing to ensure its future success. This means employees need to be able to quickly adapt to change.  Change in any situation can create significant challenges, issues and unrest.  Smother it with a pandemic and you have a recipe for a disaster.

Invest in helping people to develop their own resiliency in dealing with change.  Not only will it significantly make a difference to managing change in the business, it will also provide great support for mental health & wellbeing.

And then what?

Watch out for burnout.  Continued strain on us takes it toll.  Ensure your leadership team know how to spot the signs of burnout, recognising it in themselves and in others.  Supporting those who experience this will be at the heart of getting them through it.

Coming out of lockdown is going to require all the years of training, experience and skills to bring those teams together, to recognise the continued and ongoing conflict, inequality and different stages we are all at.

If you want some support with guiding you through your plan, get in contact with [email protected]

3 tips on supporting people through change

Change management can be challenging at the best of times.  Smother it with a pandemic and you have hell written all over it.

Over the years, I have witnessed many MANY changes done, well badly….you will have too.  Change is everywhere.  In fact, in the last week alone, these popped up:

  • NHS were not consulted over face masks being mandatory in hospitals
  • Complete and utter melt down in aviation over the change to mandatory quarantine for arrivals
  • Ryanair defies the government recommendations to check in luggage and tells staff to encourage passengers to use carryon luggage instead
  • BA’s treatment of staff during the Covid-19 crisis is considered a “national disgrace”

Okay, what we read in the news is open to interpretation….but these are all examples of changes, that have not gone the way they probably hoped.  Just reading these articles you can see there was:

  • No communication or engagement with those affected by the change
  • A distinct lack of clarity on the risks, concerns and implications of the change
  • Rebellion in the ranks because there probably isn’t a lot of listening going on
  • Poor treatment of those involved in the change

Good change management processes are full of practical ways of navigating from idea conception right through to implementation and post change reviews.  But many change management models fail to address the emotional aspects that underpin how successful a change is.

The impact of Covid on change

Covid-19 has shown how difficult it is to adapt to a completely new way of doing things. It is a change of unprecedented scale, but it also shows ALL OF US how change makes us uncomfortable.  We don’t like having to navigate something new, we crave normality and returning back to “how it was before”, we want it to make sense of it and we long for reassurance.  All of this is peppered with a bucketful of anxiety and stress.  And all that is experienced before we even considerer any other business changes.

During this pandemic, the emotional aspects we feel going through change go into cataclysmic overdrive!

As a business, you will be making your own changes right now and will probably make many more changes regularly for the foreseeable future:

  • Pivoting in product or service offering
  • Introducing new technology to provide greater access for customers
  • Flexibility in working hours
  • Office social distancing strategies
  • Remote management and leadership

So, alongside your practical processes for manging change, here are 3 fundamental components of change that get to the heart of making the change as easy, as seamless and as stress free as possible.

1) Never underestimate the power of engagement

Whether you are at the start, the middle or the end, including your employees in the conversation is absolutely critical.  When you are asked for your help, or your opinion, what happens? You feel needed.  You feel wanted.  You feel like you matter!

It directly plays into a human desire to feel included.  As a result, you become emotionally invested, will get behind the change and be more likely to not only support it but also endorse it.

If we look at the NHS facemasks change, there was no engagement or consultation.  They might have actually agreed with it if they felt part of the conversation, but they weren’t.  It came as a complete shock.  There was a lack of clarity on the logic, people felt caught off guard and no one EVER wants to be on the backfoot!

Engaging people isn’t asking for permission to make changes, it is about bringing people along with you.

2) Don’t pay lip service to it

We might recognise that engaging people is important, but it is NOT just a tick box exercise on the change management checklist.  Engaging staff is important, listening to them is crucial. 

They will not only air risks and concerns; they will also help you shape your entire change process.  This will ultimately make the end result far more effective and positive for everyone.

Listen to what your employees have to say and then develop a strategy with them to respond to those risks outlined.  If they don’t like it, why, what about it, what can be done to improve how it is interpreted, implemented, supported and so on.

Creating the space to listen connects directly with anxious feelings and stressful emotions which will help to prevent poor mental health.

Trust me, the time you invest now, will save you a whole heap of pain later!

3) It is time to reassure and re-enforce

Change creates feelings of uncertainty so we try to clutch onto things that provides us with reassurance, that makes us feel okay, that can help budge some of those uncomfortable feelings.  Reassurance is a fundamental human need.  We want to feel good about ourselves, we want to know what we are doing is right.  And if those feelings are re-enforced, those feel good feelings, those positive vibes and that energy multiplies.

So, we want to really provide tangible reassurance on an individual AND on a team level.  We saw in the very early stages of this pandemic; efforts went into building new hospitals to provide public and staff reassurance.  There was a strategy firmly centred on protecting the NHS as well as enabling priority access to NHS employees to reassure them that they could do what they need to do to work.  Then we wacked a great big Thursday clap every week, showing how much we appreciate it, their efforts, their sacrifices, and we did it every week to re-enforce it.

Okay it is a change on a huge level and we can politically argue the angle, but the core principles are there!

Change is happening all the time.  Business responds to how we change as humans. Our buying habits change, the economy changes, our way of living changes, our likes and dislikes change. But businesses also rely on changing, developing and evolving to remain competitive in the market, to diversify, to grow and in these circumstances? To survive.

Practical change management principles and processes are important.  Supporting people through it, is critical to its success.

Need some guidance with your change management activities? Get in touch at [email protected]

Top tips for Mental Health awareness week – 18th – 24th May 2020

Have you started planning yet for your mental health awareness week events? What with the world in turmoil, it might have fallen way down on your list of items to do. But, with the very real risk of mental health illnesses increasing as an off shoot to this virus, now, more than ever, we need to switch the focus onto people.

Firstly, you should NEVER be too busy to think about mental health. If you aren’t doing anything with it, now is the time.

I firmly believe that every day is a mental health awareness opportunity – but I get that not all companies work this way just yet and that week provides a great opportunity to really put mental health into the spotlight!

The theme set out this year is Kindness.  Note;  the original theme was sleep, but in light of Covid-19, the theme has been purposely changed to kindness.  It is very topical but the reality is that you can be much broader than this for your week. If you can do things inline with the theme, great, if you can’t, don’t fret!

Where we will be and how we will be operating come May 18th, we don’t yet know. As we get closer, things may become a little clear, but considering the unknown, the suggestions can be done either virtually/remotely or face to face with social distancing if we are at a stage that that is possible.

Accessibility to resources

The first thing is to really promote accessibility to resources, nationally and locally, as well as what is available in house.  Put a ‘how to’ guide together that outlines when someone might need to reach out for support.  Don’t just consider adult mental health & wellbeing, but also children and elderly.  Many challenges extend into family life and people may welcome the holistic help and support.

Bring people together

Yes, the novelty of the Friday drinks may have worn off, but connecting people together is so important for our wellbeing.  In fact, relationships tops everything else when it comes to mental health.  Look to bring people together to share challenges and to talk about successes.  Have a forum where people get to voice their thoughts and feelings.  You can do this however you choose – small groups, large groups – whatever works for you and your team.

You should be having regular 121’s with your team members already, but if you aren’t, get them scheduled in.  Here’s some suggestions on getting the conversation started:

  • Tell me how things have been recently…
  • How are you looking after yourself?
  • What have you been doing to promote your own wellbeing? 
Engage your staff

Ask your team to make suggestions on how they look after their own wellbeing or are kind to themselves. Collect all of these together and make a montage of the suggestions.  Share it and put it in a central place, like your extranet so it is visible.  When you get back into the office, you can make it a staple of your environment to remind of you the ways in which we look after ourselves.

Gratitude Board / Kindness

Ask your team to share messages of gratitude for their colleagues or for things that have happened in the week.  Share the messages publicly and spread the messages of gratitude.

Alternatively, you can create a central document and encourage people to write down 3 things they are grateful for every day. It can be totally anonymous.  Acknowledging things that you are grateful for every day can be really beneficial to our wellbeing.

Equally, writing messages of kindness for colleagues is such a wonderful thing to write, and also be on the receiving end of it.

Random acts of kindness

This is my favourite thing to do! You could send each of your staff something that they can pass on as a random act of kindness.  To a neighbour, a friend, a colleague – whoever.  It can be a box of chocolates, it could be a bottle of wine, it could be a bunch of flowers – whatever it is, send it to them, as part of a random act of kindness and encourage them to participate it.   

Promote wellbeing

Get running some practical sessions that encourage people to participate and try different ways to promote positive wellbeing.  Things you can consider are physical exercise, maintaining a nutritious lifestyle, mindfulness. You can use YouTube to access some great sessions already – or you can look to professionals in this space to help you deliver these. Do them live – do them all together.

People can sign up to sessions and can be encouraged to dip in and out with the ones they would like to try.

Mental health sessions

Creating greater understanding and awareness of mental health is really important.  Research tell us that the greater the awareness, the greater the chance people will seek help when they need it.  So focus on a series of mental health sessions. These can be bitesize sessions, no longer than an hour and if you have a selection of them across the week, people can sign up to the ones that most suit them. Consider things like:

  • Creating a culture of kindness
  • Mental health awareness – recognising the signs of symptoms
  • Avoiding burnout
  • Developing resiliency

Whatever you do, do SOMETHING to raise awareness, get the conversation started, engage your employees, support your team.

Get in contact with [email protected] to explore a selection of mental health virtual sessions available.

How to cope with being furloughed

As UK businesses move to furlough thousands of people across the country, whilst supporting them financially becomes as secured as it can be, focus moves to how we support people through a period of time where they are effectively jobless, albeit it for only temporarily.

It is complicated when moving from a working status to non-work. In most circumstances, there is time to prepare yourself. You can plan what you might do when you aren’t at work.

For many, they will greet this unexpected time away from work as a welcome break, enjoying the peace and quiet, binge watching the latest series on Netflix, getting some time to do those important household tasks that never get done. Some will be grateful that they no longer have to deal with difficult colleagues and customers.

For many others however, not being able to work will feel like the rug has been ripped out from underneath them.  Although people can be grateful to be in employment, it doesn’t mean the psychological adjustment is any easier.

You see, work and our job is a part of our identity. It is a part of who we are.

It gives us purpose, meaning, structure, routine and relationships.  The engagement, the extended coffee breaks, hoping no one will notice.  It is gone, temporarily, but with it everything about your schedule changes. 

Loosing daily structure, important relationships and that loss of identity can be stressful and harmful to our health. It can increase feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

The extent of how long furlough will go on for us unclear.  People are expected to adjust and adjust quickly.  People need to adjust. 

Lets look at the stages that furloughed people may go through and some ideas on how we can keep healthy along the way..

Denial – 1st Stage

Nearly a third of the UK are refusing to accept the situation of social isolation.  Denying that it affects them, that they are impacted by it or that those around them could be affected by it.

Whilst many may think this is a selfish way of behaving, denial can often act as a buffer to help protect us from our emotions.  It’s a defence mechanism.

Anger – 2nd Stage

It is natural to feel angry. Anger at the company, at the world, at the other half, at the dog.

Writing down your feelings can be helpful. It can help to relieve stress and help to avoid taking it out on others.  Whilst restrictions remain in what we can do outside.. this might just be a really useful tool.

Feeling low – 3rd Stage

Now we start to come to terms with the circumstances in front of us.  As the anger subsides, the emotional fog remains.  We may find that we retreat inwardly, stop socialising virtually as much, crying more often than usual or feeling very low, sad and down.

It is okay to feel to sad. And many of people, up and down the country will be experiencing feelings and thoughts similar.  Acknowledge how you feel, recognise that you are not feeling as good. The important thing is to come to terms with those feelings.

Acceptance – 4th Stage

When we reach this stage, it’s not that we no longer feel sad or even emotional.  The change comes in that we are no longer resisting the reality of the situation and struggling to make it something different.  This can be a really empowering stage, feel the weight come off your shoulders.

Self-care is so important and rarely something we think about until we are in the midst of the difficult and uncomfortable situations.  So it’s time to do those things you really love to do (within the realms of your home). Painting, decorating, arts and crafts, jigsaw puzzle, gardening, building, playing an instrument – when do you ever get the space to do those things? Now. Now. Now.

Stay connected with your friends and loved ones. It’s so easy to disengage, but keep talking – relationships are so important for our mental health.

Whilst you can’t work for money, there are plenty of volunteering opportunities are many charities are crying out for help and support with the most vulnerable in society.

Most don’t realise how important a routine is until you get a situation like this! Establishing a routine will help to provide a sense of purpose and give focus to the day. 

Learning and development is a great way to invest your time. The Open University has hundreds of free courses that are accessible on their website – what have you always wanted to know?! Maybe now is the time.

Finally, don’t put too much pressure on your self to be ALWAYS be active and productive. If you run yourself ragged, you will certainly feel the effects. Take some time just to embrace the day, embrace the moments with a cup of coffee, sat in the garden, listening to the birds, listening to your favourite music. We all need that break.

For help and support with maintaining positive mental health & wellbeing with your furloughed employees, reach out to [email protected]

Who wants a doughnut without the jam in the middle? The missing ingredient to delivering an exceptional customer experience first time every time.

Delivering great customer service and that amazing customer experience has never been more important.  In an ever-increasing market, customer experience is often seen as the competitive advantage.  Businesses are (mostly) good at ensuring their staff are trained to handle the array of calls that are likely to come their way.  There will be process flows, a few handy scripts, post it notes dotted around their desk with reminders of the things usually forgotten and training sessions that they no doubt attend. They will know what they can do and what they can’t do within their position.  Their screen will (hopefully) guide them through a logical process flow in the same way you might expect a conversation to flow with a customer.  (We all know that the level of technology available will differ considerably from business to business).

They will have been “trained” to show empathy, establish a rapport and create a positive experience amongst many other typical customer service attributes that are required for the position.  They will then be monitored to make sure they are delivering the service expected and in line with the company policies and processes.  And in doing all of this, it demonstrates that to the boss, that they have the capability to do their job.

Great. If we didn’t know how to DO our job, we’d be in trouble.  Doing the job is one thing – but doing it well, consistently, is another.  We know we have the capability to deliver great service, but do we have the capacity to deliver great service every single time.

But to do that – we have to be on top form.  We need to be able to take every single customer transaction with the zest that we had with that very first call.

So delivering customer service is far more than simply whether we are trained to do the job or not. How we are feeling at any given time will influence the type of service we deliver.  That’s often why we see inconsistencies across the service.  People know how to deliver the calls, but they may not have the capacity to deliver their calls. 

Morals vs Business Process

Whilst employees are paid to complete a job, it doesn’t mean it is easy, neither will they always agree with the processes they have to follow.  Inevitably, there comes a time where an employee is faced with a “difficult customer” (I hate that term but it’s one we’ve come to use). Someone who is angry, frustrated, annoyed, rude or even abusive.  Most will have a policy for dealing with those types.  But then they may also talk to someone who is struggling in life, maybe even struggling to make their payments, who can’t afford to put food on the table for their children. They may have someone cry whilst they try and battle through their own feelings.  The agent is then faced with a moral dilemma, following a business process and their own morals on the situation.

Even with a policy in place, it doesn’t mean that an individual isn’t emotionally affected by the experience.

And therein lies the challenge with Customer Service – we know how to do the job, but we also need to know how to manage the emotions of the job. 

The formula is simple – the less stressed or emotional exhausted we feel, the more energy we have and will naturally put into delivering outstanding customer service.

If enhancing the wellness of call centre agents and helping them to develop the behavioural capacities they require to cope at work could lead them to delivering the consistency of service, optimising the experience for the customer and being productive for longer, surely it’s a no brainer?

It’s all about the bounce

Resilience in its broadest sense is the ability to “bounce back”.  To be able to effectively deal with the ups, downs and challenges.  Resiliency is the individual’s capacity to respond and deal with what is happening in life.  In a work capacity, this may mean dealing with tough workloads, difficult calls and challenges that work situations may create. 

“Resilience is arguably the most vital skill that we need in customer service”

Resiliency is the missing ingredient to delivering exceptional service.  Without it, it’d be like forgetting to add the lemons to a lemon sponge cake and wondering why on earth it was just a bland, stodgy mess with no flavour.  It’s the icing on the cake, the garlic in the garlic bread, jam to the doughnut, the mince in the cottage pie.

Developing resiliency can yield great benefits for business.  Developing resiliency in individuals, helps to be able to deal with the demands that are placed upon them, especially where those demands might require them to be dealing with constantly changing priorities and heavy workload. 

What should you be doing?

The ability to cope with pressure, adversity and uncertainty relies on developing behaviours, thoughts and actions.  It is about learning habits and creating strategies that help to increase resilience.

So, it’s time to invest in developing the resiliency of your front-line staff as a priority.  If you haven’t delivered customer service training yet, have it combined with customer service skills and resiliency as a package.

What else can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  •       Don’t underestimate the effect of mindfulness – it really helps to regulate stress.  There are some great apps and access to mindfulness activities online that you could make accessible round the office.
  • Mindfulness is practical and effective in decreasing employee stress, whilst improving resiliency and work engagement, thereby enhancing overall employee well-being and organisational performance. 
  • Allow time off the phones after someone experiences a difficult challenge like a call.  Don’t expect them to be able to “jump” back into it without just taking those moments to reset.
    • Detachment from activities, even for a few minutes can help to reset energy and attention.
  •       Develop flexible working arrangements for employees.  There is a lot of focus on this area at the moment and for good reason.  It’s great for helping develop resiliency.
  • Create an open communication platform where people are able to talk openly about the challenges they face.  Gathering feedback helps to monitor the pulse of the team and utilising employee feedback helps to drive leadership focus and attention into the area.  Problems can be pinpointed quickly and addressed. It will also help to determine motivation techniques that are needed.

“Resiliency should be ordinary not extraordinary”

It’s a critical skill for any front-line staff.

Contact [email protected] who can help you develop your Customer Service & Emotional Resiliency training.

Absence is an opportunity – tips for managing it

understanding mental health in the work place

Every organisation in one time or another will experience absence. One day, two days, long term sick – it’s often a reality of a business.

It’s estimated that over 141 million working days are lost because of sickness or injury every year, equivalent to 4.4 days per person working. Injuries, musculoskeletal, general sickness (colds/coughs/headaches), as well as poor mental health all feature in the list of top reasons for absence.

But did you know that 95% of employees who experience poor mental health will give a different reason for their absence? So when you look at your absentee data and complete that analysis to identify themes and trends, there might be a whole heap of themes that the data isn’t showing you.

In the UK, poor mental health is costing the economy nearly £20 BILLION POUNDS! We know it’s a problem, let’s not ignore the facts here. Whilst cynics will say that absence is an inevitability – perhaps our roles is not dismissing absence as an inherent nature of the workplace, but instead using these situations as an opportunity to create better support for those who are struggling – and keep them healthy in work.

In order to do that, we’ve got to get to challenge some of the roadblocks!

Roadblocks to overcome in managing absence

  • Too many businesses accept an annual absence percentage based on run rate.

They run year to year accepting the absenteeism as an inherent and systematic part of their business. It remains unchallenged unless the percentage of absence rises above the ‘budgeted’ amount.

And therein lies the first problem. If our only trigger to take action is reactive, we will forever be chasing our tail. Once that absence period is past, there is very little you are able to do to influence positively. The second problem is f we accept that that’s the way it is because that’s the way it’s always been, then we accept mediocracy and the value we have for our employees is misplaced.

  • Failing to see absence as a symptom of a poor environment and culture

It’s easy to view absence as though it is isolated from the business and in doing so, manage it as a transaction. It’s treated as though the reason exists independently. Absence affects the business but seemingly absence isn’t affected by the business or is it? 90% of those who are struggling with their health, will find their work affected. Underestimating the influence of the business culture and environment on health and wellbeing will not effectively reduce absenteeism in their business. Period.

Treat a return to work as an opportunity

Return to works can often be perceived as a tick box exercise, something that shows we complied with the absence policy. But a return to work should be so much more than that. It’s not about the policy, the forms or the absence management processes. These are guidelines to guide us.

This is about the person.

It’s an opportunity to create understanding, show empathy, develop trust between the manager and their employee, demonstrate that support can and will be provided, to show you care.

The time you do it, the space you create, what you say and how you say it matters. It all helps to show your staff that they and their health is important, that their health is important to YOU, that you care, that you want to support them and are prepared to support them. YOU represent the company.

What’s the best time?

Complete it within the first hour on their return to work. Part of the conversation needs to determine if they are feeling ready to be back in work. If you do it 6 hours after they started – it’s a bit late if they aren’t!!

If you aren’t able to complete it as their line manager, there needs to be someone who can step in. Whoever that is needs to do the same thing because we are then extending trust across the wider business.

Space you create

Finding a quiet space which is not in ear shot of others seems like a pretty basic requirement. You’d be surprised how often these discussions happen in front of others under the excuse that there weren’t any meeting rooms. It doesn’t have to be a meeting room. Of course that helps – BUT there are always places where you can be discrete.

What to say and how to say it

This is the individuals’ time – not yours. This is their time to talk and once you demonstrate the importance you place on health, that you show them they are valued, employees are more likely to start opening up.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Whilst a guideline or checklist is great, it can often become the central point of a discussion, going from one section to the next, monotonously. You can fill the check list in later. The purpose of the discussion is to focus solely on the employee, how they’ve been feeling and how you can support them.
  • Use open questions. Here’s some examples:
  • How are you feeling
  • How can I support you (don’t use WE – I shows responsibility and ownership. It also shows that YOU take it seriously)
  • What support can I put in place throughout today that would help you?

Acknowledge and recognise the importance of being unwell for that person. Examples:

  • I understand.
  • That sounds very difficult
  • I am sorry to hear you were so unwell

Encourage conversation using examples like:

  • Tell me how you’re feeling now
  • Talk to me about how you’re feeling about being in work today
  • Let’s explore how I can support you

This will encourage the individual to talk – and from there you can respond using a mixture of these techniques. The key is, rather than focusing on what you say, focus on the person, because once you switch your focus from you to them, what you say becomes far more natural and less forced. A good way to tackle this is to imagine a spotlight and rather than that spotlight on you, move it round to the person Infront of you.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in us trying to say the right thing, that the value of this moment is lost.

Once you have spent time talking, its time to come up with a series of ways that you can support the individual. This should happen naturally in the conversation. Things to consider are what temporary adjustments can be made to support and what support might be required. This should always be part of the conversation, but again, it should be led by the employee and guided by the manager.

Don’t forget to plan a follow up and agree when that will happen. This is of course dependent upon the circumstances, the reasonable adjustment and the support that Is put in place.

It’s an opportunity

Return to works, individuals returning from sickness are opportunities to create a safe space for someone to say they are struggling and for the business to demonstrate that it will and can support them. It is not a paper, or tick box exercise. If you get this bit right you can influence how that person feels, you can take proactive steps to mitigate any further absence and when you get back to your desk, you can do all the necessary paperwork AND categorise it the right way for the absence data.

YOU can positively influence what happens next.

If you think this is an area your team may benefit from coaching or you have any questions, just drop me a message through LinkdIn or via [email protected]

How to deal with poor leadership in your organisation

poor leadership in organisations

The impact of poor leadership is well documented. We can all nod our heads and agree that poor leadership has a significantly negative impact in our business. 

Poor leadership is also cited as one of the biggest reasons that affects mental health & wellbeing in the workplace.  It can contribute to stress, anxiety and even depression.  Research evidence linking management and leadership to employee mental health and wellbeing has grown exponentially in the last decade, to a point where it is so well supported, it almost seems self-evident.

Yet, whilst we are all nodding our heads like nodding dogs in agreement – we still have poor leaders in businesses, continuing to negatively affect employees and the business.

So why aren’t we taking action?

There could be lots of reasons – but here’s the key ones:

  • The person has a particular skill / knowledge in the business that others don’t have.
    • Highly knowledgeable in their specialisms. We fear the loss of the knowledge or skills is more important than the wider impact they have on their team.  We fear by addressing the leadership issues, we could lose the talent.
    • Often, team leaders, managers or leaders have risen through the company or were recruited with a particular set of skills that weren’t already in the organisation.  The length of time means they know the business and that creates great confidence.
  • There are lots of issues in the department/team and having a manager in place, even if they are bad is better than no manager at all.
    • This is just accepting poor performance because we don’t have a plan to deal with it.
  • You don’t know how to deal with it or manage it
    • It’s not every day you have to deal with poor leadership.  Well, at least, I hope not. 
    • Lack of knowledge and understanding in this area is common.
    •  It could be a formal issue – it could be a training issue.
  • It places MORE pressure on YOU should that person leave.
    • How will I cope if this person goes? The reality that the work that person was doing, will be coming to you.
  • Changes in Senior Leadership
    • When there are changes at a Senior Executive / Leadership level, sometimes there a period of change which allows those new leadership to take stock of what is happening in the organisation before action is taken.
  •  Lazyness
    • Let’s face it – there are unfortunately, some lazy leaders in the world, who simply can’t be bothered to do anything about it because it’s far too much effort.
  • Lack of investment
    • The business isn’t prepared to invest in adequate training for those leaders.

And here’s the thing. 

THESE ARE ALL EXCUSES and whilst you sit behind these excuses, guised as reasons, the impact to your workforce continues and by not taking action, you run the risk of further damage.  Why? Staff see the issue isn’t just with the leader, but with the wider business.

And poor leadership has a domino effect – it’s just one bad thing after another:

TEAM WORK AND COLLOBORATION begins to break down.  TARGETS & OBJECTIVES begin to suffer. Some might be achieved, but perhaps through luck rather than anything else.  People stop doing overtime to support the team because they don’t want to spend any more time at work than they have to.  Staff see 1-2-1’S as a paper exercise and not even worth the paper they are written on.  Staff become DISENGAGED and there is no real improvement with individuals. EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT is next to none and in doing so, we have STRIPPED INNOVATION, CREATIVITY and PROBLEM SOLVING.  Staff feel UNDERVALUED, that they are is no point, that they are not supported, that even if they had a suggestion, it wouldn’t be considered.  All of this affects MORALE, it affects PERFORMANCE, ENERGY, DRIVE, LOYALTY, COMIMITMENT, HOW WELL WE DO, HOW GOOD A SERVICE WE DELIVER.

And STAFF LEAVE, costing you MORE MONEY to recruit, to train to get up to speed – all the time whilst trying to maintain CUSTOMER SATISFACTION & PERFORMANCE.

It seems like an awful lot of impact when it could be addressed by the one person causing it.  And this is before we even consider the impact to mental health & wellbeing, some examples of which are below:

  • Feeling undervalued can affect self-esteem & confidence, where we don’t have that pillar of value in our life, that it means something, that we make a difference, we can feel useless.  Feelings of uselessness can significantly impact our state of mind.  We can feel like we don’t belong, that we aren’t good enough.
  • Feeling down is a common symptom and where not supported, can worsen.  It can lead to depression.  It can also affect others in the teams.
  • Our sleep can be affected by the stress that we are experiencing at work which could then develop into something more.
  • We could dread going to work every single day and feel anxious.

DON’T underestimate the impact to mental health through the influence of another.

So what needs to happen?

Firstly, you need to understand what excuse you are using to stop you from taking action in the first place.  Once you know that, then start thinking about what you CAN do, what are the options are, how can you positively affect change that is needed to resolve this

  • The person has a particular skill / knowledge in the business that others don’t have

1)      Create a skills transference action plan to spread that knowledge and skills out. You shouldn’t really have one person in the company with that knowledge/skill anyway as it’s a single point of failure anyway.  Make it quick so that you can address the bigger issue.

2)      You could just take the plunge and decide that actually the skills & knowledge that you are missing will only be really understood when you don’t have it and what you don’t have, you find a solution for then.  It all depends on the skills/knowledge and the impact. You have to decide that.

  •  There are lots of issues in the department/team and having more bodies is better than less, even if they are bad.

1)      These issues don’t get better unless you address the bad. A lot of the issues are probably due to the poor leadership so deal with that first.  Or:

2)      Identify the biggest issues / risks that need to be resolved before you can take further action and create that targeted plan to get those risks mitigated.

  • You don’t know how to deal to manage it

o   Lack of knowledge and understanding in this area is common. It’s not every day you need to manage poor leadership – well at least I hope not!

o   Engage your HR team for support! They can advise you! They will not think you are stupid because you don’t know how to do it. They will be glad you came to them and they CAN Help you.

o   There is a formal and informal approach to handling it.  It depends on the situation, the circumstances and the behavious/issues.  Your HR personnel can guide you.

o   For formal, you need to work out whether it is conduct or capability:

§  Conduct relates to a person’s behaviour at work not reaching the standards that are required.  Someone who can do it but won’t do it.

§  Capability is the employee who may be trying hard, but not reaching the standard expectations.

o   Go through the policies and processes.

o   Remember that you might need support to let off steam, to share how you are feeling.

  • It places MORE pressure on YOU should that person leave

o   The question to ask yourself, is what’s best for my staff and for the business? 

o   Continuing as you are will only lead to more pressure on you as the impact intensifies around the poor leadership.

o   In the long run, the short term pain might well be worth it. 

o   Recognise that you may struggle with that increase of pressure and you need to take action to look after your health & wellbeing.

  • Changes in Senior Leadership

o   A really challenging one because no one wants to make changes when a new senior leadership team is being built. 

o   But the business doesn’t stop because new people are coming in.  I would get it on the agenda of the Senior Leader that there is on-going risk to the business and that you will need to take immediate action due to the impact.  You then need to decide how you go about doing it, which is dependent upon the situation and circumstances.

  • Lazyness

o   You should think about whether this position is really for you.

  • Lack of investment

o   Okay, so this one is really frustrating.  You can pull together a business case that outlines all the reasons you need to do it, how much it costs and the ROI but the powers that be still say no.

o   So now you need to get creative.  Who in your organisation is great at leadership that can mentor and coach this person? What is the internal training teams capacity to do some in-house courses? What can HR do to support here?

o   You could also consider reducing the external cost by focusing on the critical skills (I would opt for Emotional Intelligence) and re-positioning that to the powers that be.  They will see it as a better deal and may just say yes.

As a business, keeping someone in a position of leadership that is negatively affecting your workforce must be dealt with.  Allowing toxic environments to be created from one person calls into question the entire integrity of the business and will impact your performance.

The impact to your employees is far greater.

I don’t believe anyone goes into work, wanting to do a bad job.  Those in Leadership should love being a Leader, seeing every day as an opportunity to positively affect change, positively affect the performance, positively affect how people feel.

I lead like the leader I always wished I would become.

What’s the impact of poor leadership in your organisation and why are aren’t you taking action?

Is Mental Health First Aid really worth the investment?

When I meet with customers, they almost always mention getting people who are trained in Mental Health First Aid.  My first question to them is, why? It is important they know what the reasons are and have a plan!

But I am never sure I get a clear answer.

I’m not sure they know.

Mental health first aid has certainly gained some momentum and is arguably one of the biggest leaders in the industry.  And, there are a lot of advocates who push out the concept.

It’s licensed and accredited, it gives some assurance and people like that. And it has a lot of endorsement from government links and connections that give its message an international platform.  They are a well-recognised brand.  One of the reasons why they suggest training with them, is to be part of this “global movement” and many organisations are joining this idea.  Everyone else is seemingly doing it so they should too.

Raising awareness

You cannot dispute that Mental health first aid is clearly effective in raising awareness of mental illnesses.  In fact, a recent HSE report stated that there is consistent evidence that mental health first aid training raises employee’s awareness of mental ill health conditions, including signs and symptoms.  Those trained have a better understanding of where to find information and professional support and are more confident in helping individuals experiencing mental ill-health or a crisis. 

What about those who aren’t trained?

Does it promote inclusivity?

Clearly, those who receive training benefit from an increase in awareness and understanding, but what about everyone else?  Organisations aren’t necessarily prepared to fork out for everyone to be trained in mental health first aid.  It then becomes accessible to an exclusive group of people, a handful of people chosen by the organisation.

We should instead, be focusing and promoting inclusivity and greater accessibility.

What is the role of a mental health first aider?

Organisations seem to come unstuck on this point.  They invest in getting some people trained in mental health first aid – ticking that box, but then what?

Are they a point of contact for someone who is struggling with their health? How is that perceived amongst peers in the organisation?  Do they recognise signs and symptoms in others and communicate that to management? …. and the questions continue…

MHFA articulate the role as “stepping in, reassuring, supporting a person in distress” and “helping someone to recover their health by guiding them to further support”.

But it is important to define what the boundaries are for “helping individuals experiencing mental ill-health or crisis’.  A recent example I came across in an organisation is that first aiders recently trained, are diagnosing illnesses and trying to provide a therapeutic/counselling type support service. This categorically is NOT the role of someone who is trained in mental health first aid.  But by attaching a qualification, it appears to give people impetus to think they have the skills in diagnosing mental ill health.  It’s alarming really.  I am sure that this was never the intention of MHFA but more of an expansion of a poorly managed approach within the organisation.

Does it help with managing mental health?

The real question here though is whether this approach actually helps to reduce poor mental health.  Whether investing in this programme helps to reduce absenteeism, improve productivity, reduces staff attrition or even helps people who may be struggling.  Several reports and quotes state that undertaking the training has helped build knowledge and understanding of mental ill health which is a great way of tackling the stigma.  But based on research undertaken by the HSE, there is “no evidence that mental health first aid training has improved the management of mental health in workplace settings”.  There is clearly a significant gap in understanding the resource requirements and costs of this training vs beneficial outcomes for the organisations.

What about improvements to those experiencing mental health?

And in that same HSE report which assessed the impact, influence and application of Mental Health First Aid training in workplaces, it reported that there is no evidence that MHFA leads to sustained improvements in helping colleagues experiencing mental ill health.

So, I must ask – is it really worth it?!

Mental health first aid is not a substitute for preventing workplace anxiety or stress, neither does it give people the tools or approaches to use to manage their mental health.  It does help people in building understanding of mental ill health, challenging the stigma, recognising the signs and symptoms in ourselves and others, and gives an indication of what additional support externally is available.

Mental health first aid isn’t a solution to tackling mental health illness in the workplace. 

Employers who think they can deal with mental health concerns just by introducing mental health first aiders are very much mistaken.

But if you are jumping on the band wagon and considering mental health first aid in the workplace, be clear on why you are doing it and build a plan on how this will be integrated into the workforce.

Ask yourself:

  • What is the role of the mental health first aider IN MY WORKPLACE and how will that be embedded into the existing culture and organisation?
    • Positioning in the organisation
    • How they engage / support others
    • Boundaries of the role – what they do / don’t do
    • Communication plan
  • What additional approaches will we be taking to support the management of mental ill health in the workplace?
    • Promoting awareness with everyone
    • Mental health pathways for those who may be struggling
    • Reasonable adjustments to work
  • What other support is required to bring positive mental health to be a central part of my organisation?
    • Invest in training that is tailored and unique to your workplace, that promotes awareness, as well as building understanding in recognising signs and symptoms. Include signposting to external support.
    • Invest in suitable training and support for managers in having good conversations about health with their staff and encourage them to support their employees.
    • Be inclusive – mental health doesn’t discriminate. We should focus on giving greater knowledge, greater understanding, greater appreciation, greater opportunities to challenge the stigma to everyone and not a select few.
    • Adopt a holistic approach to mental health and wellbeing – recognise that to help people, we must help provide tools and techniques that people can actively use in their day to help manage stress, reduce their anxiety, support their depression – but also recognise when professional help might be required.
  • Develop an approach for tackling work-place stress and causes to mental ill health so you are working to reduce the change.

As a single, isolated approach to tackling mental health in the workplace, mental health first aid is not the solution.  As part of a wider approach, which focuses on inclusivity, accessibility, diversity and variety it could be a part of a solution.

If you are considering investing in mental health & wellbeing in the workplace, lets talk.  I can help you create a great plan.

 

Call Centres – Are they as bad as we think?

An industry that serves the backbone of our services, from electricity to phones, from insurance to water, the call centre serves millions of customers every day.  An industry which over the years has been plagued with names that have painted an awful picture of what working life is like; ‘electronic sweatshops’ and ‘human battery farms’ to name just a few.  And whilst the call centre industry has made significant strides forward in technology, how it supports employees and the way it interacts with its customers, recent research has shown both mental and physical health is significantly lower working within a call centre when compared against the general working population.

So lets lift the lid and explore why employees struggle in this industry…

Customer Demands & Technology

The response to customer demands and expectations has seen phenomenal growth in service-based call-centres.  Call centres are constantly introducing new technology, infrastructure and process changes in an ever-changing and evolvinThe response to customer demands and expectations has seen phenomenal growth in service-based call-centres.  Call centres are constantly introducing new technology, g environment, that reacts to the need for better, faster and more efficient ways of cost-effective communication.  This means call information is measured, monitored and controlled with overt and covert electronic monitoring systems ensuring employees comply to precise operating procedures.  Every action is logged, often measured to the precise second with targets and performance displayed on whiteboards dotted around the office.

The effect? Excessive monitoring has been found to cause higher levels of anxiety.  Ever changing customer demands, challenging and sometimes disgruntled customers can cause emotional exhaustion.

Lack of autonomy

Customer service and call centre roles have become progressively more computerised which means call centre agents are now sitting at their desks for most of the day and in a lot of cases, the tasks being performed have been less varying and more repetitive. 

On the flip side, centres that have decided to offshore or outsource have typically moved simple tasks out and left the more complex processes in-house, resulting in higher customer demands, looping us back round to the previous point.

Absenteeism & Turnover

One of the biggest challenges facing call centres is battling high level of absenteeism.  The sector has made great progress over the years to increase their value within organisations, but high absenteeism remains a major management problem.

It is often seen as a problem that affects operational effectiveness, failing to acknowledge its role as symptom of mental health issues.

Turnover rates for an office-type environment are particularly high but with some organisations, it is treated as a reality of the industry and therefore considered ‘the norm’.

Availability of Staff

A drive to continuously improve call centre productivity has meant focus has been placed on Workforce Optimisation and efficiency metrics.  Research continuously shows that the main cause of occupational stress in contact centres is work overload and the availability of staff which seems ironic considering the objectives of workforce optimisation.

Culture, Management & Environment

Psychologists have argued that stress is caused by an unsympathetic organisational culture, poor communication between management, lack of involvement, poor relationships, conflicting priorities, insufficient resources, bullying, poor leadership, inadequate guidance and support from superiors, favouritism, poor training and development, employment conditions… and phew I’m exhausted.

Continuing Conflicts

There is also a conflict that continuously exists within a contact centre; a need to be cost efficient and a desire to be customer orientated.   On the one hand organisations seek to increase the speed with which calls are processed and on the other hand, they underscore the importance of customer service and encourage their employees to be quality oriented.

As a result of this, Managers are continuously searching for new ways to combat the issues that appear to be intrinsic to work within the industry.

So what does this mean?

The reality is that whilst there will be different guises of ideas and perceived solutions, the problems that exist within a call centre seem to be a prominent on-going feature. The work in contact centres is subject to sometimes intensive monitoring, juggling customer quality and speed, fast pace change, high emotional work if you are dealing with complaints, monotony with the workload in some instances, reduced control and autonomy.  It is arguably the makeup of the current call centre.

What can they do?

Call centres need to be efficient, they need to be effective and they need the right tools and technology in place to run effectively but they must also take responsibility in acknowledging the affect they have on mental health and wellbeing as a result of the nature of the work and the environment.

So at the basic level, every call centre should focus on 3 core things: emotional resiliency, providing support and ensuring access to ways to help.

1. Developing Emotional Resilience

This isn’t a case of training people and then giving more work.  Developing resilience is being able to effectively support and manage stress and anxiety that may materialise from the workplace. 

Employees should be able to pull upon a toolkit they can use to help manage those challenging situations as they arise.  Host a series of workshops across a period of time which allows opportunity to cement change, then re-enforce messages by a regular and consistent communication campaign, which ties into your overarching Wellbeing Programme.  Let it drip through into team meeting activities so it becomes part of the organic embodiment of the call centre.  Embed it into your induction training for all new hires so every new employee that walks through that doors knows that you recognise resilience as an important factor in this role and you give people the tools to support that.

Word of warning: Keep revisiting – keep investing.  Developing resilience is an on-going process not a fixed state! Don’t rely on delivering one workshop and hoping that everyone will be resilient.  With the best will in the world, it simply won’t happen.  Make it regular, make it continuous – and all the time you are doing that, you are beginning to shape a culture that makes it okay to talk about mental health challenges.

2. Providing Support

Having poor managers costs and sometimes that cost can be irreversible.  Give managers the right training and measure their effectiveness in supporting employees.  One of the biggest causes for stress in the workplace is lack of support and this is 100% in your control to influence: 

Identify training which should include:

  • Developing personal awareness and presence
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Communication
  • Managing and supporting mental health

The influence one manager has on a team is significant.  Don’t underestimate the circle of influence they hold and the damage that can be done to employees.  Get the training at that level right and those reporting into them will start to feel supported, engaged and maybe even inspired.

3. Ensuring access to help

Every organisation has a pathway that is clearly defined and acted upon for physical health considerations.  If someone cuts their knee, a first aider is called upon, they assess the situation, they determine the right course of action, they implement that course of action, they document it in the first aid record book.  But if someone comes into your office and says I am feeling really anxious and I just don’t know what to do… would YOU know what to do?

Identify what the steps are to support someone who may be experiencing poor mental health. Define it, document it, communicate it, act upon it.  This should include:

  • Reasonable adjustments required in work to support the employee
  • Continued support
  • Signposting to appropriate help

Getting the financial cost to do all of this may be challenging – but the cost of not doing something is far worse and if call centres want to really affect positive change, my question is:

If not today, if not now, then when will you take action?

Be part of the solution.

Get in contact today: [email protected]