Why Are Call Center Jobs Stressful?

Working at a call center can be stressful for employees. It can also affect the efficiency of the call center and the overall success of the business. Therefore, it’s important for call center managers to identify and address the sources of stress to ensure a more productive and positive work environment.

This article reviews a number of stress factors that typically occur in call centers and provides suggestions for how to address them.


1. Role Ambiguity

A common source of stress at a call center, or any workplace, is role ambiguity. This occurs if employees are uncertain what their responsibilities are or share several responsibilities and are not clear who is responsible for what. Role ambiguity is demotivating and frustrating for the employee and makes it harder for them to complete their tasks.

To avoid this at your call center, make sure all your employees know what their responsibilities are, what the tasks at hand are and give them the tools and resources they need to complete their work efficiently. Make it a habit to keep communication lines open between you and your employees so you spot problems before they become too difficult to manage effectively.

2. Poor Quality Phone Equipment

Call center employees are under constant pressure to improve their waiting time, response time, service level and productivity. Working with outdated, inefficient equipment doesn’t make it any easier. With rapid advances in telecommunications technology, equipment gets older faster.

Sound quality diminishes with time and not being able to understand a client can cause many problems and hinder the effectiveness of call center employees. This, in turn, can affect the employees’ evaluations, and subsequently their morale.

The best solution to decrease stress and increase productivity is by regularly replacing outdated equipment with phones and headsets that can handle the call center's agenda.


3. Excessive Call Monitoring

Call center employees frequently report being more stressed when call monitoring is too intrusive and too frequent. It can be especially stressful when feedback from call monitoring practices is overly critical and unwarranted. Some call center workers go as far to say that excessive call monitoring and strict control measures are emotionally demanding and oppressive. Furthermore, research indicates that there is a positive correlation between high levels of monitoring and depression, anxiety, turnover rates and decreased job satisfaction.

One solution is to use call monitoring as a training exercise and an opportunity for the employee to become more skilled at handling calls. If you feel your call center employees are in a particularly stressful period, limit call monitoring to an absolute minimum.

4. Mundane Responsibilities

With call centers looking to decrease overall costs and increase work efficiency, tasks that once required a certain level of experience are becoming increasingly oversimplified. Call center employees are also expected to strictly adhere to sets of scripts while over the phone, making the spontaneity of a work call almost nonexistent. At this point, almost every action in the call center is standardized to a certain degree.

With all of these changes, workers have little room to work with creativity, discretion in decision-making and autonomy. Finally, the day becomes a series of unchallenging and monotonous tasks that provide little to no mental stimulation for the worker. Moreover, the worker can feel disengaged, frustrated, stressed and worthless.

To reduce stress because of mundane responsibilities, invite your employees to participate in more challenging projects. Encourage new ideas and give your employees responsibilities where they have control of the outcome.


5. Insufficient Incentives

In any work place, employees who believe that they are not being rewarded enough for their work experience higher levels of stress than those who believe they are being sufficiently rewarded. This can be especially stressful in a call center, because the job is usually associated with low incentives, a lack of acknowledgement from their peers and a lack of intrinsic (inner) rewards. This can all lead to poor work performance, because there is no incentive to do better.

Provide incentives for your call center employees. For example, equip them with the best headsets and give them a choice as to the headset wearing style.


6. No Pride Associated With a Call Center Position

Most call center employees report that working in the call center was not a part of their career plans. In most cases, employees find themselves working at call centers, due to financial hardships, a lack of qualifications or skills and/or a lack of alternative jobs on the market. Therefore, call center employees do not readily identify with the call center or the call center industry. Having no pride working at the call center can regularly lead to stress and poor performance.

To address this issue, involve your employees in the business and talk to them about how they can – and do – make a difference.


7. Dealing with Angry Customers

On average, call centers report that they receive verbally aggressive calls from customers daily. Having little time to gauge the situation, call center workers must handle the needs of emotionally demanding customers while being careful not to further upset the individual. Being continually verbally assaulted often leads to experiencing more stress and exhaustion. Although an employee may not have to deal with it as often as others, any emotionally taxing call can have negative repercussions.

Be sure to give your call center employees the opportunity to talk about their negative customer experiences. Provide tools such as courses in how to handle difficult customers so they can more effectively control and deal with such situations with as little stress as possible.


8. No Predictability in the Work Environment

Being uncertain has always been a great source of stress and anxiety for people. With call center jobs, the very nature of a call can be unsettling for an employee, especially when they are unaware of its nature. The notion of missing an important call can also engender feelings of stress within the employee. Furthermore, employees must maintain a level of alertness while anticipating the next call, because they are expected to successfully handle and engage any customer and their needs.

Make sure your call center employees have a regular schedule and enough breaks to relieve any pressure resulting from being on a constant state of alert.


9. Working with a Low Salary

Having a low salary job is a more indirect cause of stress, because it affects life at home. Unfortunately, most call center employees are given relatively low salaries to work with. Subsequently, this may lead to financial hardships at home, which can be one of the most stressful situations anyone has to deal with in their life.

Never knowing if all the bills will be paid each month can do a world of damage on the psyche of an employee and his or her family. It can be a perpetual cycle of the stress from home spilling over to work, and the stress from work spilling over to the home.

Consider your employees’ salaries in relation to the quality of service you are providing as a call center. See if it’s possible to raise salaries and thereby raise the quality of service so you realize more business.


10. Physically Straining Demands

People might assume that sitting in a chair taking calls all day is not a very physically demanding task, but they would be wrong to assume so. Studies have shown that call center workers are prone to experience occupational voice loss, eye sight difficulties, back and neck pain, sleeplessness, headaches and postural problems. Everyone knows that dealing with an ailment can be taxing and stressful, but dealing with it at work can have a synergistic effect on the overall level of stress.

These physical issues can be addressed with proper seating, ergonomic and wireless headsets with noise cancellation capabilities and easy to use features. Ensure your call center employees are given breaks and opportunities to walk around during the day.

In summation, the effects of stress on an enterprise can deeply impact the success of the enterprise as a whole. Thus, it is important to locate and address any work-related stressors, thereby allowing companies to positively impact and remedy the shortcomings of their operations.