Contact Center Trends

9 stress management techniques to help agents overcome call center anxiety

Celia Cerdeira

By Celia Cerdeira

0 min read

8 Stress Management Techniques For Contact Center Agents

Stress within the contact center is not only widespread but costly.

With an average turnover rate of 30% – 45% and the cost of turnover at $5,000- $7,500 per agent, call centers that don’t address workplace stress can be setting themselves up for financial hardships.

What’s more, stress in a call center can reduce customer satisfaction. Call center agents who are anxious and overwhelmed often struggle to provide high-quality customer service, leading to unproductive interactions and fewer return customers.

By finding ways to relieve your agents’ anxiety, you can improve the work environment; saving money and enhancing the customer experience in the process.

Symptoms of call center burnout.

Burnout is a type of deep exhaustion brought on by long or frequent periods of work-related stress. It can manifest through mental, emotional, or even physical symptoms, like:

  • Irritability or impatience towards others.
  • Tiredness.
  • Poor sense of personal identity.
  • The feeling of diminished accomplishments.
  • Decline in productivity.
  • Detachment from work.
  • Difficulty concentrating.

In call centers, where agents regularly deal with high-stress customer interactions, burnout is very common. As a manager, you must help your team manage stress.

How to avoid call center burnout?

This blog post provides nine simple stress management techniques for when call center employees feel overwhelmed. Whether you’re an executive determined to decrease call center agent burnout, a manager striving to reduce agent attrition, or an agent searching for ways to increase your performance, this is a great place to start.

Before discussing the specific techniques, it is important to state how these techniques impact the body. Stress management techniques help to:

  • Decrease heart rate.
  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Slow breathing.
  • Reduce the activity of stress hormones.
  • Increase blood flow.
  • Reduce muscle tension.
  • Strengthen the immune system.

Taken together, these physiological benefits have an impact on the contact center agent’s performance, productivity and effectiveness. Specifically, engaging in stress management techniques improve:

  • Focus and concentration.
  • Productivity.
  • Mood.
  • Memory.
  • Energy.
  • Frustration tolerance.

Thus, contact center agents that can effectively manage their stress will be more satisfied with their work, more effective at handling calls and more productive. It is therefore imperative that contact center agents are trained in stress management techniques and encouraged to practice them daily.

The following are the top nine stress management techniques that contact center agents can engage in at the workplace.

1. 4×4 breathing.

4×4 breathing is a simple and effective deep breathing technique that helps counter stress’s effects. “Deep breathing works by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” says psychologist Judith Tutin. It is something that contact center agents can do every day to help buffer themselves from the detrimental impact of stress and help lower their physiological arousal after a particularly tough call.

Agents should take a few minutes throughout their day to practice 4×4 breathing. First, they must close their eyes and sit up straight with their feet on the floor. Then they’ll inhale through their nose for four seconds, hold their breath for four seconds, exhale out their mouth for four seconds and wait for four seconds. They should repeat this four times. 4×4 breathing is a simple technique that they can use at any time throughout the day and will have a huge impact on your team’s call center anxiety.

2. Engage your five senses.

Your contact center agents might find it easy to perseverate on that one call that went horribly wrong or to worry about what might be said in their meeting later in the day. Thinking about the past or worrying about the future can significantly increase stress. Combat this by encouraging them to focus on the present.

Urge them to take a small break, letting them walk outside to engage their five senses. Coach them to notice any sounds like the buzz or traffic, birds chirping, or trucks driving by. Encourage them to feel the grass and to try to notice any smells. Tell them to study a leaf or a tree as if they were looking at it for the first time and to notice how the sun feels on their skin and the breeze on their face. Give them a piece of candy or some coffee. When they spend time in the moment focusing on their five senses, they’ll end up feeling less tense and ready to rock!

3.  Encourage socialization in the break room.

As a manager, urging your agents to visit the break room may seem counterproductive. And it may seem like talking more than they have to, especially after being on the phone all day, would be the last thing on their mind.  However, not discussing daily issues and news with their peers can be a fatal mistake when it comes to managing call center anxiety. After a tough call, they should feel comfortable to go talk it out with some friendly colleagues. Most likely, just discussing it will be cathartic enough that they’ll feel better.

Additionally, sometimes their colleagues will take it to the next level and help give them a new perspective on the issue, such as “I had a similar call and our manager said it was fine”. This peer support can go a long way to decreasing their experience of stress and will help them put that tough call behind them.

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4. Freeze away the stress.

If your agents are really stressed out or angry, there is an incredibly effective technique to calm them down immediately. If they place their head in ice cold water—making sure the water hits their face just below the eyes and above the cheekbones—put an ice cold gel mask on their face, or run ice cold water on their wrists it activates the parasympathetic nervous system which functions to calm people down. This technique works best if they hold their breath and bend over for 30 seconds as it activates the mammalian dive reflex that relaxes their body. Regardless of which technique they use, putting something cold on themselves is effective to use when they notice that their emotions are getting the best of them.

5. Laugh it out.

Laughing is a natural way to lower the stress hormone cortisol and increase endorphins which improves the mood. When your agents need a good pick me up, encourage them to put on their favorite funny YouTube videos, look at a funny quote, or read some funny jokes. Just a few seconds can have a huge impact on their experience of stress.

6. Spotify to the rescue.

Listening to soothing music can lower blood pressure, reduce the heart rate, and decrease anxiety. While your agents are performing after-call work or during their break time, urge them to turn on some classical music to reduce their experience of stress. A little relaxation can go a long way.

7. Run (or stretch) it out.

Exercise is another quick fix to increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain which decreases the experience of stress. Your agents can go for a quick walk around the block at lunch, go up and down a few flights of stairs on break, or stretch it out with head rolls and shoulder shrugs at their desk. All this can be a quick way to help them reduce the amount of call center anxiety they experience.

8. Be grateful.

When your agents feel their stress getting the best of them, urge them to shift their focus onto things that make them happy. Let them take a minute to write out a list of some of the things they’re grateful for and encourage them to include things about their job. Maybe they are grateful that they can save the money to pay for their son’s college, or perhaps they are grateful for their supportive colleagues, or maybe they’re grateful to work from home on occasion. Whatever it is, let them take some time to write it down and reflect on it. That cognitive shift may be all it takes to get them back to their A-game!

9. Get more support.

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure your team is getting the support they need. Are they overwhelmed with high call volumes and unable to manage their other tasks? Implementing call center software into your organization can help both you and your agents automate repetitive tasks, manage call volumes more efficiently, and enable a level of customer self-service. This can take some of the stress and pressure off of your agents’ shoulders while also improving customer satisfaction.

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Contact center agents have stressful jobs. But they don’t have to let stress impact their performance or mental well-being. By employing the right strategies, customer service agents can effectively manage their experience of stress at the contact center. Many of these techniques don’t take a lot of time or effort but can have a huge impact on performance.

By equipping your team with the techniques and the software they need to be successful, you can eliminate call center anxiety and improve productivity. Are you ready to find out how the Talkdesk solutions can help transform your business?


Celia Cerdeira

Celia Cerdeira

Célia Cerdeira has more than 20 years experience in the contact center industry. She imagines, designs, and brings to life the right content for awesome customer journeys. When she's not writing, you can find her chilling on the beach enjoying a freshly squeezed juice and reading a novel by some of her favorite authors.