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The Powerful Impact of Wellness Initiatives on Agent Performance (and the Bottom Line)

Few other jobs are as inherently sedentary and psychologically taxing as that of contact center agent. Hours upon hours seated at a workstation handling call after call from demanding customers will take its physical and emotional toll on even the strongest, most well-adjusted person. Add to this the typical contact center custom of plying staff with pizza and sweet treats in an attempt to keep them inspired, and it’s easy to see why so many agents have cholesterol scores triple their IQ.

The most agent-centric organizations have implemented programs and resources aimed at keeping staff physically and emotionally fit. In addition to enhancing agent health and performance, such wellness efforts show staff that the company cares about them, which goes a long way toward fostering agent engagement, enthusiasm and retention. Oh, and by the way, healthier and happier agents positively impact the bottom line in terms of reduced insurance premiums, Workers’ Comp claims and absenteeism/attrition.

Among the most popular and effective wellness resources and practices I’ve seen in my years covering contact centers include:

On-site fitness facilities. Many centers have exercise equipment on the premises and encourage agents to work out before/after their shift or during their lunch/dinner break. Some centers offer their agents corporate discounts on memberships to local health clubs in addition to or instead of providing on-site fitness amenities. These centers are doing their agents (and customers) a great service, as it has been proven that exercising releases endorphins that keep staff from spontaneously combusting or imploding during difficult calls.

“Chill Zones”. While you could just hand out Xanax and Valium to all staff, doing so is expensive and, oh yeah, illegal. Instead, a number of contact centers have created special areas or rooms where stressed out staff can relax and recover during long and challenging shifts. I’ve seen “chill zones” equipped with such things as comfortable sofas and recliners, controlled lighting, TVs, mp3 players, ping pong tables, puzzles, plants and more. Some centers’ have chill zones that extend outside and feature a pleasant patio area, a soothing water feature and even a volleyball court or horseshoe pit.

Wellness classes/workshops. Centers serious about agent health and well-being may offer wellness courses and/or workshops on-site or nearby. Common examples include stress management classes, diet/nutrition courses, smoking cessation programs and workshops that educate agents on the dangers of repeatedly banging their head against cubicle partitions.

Nutritious foods. I’ve seen numerous organizations wage war on the typical contact center junk food mentality by providing a host of nutritious options onsite – be it fresh salads and lean protein dishes in the cafeteria, or tasty minimally processed snacks (veggie chips, raisins, etc.) in vending machines. Now, to get agents to actually eat such items, you may have to tempt them with incentives – just make sure those incentives aren’t chocolate- or cookie-based, as that kind of defeats the purpose.

Ergonomics training and resources. Tired of losing agents (or at least agent effectiveness) to bad backs and crippled wrists, many contact centers employ or contract with an ergonomics expert. These specialists work with agents on how to properly position and adjust their chair, keyboard, wrist rests, headset and PC monitor, as well as how to bend at the knees and not at the waist when picking up and throwing a supervisor.


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