Teach your agents these techniques to combat stress in the contact center

Ashley Sava

Call centers are notorious for being one of the most demanding and stressful jobs out there. Agents deal with high call volumes, infrequent breaks, angry customers and a lack of resources. When the stress of the job starts to take a toll, the position lives up to its reputation as one of the highest turnover fields due to reps burning out rapidly. According to one study, 74 percent of call center reps are at risk for burnout. 30 percent of those individuals are at severe risk of burnout.

According to cloud-based contact center Talkdesk, stress inside the call center environment has a serious impact on the well-being of the agent, the effectiveness of the call center and even the success of the company. Things like role ambiguity, lack of resources, monotonous work tasks and excessive monitoring spin into a perfect storm and transform into turnover.

Call center reps might be headed down the fast-track to burnout if they allow workplace stresses to accumulate. Some warning signs of burnout are:

  • Feelings of negativity or cynicism related to the workplace
  • Reduced work efficiency 
  • A lack of energy
  • An anxious feeling before the start of the workday
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Irritability (sometimes with customers)
  • Missed upsell/cross-sell opportunities
  • Unhealthy coping strategies  

Chronic workplace stress that isn’t dealt with is detrimental to the agent’s performance, productivity, health and happiness. It also hurts the company’s brand image, customer experience and bottomline. 

Our friends at Challenger said the pandemic isn’t helping things. Call center reps, individuals already at a high-risk for attrition due to industry stress, were sent home during this worldwide crisis to do their jobs under even more stressful circumstances. Attrition, a major cost driver for customer contact organizations, is knocking on the door waiting to snatch up agents left and right. The average cost to replace a rep is approximately $12,000. As if the financial burden wasn’t bad enough, when you also consider time spent recruiting and hiring, productivity takes a hit, too. Yikes.

Here are some ways agents can manage the stress:

Put the past away

Obsessing over a call that didn’t go as planned or letting nerves get the best of you while anticipating a meeting isn’t going to allow you to focus on your following calls. Give each call your undivided attention to minimize stress and optimize your performance.

Just breathe

When you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious, your body responds with shallow breathing. Learning breathing exercises to get your body back under control is important and it’s easy. Here are some techniques that you can perform regardless of where you are and what you’re doing. 

Take your breaks outdoors

When you get a break, step outside and let nature do its thing. Spend some time engaging your senses and reward yourself with a well-deserved change of scenery in order to relax your mind. While on break, leave work and thoughts of work at your desk. 

Music is good for you

Did you know that listening to music can lower anxiety, improve your memory and decrease fatigue? Before work, on break or after the end of a long day, take advantage of the many positive effects music brings to your mood, health and brain. 

Stretch it out

Stretching increases blood flow and oxygen to your brain and decreases stress and anxiety. Better yet, it can be done anywhere and anytime. 

A laugh a day keeps the doctor away

A good laugh decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases your happy endorphins. Plus, people who laugh more are generally healthier. Whether you enjoy comedy shows, funny podcasts, jokes or having daily chats with that friend who just makes you chuckle, find a way to get a little comic relief in your life as much as possible. 

Make friends with your colleagues

Maybe being on the phone all day takes the fun out of casual conversations. Don’t let it! Your colleagues likely relate to the problems you’re having on the job and might have good advice on bettering your communication skills. When you discuss something you’re having a problem with, the experience is cathartic. Letting bad experiences build up without talking them out can elevate anxiety. Your coworkers can provide support and reassurance so you can put those negative calls behind you.


As a call center manager, be sure you’re doing your part to eliminate undue agent stress by evaluating your agents’ performances in an objective and unbiased way. Inconsistency between job performance expectations and performance evaluation criteria sparks team confusion and frustration as reps try to walk the line of meeting expectations and improving how they will be evaluated. Using Tethr’s Agent Impact Score, managers can focus on the things agents have direct control over such as the behaviors they demonstrate and the actions they take. Request a demo here.