Building emotional resilience: the ‘forgotten’ service areas
Working in a contact centre is a rewarding but demanding job.
To cope with distressing or abusive calls, and actually bounce back stronger, helpline advisors need emotional resilience.
So, how can leaders build this among their staff – including those working in service areas that are sometimes forgotten?
On the frontline
It’s not just advisors on mental health helplines who face difficult calls.
Take employment, legal or financial advisors. When you pick up the phone, you never know if you’ll be dealing with a caller who’s fearful or distressed, or who might even lash out verbally.
The pandemic raised stress levels for callers and advisors, with increasing numbers of people facing bereavement, health and job security fears, isolation, and juggling work with home schooling. Now, as lockdown eases, many are worried about returning to work.
This means that advisors could be handling distressed callers, while possibly facing huge personal pressures themselves. Even if they think they’re coping just fine, the work can take its toll.
What is resilience?
Emotionally resilient staff handle challenging calls with empathy and skill. They are unscathed or even strengthened by adversity. But how do they do it? What is the secret to how to develop a thick skin?
Experts tend to agree there are five pillars for emotional resilience at work:
- Emotional wellbeing. The central pillar: good management of thoughts and emotions.
- Inner drive. Motivation to achieve goals.
- Future focus. Acceptance of failures while focusing on solutions and positive change.
- Relationships. A supportive network of family, friends and colleagues.
- Physical health. Looking after your body to stay as fit as possible.
With time, self-reflection and willingness to change, it’s possible to develop all of the above.
However, staff may be embarrassed to admit they’re struggling, particularly if they compare themselves to colleagues working on accounts seen as more challenging.
This makes it the job of team leaders to normalise the process of discussing emotional resilience in social work openly.
Building emotional resilience
Developing the five qualities above should be part of the personal development plan for all your staff, discussed in regular 1-2-1s and appraisals.
It’s a wide-ranging topic, so we’ll just look at six common issues here – plus techniques for addressing them.
Firstly, negative thoughts, which damage emotional well being. Encourage your staff to write them down and challenge them. With time, people will do this automatically.
Secondly, goal-setting. The SMART framework that you probably use to define your organisational goals can apply to personal aims too. Help your team members set Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound goals, and track their progress.
Then you need to promote a growth mindset. Critical thinking and accountability are crucial, so your staff can appraise themselves honestly and rationally, and open themselves up to change.
Consider their emotional and physical health: do they have a good work-life balance? Connect Assist can provide overflow services for out-of-hours calls and times of peak demand – we’re open 24/7, 365 days a year.
When it comes to developing supportive networks, mentors are invaluable to offer staff guidance and support when the going gets tough.
And finally, consider Employee Assistance Programmes to offer emotional support and counselling for workers who are struggling.
Modern tech can also take some of the strain off your staff.
These days, customer expectations are rising, and customers may be irate if kept on hold. Up-to-date telephony can route customers effectively, cutting wait times.
With some of these frustrations eased, your contact centre staff can focus on providing tailored, empathetic support to callers in need, without compromising their own well being.