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Mental Health Awareness Week: How to help remote agents avoid burnout

Learn how to avoid remote agent burnout and how to nurture your team's well-being and connectedness.

By Lilia Krauser, EMEA Content & Communications Specialist

Published May 4, 2022
Last updated May 10, 2022

This Mental Health Awareness Week, consider the well-being of the customer service agents who help buyers resolve their problems, handle disgruntled consumers, sort out billing issues, and much more. Anyone who’s worked on the front lines of support knows how hard it can be.

A support agent is the first person customers come to, often in a state of frustration, when they have a question or a problem. Agents must think on their feet, work with the consumer, sort through the data, and find a solution—fast. When they’re done with one interaction, they need to move on to the next one right away; the cycle continues all day.

It’s little wonder why agents are often at risk of burnout. And that’s particularly the case now that many agents work from home. While there are many great things about remote work—more flexibility, improved productivity, reduced or zero commuting time—there are also some downsides, especially when it comes to feeling isolated and disconnected from your team.

So, how can you spot the signs of agent burnout? And, more importantly, what can you do to prevent it?

Spotting the signs of remote-work stress

Remote agents avoid burnout

In a recent survey by Zendesk, 41% of agents said they didn’t feel that the customer support team was treated as well as the rest of the organisation. Only 30% of agents in Europe and the UK said they felt empowered to do their job well. And just 12% were satisfied with their workload.

41% of agents said they didn’t feel that the customer support team was treated as well as the rest of the organisation.

These disheartening results are among the first gathered since the shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many agents in remote working setups report feeling lonely or isolated. They say they lack both peer and manager support.

Managers, for their part, often find it difficult to keep track of each agent’s workload and the complexity of the cases they’re handling. Simply looking at a list of tickets can be a poor indicator of the amount of work—and stress—those tickets are generating for the agent assigned to them.

If these scenarios sound worryingly familiar, ask yourself if any of the following statements ring true:

  • Agents have little contact with colleagues, except through their managers.
  • Agents show signs of being stressed or overwhelmed.
  • Agents regularly have difficulty completing their caseload.
  • Colleagues are irritable or impatient with each other.
  • The rest of the company doesn’t engage with customer support unless there’s a problem.
  • Managers know the metrics of an agent’s performance but not the details of their caseload.
  • Agents don’t have tools that allow them to easily interact with each other.

If the answer to all or most of those statements is yes, there’s a good chance at least some of your remote agents feel isolated and stressed. Left unaddressed, these issues can negatively impact performance, employee satisfaction rates, and retention rates.

Agility playbook

Download our playbook to see how you can build an organisational culture around agility to build higher-performing cross-functional teams and ensure the wellbeing of your employees.

How to prevent burnout

Remote agents avoid burnout

Having recognised the problem, what can you do about it? A big part of the solution is to have the tools and systems necessary to properly manage, support, and recognise staff who work remotely.

The first thing to do is give agents the tools they need to work together effectively. Using the Zendesk dashboard, for instance, agents can start side conversations using the Slack messaging app. This allows them to ask their peers for help with tricky or sensitive cases. It’s the equivalent of getting up and tapping your coworker on the shoulder to see if they can assist you with a thorny customer problem. And the agent doesn’t even have to go on mute to do it.

Whole teams can also collaborate in this way. At Zendesk, for instance, the marketing team has a Slack channel dedicated to giving recognition to anyone who does excellent work. It’s not only great for motivating people, but also for sharing knowledge and developing best practices positively and organically.

Another way of preventing burnout among remote employees is to switch to a digital-first working culture. Don’t try to adapt office routines and practices for remote work. Instead, use the right tools to develop human-centric ways of working for people who aren’t in the office. For instance, Zendesk provides employees with support channels where they can ask for assistance, centralised knowledge repositories, internal AI-powered chatbots that can help staff find the answers they need, and company-wide access to Slack and Zoom.

With the right tools and the right approach, you can support agents who are working remotely and prevent burnout. Building a company culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing helps everyone feel included and empowered, regardless of whether they work in the office or from home.

Agility playbook

Download our playbook to see how you can build an organisational culture around agility to build higher-performing cross-functional teams and ensure the wellbeing of your employees.

Agility playbook

Download our playbook to see how you can build an organisational culture around agility to build higher-performing cross-functional teams and ensure the wellbeing of your employees.

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