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“We also have to focus on ourselves, because at the end of the day we’re human, too.”
- Simone Biles
Regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, and having a GOAT emoji on twitter to back it up, Simone Biles further demonstrated her strength when she withdrew from the team competition and the individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health. In doing so, she greatly contributed to the de-stigmatization of mental health and reignited the conversation surrounding the emotional wellbeing of athletes. While her decision was praised and supported by many, she was also met with criticism. The backlash is a testament that, despite progress, the mental health stigma still needs to be broken down.
The weight of her impact directly correlates with her power. Simone’s vulnerability serves as a reminder that even someone with numerous accolades and who is truly in a league of their own struggles with mental health. While her body might operate as a fine tuned machine, she is, in fact, human. While the vast majority of us are not Olympic athletes and cannot even begin to comprehend the pressure that comes with that experience, we too are human. This is why Simone’s decision to prioritize her mental health transcends the gymnastics and athletic communities and sets an example for us all.
Just as athletic institutions have exacerbated the pressure their athletes are under, workplaces are often a primary stressor and contribute to a decline in mental health for the working class. In fact, 94% of Americans report feeling stressed at work. Unfortunately, not everyone has the means or institutional support to put their mental health first - which is why it is crucial that businesses prioritize the wellbeing of their employees.
Focusing on mental health is especially imperative for those who work in customer service - a job that is incredibly stressful and often dehumanizing. It’s no surprise that over half of customer service agents feel burnt out on a daily basis and that the industry is notorious for turnover. Your agents provide your customers with a lot of support - but are you supporting them?
Here are 8 ways to support your support team’s mental health in the workplace:
1. Cultivate a Safe and Accepting Community
Create an environment that is open and supportive by addressing and working to remove the stigma surrounding mental health in your workplace. This isn’t a change that will happen overnight and it will likely require you to revamp some of your operations. But it is a necessary step that lays a strong foundation for a better workplace.
We recommend checking out this McKinsey report for a breakdown of mental health stigmas and strategies to dismantle them.
2. Leadership Trainings
Increase awareness and understanding of mental health by holding mandatory mental health training sessions for the leaders in your company. Not only will it provide an education on the importance of wellbeing, but it will give managers the tools and resources to identify and reduce stress in the workplace.
This applies to their own stress management as well; it’s important that leadership sets an example by applying mental health learnings and tactics to themselves. When employees see an example set by managers and C-suite leaders, they’ll feel safer and more supported as they focus on their own mental health.
3. Mental Health Coverage
Say it with us: 👏mental 👏 health 👏 is 👏 just 👏 as 👏 important 👏 as 👏 physical 👏 health! Ensure your team is able to get the professional help and treatment they need by providing mental health coverage as part of your health care plan.
4. Make "Wellness At Work" Accessible
Anyone can preach the importance of self-care to their employees. Telling someone to prioritize their mental health without providing them with any ways or resources to do so does just as much good as telling someone to “just be happy”. If you actually want to make a difference, put your money where your mouth is and invest in ways to bring wellness to your support team.
There are so many ways incorporate wellness into your agents’ workday:
- Regularly promote the mental health benefits and resources that your company provides. Make sure your agents know how they can take advantage of these resources and seek help when they need it.
- Provide subscriptions to apps that help manage health and stress. Apps like Calm and Headspace have business plans so everyone in your organization can have access to wellness content.
- Movement has a really positive impact on mental health; it reduces stress, is a mood booster, and increases overall productivity. Enable and encourage employees to move more by granting a fitness stipend and having periodic wellness challenges to incentivize activity.
- Offer meditation or yoga sessions in-office or via Zoom as a way to practice mindfulness and unwind.
- Encourage employees to explore different facets of health by hosting a variety of wellness workshops.
- Help build a greater sense of community by creating more opportunities for your team to connect with one another.
5. Show Appreciation with Proactive and Frequent Communication
Don’t wait until stress levels are high to check on your agents. Take initiative now! Regularly connect with your team both one-on-one and in group settings to see how they are doing, let them know you value them, and ask if there is anything they are in need of. These check-ins can be in person or in the form of a survey or questionnaire. Keeping close tabs on the wellbeing of your team will help to prevent the escalation of distress. It will also make it easier and feel safer for agents to reach out when they could use some support.
6. Leverage Tools That Reduce Burnout
Burnout can occur in any profession, but it is extremely prominent for customer service agents - contributing to a turnover rate that is more than twice the occupational average. With the current state of the world and alarmingly high rates of burnout and churn, this number will only continue to rise. Now is the time to double down and do something about the high-stress and repetitive strain that leads to agent burnout.
Equipping your team with the right technology can help increase functionality. Thankful's AI Agent and Agent Assist help to reduce burnout through delivering AI intuition to agents, handling large volumes of repetitive service inquiries, and alleviating pressure on support teams. Both AI Agent and Agent Assist empower agents to do what they do best: focus their time and effort on providing more meaningful customer service experiences.
7. Create a Flexible Workplace
Flexible workplaces have a number of benefits such as improving employee mental health, happiness, and productivity. Consider unlimited PTO, flexible work hours, and remote work options to implement more flexibility into your workplace.
8. Normalize Mental Health Days
We said it earlier and we’ll say it again (and again, and again): mental health is just as important as physical health. When we are physically unwell we take a sick day, when we are on vacation we take PTO, when we volunteer we take VTO - so why should it be any different when it comes to our mental wellbeing? Instead of expecting agents to push through emotional distress, set a standard by encouraging mental health days.
After putting her mental health first, Simone was able to compete in the balance beam event and win bronze - her 7th Olympic medal. Even if she didn’t return to compete, her time at the Tokyo Olympics still would’ve been a major win. A win that she shares with every gymnast, athlete, and person who cares about mental health.
Keep the conversation going, take action, and remember; your agents are humans first.