How to Improve Agent Work-life Balance

​When Kirsten Taylor, a philanthropy services manager at a New Zealand-based estate planning company, heard about the company's new work-life balance policy, her "jaw hit the ground." Her company had just announced that its employees would be able to work four days and still receive pay for five.

"When it was announced there was nervous laughter, that feeling of it being too good to be true," Taylor told The Guardian.

The policy turned out to be an "unmitigated success": After completing a trial run, 78 percent of employees felt they were able to successfully manage work-life balance, up 24 percentage points, and stimulation, commitment and a sense of empowerment at work had all improved.

Though its tactics were a bit extreme, the estate planning firm found what many other organizations are learning: that work-life balance can keep employees happy and the business healthy. It has been shown to increase productivity, reduce turnover and recruitment costs, and lower absenteeism. Workers tend to be more engaged on the job as well.

4 benefits of increasing work-life balance in the contact center

Consider employing these guidelines in your contact center to boost work-life balance:  

  1. Balance contact center needs while preserving time off

    ​Empowering your agents to work less can actually improve productivity and your contact center's ability to achieve its business goals. Workforce managers should aim to balance the need to over-schedule in order to respond to customer demand with the potential for employee burnout. ​

  2. Being over-scheduled may occur from time to time, but if you're always operating from this standpoint, then you will be less productive over time than if you developed better boundaries," said Dr. Dawna Ballard, professor of chronemics at University of Texas at Austin. "Overreaching is to be expected occasionally, but it is not a sustainable business model."

    ​When granted time off, workers return to work feeling refreshed and able to tackle more throughout the day. This can help your contact center better respond to demand surges and increase staff utilization.

  3. ​Consider benefits that help parents​

    Millennials are now responsible for 82 percent of U.S. births, though they make up just 29 percent of the population, according to Pew Research Center. Given these statistics, it's likely that many of your millennial agents are parents, and tailoring benefits that make their lives a little easier can substantially improve work-life balance, in turn reducing turnover. This can include childcare benefits, maternity or paternity leave, or flexible schedules so that parents can plan for their kids' activities, doctor's appointments and school schedules.

  4. Encourage employees to use vacation time

    It's not enough to offer vacation time --- you also have to encourage agents to actually use it. This is because a majority of workers aren't comfortable using all of their paid vacation: 54 percent believe they'll be replaced if they take all of their vacation time.

    Encouraging your agents to use their allotted PTO is critical, because employee failure to recharge is directly linked to burnout and turnover. Employee burnout accounted for 20 to 50 percent of companies' annual employee turnover in a recent study.

    To do this, try to convey positive messages about vacation time to your agents to ensure that they don't feel discouraged from taking time off or afraid that they'll be replaced.  Consider creating a system to help agents prepare for time off and pass off assigned tasks, so that they feel involved in the process. This tends to make agents feel more positively about taking vacation and return with greater levels of motivation and dedication to their positions.​

  5. ​​Model sustainable work practices

    Don't overlook the power of leadi​ng by example when trying to improve your contact center's work-life balance. Employees are 1.1 times more likely to remain at a company if they have supervisors who model behaviors such as taking breaks, using vacation days and taking actions that support their own physical, emotional, mental and purpose-focused needs. These actions showcase a sustainable method of working that encourages employees to do the same.   

    Changes to work-life balance must be made for supervisors, managers and possibly your own position to create a culture that values productive, happy employees and shows agents that working in a sustainable manner and taking time off is acceptable. 

​​Your contact center doesn't need to pay workers for five days when they're actually working four in order to enable better agent work-life balance. By balancing contact center needs with time off, considering benefits for parents, encouraging employees to use vacation time and having managers lead by example, your contact center can create a better culture and environment for agents. ​

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