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Call Center Burnout: 8 Signs You’re Hitting a Wall — And How To Bounce Back

A call center agent sits at their desk, looking exhausted and overwhelmed.
Call center burnout is a state of profound emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion resulting from excessive and prolonged stress. [Daiyaan /]

Recognizing the signs of call center burnout, and knowing what steps to take, can make a profound difference in your health and happiness.

Imagine this: it’s Monday morning. You’re already dreading the relentless beep of incoming calls. Your coffee doesn’t seem strong enough to tackle the neverending queue of customer queries and complaints. You feel like you’re at a breaking point, unable to muster the energy for even the most routine interactions. Any of that sound familiar? Then you might be experiencing call center burnout — a state of profound emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion resulting from excessive and prolonged stress. 

You’re not the only one. Our research shows that 77% of agents report increased and more complex workloads compared to just one year ago, and 56% say they’ve experienced burnout. That could explain why, according to 69% of service decision makers, agent attrition is a major or moderate challenge. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s take a few minutes to review the telltale signs of call center burnout and offer practical strategies for preventing, managing, and overcoming it. We’ll also discuss how service leaders can foster a more positive work environment — and how technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) can transform the daily grind into a more manageable and fulfilling experience.

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What’s the difference between burnout and fatigue?

General stress or fatigue can often be resolved with short-term measures such as rest or a change in routine. Burnout is more chronic and deeply rooted in ongoing emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. It typically builds up over time and requires substantial changes in work life, mindset, or environment. 

While general stress or fatigue might cause discomfort, burnout affects your ability to function effectively in your role and enjoy aspects of your life both inside and outside of work. If you’re merely stressed or tired, a good night’s sleep or a weekend away might be enough to recharge. But if you’re burnt out, recovery may call for a deeper strategy including time off, lifestyle changes, or professional help. (back to top)

The 8 signs of call center burnout

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re experiencing three or more of these symptoms regularly, it might be a good time to seek support or discuss workload adjustments with your manager.

  1. Feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks. Do simple undertakings like logging call details or sending follow-up emails feel like huge challenges? Does your to-do list seem insurmountable?
  2. Dreading work. Does your tank feel empty? Are you drained before your shift even starts? 
  3. Decreased satisfaction. Have you stopped taking pride in resolving customer issues? Do you have trouble finding joy or satisfaction in your achievements?
  4. Cynicism towards work. Are you feeling cynical or detached from colleagues and customers?
  5. Physical symptoms like headaches, stomach problems, and sleep disturbances. Are you losing sleep? Suffering from persistent headaches? Experiencing stomach pain or nausea at work? 
  6. Irritability with colleagues or customers. Is your patience frequently wearing thin? Are you quick to snap at others? 
  7. Decreased performance. Are you making more mistakes than usual? 
  8. Withdrawal from social interactions at work. Are you avoiding conversations with coworkers? Have you stopped engaging in the usual workplace social activities? (back to top)

Tips for preventing call center burnout

Prevention is the best strategy when it comes to call center burnout. Here are some effective ways to keep burnout at bay:

  • Set clear boundaries. Know your limits and clearly define your work hours in your employment contract. Ensuring you have enough time to unwind each day helps maintain your mental and physical health.
  • Take regular breaks. Short, frequent breaks throughout the day can help reset your mind and reduce stress. Even a 10-minute pause to walk around the block can be beneficial.
  • Stay organized. Keep your workspace tidy and your tasks prioritized with a checklist. This can help you manage your workload more efficiently so you feel less overwhelmed.
  • Seek support. Don’t hesitate to use available resources, such as talking to a supervisor about your workload or connecting with a mentor who can provide guidance and support. (back to top)

Tips for overcoming call center burnout

To manage burnout, it’s important to recognize the early signs and take immediate steps to address them. Here’s how:

  • Practice stress-relief techniques. Engage in activities like deep breathing exercises, mindfulness meditation, or yoga to reduce stress.
  • Adjust your workload. Speak with your manager about redistributing tasks or adjusting your responsibilities to make your workload more manageable.
  • Develop healthy habits. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and a nutritious diet play a critical role in your overall well-being and resilience against stress.

Overcoming burnout may require more significant changes. If your symptoms are severe, you might want to consider these steps:

  • Try a temporary shift in role. Sometimes, a change can be as good as a rest. Talk to your manager about the possibility of trying a different role within the company.
  • Take time off. If burnout is severe, taking a vacation or a leave of absence might be necessary to fully recharge and reset.
  • Seek professional help. Consulting a therapist can provide you with tools to manage stress and address the root causes of burnout. (back to top)

How managers can foster resilience

Fostering a positive work environment is crucial to preventing and mitigating call center burnout. Here are some techniques that service leaders can employ to make that happen:

  • Create a supportive and inclusive culture. When agents feel valued and appreciated, they’re better equipped to withstand stress. Encourage teamwork, collaboration, and open communication. Recognize and reward agents for their achievements and provide constructive feedback to help them grow.
  • Provide comprehensive training and development. Invest in training programs to equip agents with the necessary skills and knowledge to handle customer interactions effectively. Offer ongoing training opportunities on Trailhead to enhance their expertise, nurture their mental health, and grow their careers.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations. Establish clear performance goals that are challenging yet attainable. Ensure that agents have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and the customer service analytics by which their performance will be evaluated. Regularly review and adjust goals as needed.
  • Empower agents. Give agents the authority to make decisions and resolve customer issues within defined guidelines. Empowering agents not only boosts their confidence but also enables them to provide personalized and efficient service, leading to greater job (and customer) satisfaction.
  • Foster a sense of purpose. Help agents understand the impact of their work and how it contributes to the overall success of the organization. Connect their roles to the larger mission and values of the company. Regularly communicate success stories and customer feedback to highlight the positive impact of their efforts.
  • Encourage self-care and stress management. Educate agents on the importance of self-care and stress management techniques. Provide resources such as wellness programs, access to counseling services, or workshops on stress reduction and resilience-building. (back to top)

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Using technology to mitigate call center burnout

Technology like automation and generative AI can play a pivotal role in alleviating call center burnout. Here’s how:

  • Automate routine tasks. Automation tools can handle routine tasks like ticket logging, standard customer queries, and basic data entry. By automating these processes, agents can focus on the more complex and rewarding aspects of their jobs, reducing monotony and increasing job satisfaction.
  • Use AI to enhance customer interactions. AI-powered chatbots and intelligent assistants can handle many customer inquiries, providing responses to common questions and escalating more complex issues to human agents. This speeds up response times while ensuring that agents are dealing with cases that require a human touch.
  • Share knowledge. Technology makes it easy to capture knowledge and share it across your team. Use generative AI to draft knowledge articles, and then put them through your company’s standard review and approval process before publishing. This saves time and helps you keep up with the continuously evolving body of knowledge required to provide quality customer support.
  • Enhance communication. Modern communication tools that integrate seamlessly with work platforms can reduce friction in internal communications. Features like instant messaging, video calls, and collaboration tools help maintain a connection among remote or dispersed teams, making it easier to share insights and support one another. (back to top)

Always remember: you’re not alone

It’s important to remember that call center burnout is not a sign of weakness or personal failure. It’s a natural response to prolonged and excessive stress. Recognizing the signs of burnout and seeking support is a sign of strength and self-awareness. Numerous resources are available to help individuals manage and overcome burnout, including support groups, counseling services, and online resources.

By addressing burnout, you can enhance your overall well-being, improve your performance, and foster a healthier work-life balance. Remember, you’re not alone in facing call center burnout. Many agents have successfully overcome it — and with the right support, you can too. (back to top)

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