Call Center Work Environment Study
Illustration by Alfredo Hernandez

When you get down to it, the “big things” affecting agent job satisfaction rarely differ from one organization to the next. Wherever an agent works, the majority of time will be spent answering customer contacts via a computer and phone, schedules will be set, pay and benefits will be at or near entry-level for the company, and just about everything that is done will be recorded, evaluated and reported.

When speaking with agents about job satisfaction, though, you often hear about the “little things”: security rules that are enforced, creature comforts and work policies. The decisions driving these rules go a long way toward making a work environment comfortable and inviting. Leaders understand this, and often ask what other companies do about a given issue or policy. So we decided it would be helpful to run a survey on this topic. A few highlights are included in this blog post, and if you are interested in seeing the full report, you can download it for free.

Securing the Environment

Security issues and privacy concerns are here to stay, and they obviously affect some industries more than others. The interpretation of these threats result in a variety of different work rules regarding agents’ use of personal mobile phones and tablets, and Internet use at workstations.

So while we talk about our connected world of today, many agents cannot stay plugged in during the workday. Forty-two percent of companies taking the survey do not allow agents to use their mobile phones at the desk, and 84% limit or completely lock down desktop Internet use. And while the security-intensive industries like financial services and healthcare are even more prone to limiting or locking down website access (98%), they are only marginally more restrictive in mobile phone policies (47% not allowing them at the desk).
Call Center Work Environment Study

Creature Comforts

Being a contact center agent means a lot of performance monitoring, adhering to schedules, and following call-handling guidelines. It can feel restrictive, but most agents know this when they take the job. A few well-placed creature comforts can make up for it, but that is not always that case.

Despite emphasis by some companies on ergonomics, the average center in our study utilizes workstations that are set at a fixed height (55%). Only 28% provide a station that is height adjustable by the agent. And if, like me, you thought that larger centers would be more likely to provide the adjustability than smaller one, you would be wrong—the percentages are exactly the same for centers above 500 agents as they are for those below this number.

Scheduling and Lateness Policies

When it comes to attendance and tardiness, contact centers have a reputation for being restrictive compared to other types of employment. The answers to our survey confirm that view. Clearly, those lacking in dependability need not apply. Roughly two-thirds of contact centers (68%) will count a day off as unscheduled if you give less than 24 hours of notice, and nearly half (46%) will count it as tardy if you are five minutes late.

What It All Means

Many of the items highlighted here are driven by the nature of the work. Yes, we monitor absences and punctuality closely. Doing so helps to ensure that customers enjoy quicker answer times, and that’s important in our environment. All of the policies that seem restrictive have good reason and the best of intention behind them.

Taken together, though, a clear picture emerges. Compared to other jobs in the enterprise, the role of an agent comes with close monitoring and work policies that some may view as confining. That is not likely to change in the future—in fact, as security and privacy become even more important, things may get even more restrictive.

So if we can’t change this, let’s at least be aware of it. Applicants should get a realistic job preview so they can make an informed decision. Agents should be able to trade shifts (or even parts of shifts) whenever possible. And if the workstation needs to be locked down, let’s have some comfortable break rooms available where agents can snack, nap, chat and tweet with wild abandon.

Where to Get the Full Results

Thanks to all of our 231 survey responders—we appreciate your time! Anyone can download a copy of the full report. If you want a breakdown for a given industry, email me and I’ll forward results over to you.