Are you #FreeToHelpYourself? A look at self-care in the workplace

The #FreeToHelp movement focuses on how free your customer service agents are to help customers.

This is an important component to the overarching customer experience. The idea is – the happier your agents, the happier your customers. The #FreeToHelp movement, founded by Leslie O’Flahavan and myself, surveys teams to understand pain points and areas to improve.

Well, I’m adding a new hashtag – #FreeToHelpYourself.

In this day and age, we’re moving faster than ever before. Customer service agents are expected to quickly respond to chats, social media, phone calls and emails. Often, agents are wearing multiple hats. They need to be efficient, productive and contribute to the culture during their time in the office.

We mainly think of self-care as eating right and working out. Self-care is typically something we do outside of work, not while we’re sitting in our cubicle.

We spend 40+ hours a week at work, why is it easy for self-care while at the office to go down the toilet?

In a recent conversation I had with a colleague, it was mentioned that after they leave work, they can go to “real life”. As if what happens in the office isn’t “real”. As if it doesn’t count.

Whether we’re sitting in our office or we’re lounging on the couch at home, we’re still living, breathing humans.

In fact, Amy Jen Su in her article, 6 Ways to Weave Self-Care Into Your Workday, shares a statement from a CEO she worked with closely:

“Self-care is no longer a luxury; it’s part of the job.”

But, self-care often comes with a hefty price tag – GUILT.

It’s easy to think, “My mind feels like it’s going to explode but I can’t take a break right now. My boss will think I’m slacking off.

Or perhaps it sounds like, “Ugh, this cold is kicking my butt. I have to go to work, though. I’ll likely fall asleep on my keyboard because I can’t call out or else I’ll let my team down.

Self-care is also thought of as “selfish”.

Shouldn’t we be putting ourselves on the backburner and taking care of others? Our customers come first. Our team members come first.

It took me years to learn this, but in order to take the best care of others, we must first take the best care of ourselves.

Self-care is typically thought of as something luxurious – such as a massage or facial. Perhaps it’s a special dietary or exercise routine you follow.

Harvard Business Review encourages you to define what self-care means , “rather than narrowly defining self-care as just physical health (which is an important piece of the equation), we need to pay attention to a wider set of criteria, including care of the mind, emotions, relationships, environment, time, and resources.

But, daily self-care really comes down to some pretty basic stuff.

Self-care in the workplace can look like…

…having the option to go use the restroom when necessary.

…having access to clean drinking water.

…taking a sick day when we are legitimately ill without being frowned upon.

…taking a lunch break, even if short, away from your computer.

…having an outlet to express feelings about a stressful customer communication.

I understand this comes down to personal choice – you can’t force a shift in someone’s internal core values about work. It has to come from within.

And, ultimately, the individual must believe that they can make these choices. For example, you can sit there all day and tell someone they’re allowed to take a lunch break, even though they are on salary. But, if this person has a work ethic that doesn’t let them leave until everything is complete, that’s something that you may want to coach them on, as it takes time for perspective shifts around core values.

When you hire for culture fit and your culture encourages open communication about self-care practices and the ability to act on them, perhaps things might be different.

When leadership takes the initiative to not only talk the talk but walk the walk with self-care, the team may follow.

What does this look like for you and your organization?

I’d love to hear your thoughts how you foster a culture of self-care in your your call center. Share in the comments or over with me on Twitter!

Jenny Dempsey is the Social Media and Customer Experience Manager for NumberBarn.com. With over a decade of customer service experience, Jenny has been recognized through social media channels as a thought leader. She is co-founder and a regular contributor on the Customer Service Life. When she's not helping or singing to customers, she is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, coaching clients over at her side passion project, JennyDempseyWellness.com.

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