Born in 1970 I started work just before turning 18 in the late 80’s, at which time no one spoke about Mental Health and showing any kind of weakness at work was a definite no no. I worked long hours, got stressed and dealt with it, so when Mental Health started to be talked about, like many people of my age I laughed and probably made bad jokes like the title of this blog. Which if you look at this on face value is a terrible thing to say, you wouldn’t say that to a colleague with diabetes or heart problems who is slumped in a doorway after forgetting their meds.  

More recently, I have realized the error of my ways and looking back I can see how potentially damaging poor management and leadership can be on an organization. Nowadays I invest a great deal of energy researching how to reduce stress and mental health issues in the workplace, so me and my team are equipped to help our customers avoid the impact they have on their people and the companies they represent.

According to a recent study by Deliotte (Mental health and employers | Refreshing the case for investment)

Mental health problems will soon surpass other work-related illnesses!

It is projected that as a percentage of the total number of instances of poor health at work, mental health problems will soon surpass other work-related illnesses such as musculoskeletal disorders, respiratory diseases, cancer, skin issues, and hearing damage.

Now you may be thinking, sure people who are susceptible to Mental Health issues might take more time off and might cost a little more than those who aren’t, but you have bigger problems to deal with.

The interesting thing is the cost of Absenteeism represents just 15% of the total estimated 44.7bn being lost by UK businesses, so where’s the other £37.9bn being lost?

Staff Turnover has to make up a big chunk right? The cost of recruitments, re-training, the lost performance as people get up to speed….According to this study there’s another £9bn lost to staff turnover, leaving a massive £28.9bn unaccounted for.

Let me introduce a word I had never heard of before reading the Deliotte study “Presenteeism”, never heard of it, me neither. Presenteeism occurs when individuals come into work when they are unwell (with poor mental health) and work at a reduced level of productivity or effectiveness.

Presenteeism costs UK businesses twice as much as absenteeism and staff turnover combined!

On average 81% of employees surveyed said that they always or usually come into the office when they are struggling with mental health, and would benefit from time off. This is almost fourteen times as many as those who say they always or usually take time off.

But surely if those employees are still coming to work, when for their own health and safety they should just take the day off, will your absenteeism still increase? Yes it will but the research also shows that people who recognise they need a break and are able to talk to their managers about their feelings of anxiety, stress and burn out, without fear of losing their jobs are far more likely to perform at their best and stay loyal for longer, saving money in employee turnover. In a contact centre setting, these people are more likely to deliver great customer care.

OK so far, we have ascertained that this is one of, if not the most expensive issue facing UK businesses and could even be categorised as a pandemic. Bear in mind the definition of a pandemic is something that occurs over a wide geographic area and typically affects a significant proportion of the population, and according to mind.org.uk 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year and this number is growing. So what are some of the causes? Rather than list them all, I’m going to concentrate on the causes which I help SJS customers to overcome:

Number one, representing 52% was “pressure” too many priorities or targets, this is something we address when we work with organisations which measure employee performance using wallboards and dashboards. When aligning these visual tools with neuroscience its possible to maintain or improve performance without putting them under unnecessary pressure.

35% said their Mental Health issues was caused by not being supported in their role, this would also include people who had been supported but who felt they had not been supported, because feeling supported is of course the most important factor here. Again, we spend a lot of time showing our customers how cleverly scheduling anything that will require a change in behaviour in their employees to appear on TV screens, desktops or mobile devices will create more certainty and a feeling of being supported.  

24% Feeling lonely or isolated at work, this one has become a major issue for many UK business due to the pandemic, and many organisations have chosen to ignore the importance for people to feel connected, or part of something greater than themselves. Many companies I have spoken to believe, incorrectly, that their employees just need to know how many calls are in the queue, or how much they have sold and will not benefit from celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries and other social messaging – I’m sorry to say that this opinion is not supported by the science, in fact more than ever people need to feel connected.  

“The costs to employers of poor mental health in the workplace are substantial. Using conservative assumptions, we estimate a total annual cost to businesses up to £45bn, comprising £7bn in absence costs, £27bn – £29bn in presenteeism costs and £9bn in costs of staff turnover. There are also other indirect costs to employers of poor mental health, such as the adverse impact on creativity, innovation, and colleagues.”

Sincerely,

Stephen Pace
CEO

Let me start by making a bold statement which is based on 25 years working in customer care, a basic understanding of Neuroscience and a desire to look after people.

Organizations which ignore Mental Health, Employee Engagement and Wellness are contributing towards a lowering of immune systems, which result in illnesses (physical and mental) and ultimately a reduction in their employees’ life expectancy.

Sounds dramatic right? Think about it for a moment, we work for 40-50 years of our lives and spend on average 42.5 hours a week working, so it makes sense that if half of the hours we are awake are filled with stress, disengagement and worry it’s going to impact our health right?

Science has now proven that stress hormones not only cause illness, but they down-regulate our gene’s making us less likely to enjoy an illness free existence. The good news is if we replace stress with feelings of satisfaction and happiness, the healthy hormones produced will not only make us healthier, they will also allow us to pass this happiness onto our customers.

Here’s a fascinating video explaining how stress and the flight or fight response impacts us all: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0SXCSzkcka4&t

OK so I don’t think any of you will want to be responsible for creating illness or shortening the lives of your employees, that’s not what you signed up for. So what can be done to reduce stress and create environments where employees feel connected, engaged and happy in their work?

Sign Up Here.

Leading telecommunications and contact center solutions provider DataTel Communications become the first US partner awarded Gold Partner Status by visual mental health and wellness solutions developers SJS Solutions Ltd. 

Joining a distinguished list of SJS Gold partners from Europe, Idaho based DataTel Communications has completed training on topics such as SCARF, Motivational Psychology, Employee Wellness, Mental Health and Employee Engagement in Contact Center environments.

“We’re delighted that DataTel Communications have become our first Gold Partner in the US, their desire to learn how to reduce stress, sickness and disengagement was evident from our very first conversation. This desire to understand more about what makes people happy in their work is supported by a passion to deliver much more than technology. I can honestly say I’ve never worked with a more people focussed, caring group of professionals”.

Stephen Pace, CEO, SJS Solutions Ltd, United Kingdom.

DataTel President Scott Langdon is no stranger to the Unified Communications and Contact Centre world, he’s been the man on the helm of DataTel Communications for the last 29 years and has seen many companies in the US focus heavily on technology missing the opportunity to maximise ROI by also focusing on people.

“We see the Optymyse solution covering the most critical and frankly missing component in the flood of technology and processes found in today’s CCaaS and premised-based contact centers – the human being. I was introduced to SJS by one of my most experienced enterprise salespeople. I’ve never seen him this excited about a solution!  The idea of making the primary performance interface of an agent – the thing they look and listen to all day as a tool for positivity, engagement and “ownership” is fantastic.  The benefits this offers contact centers and BPO are obvious to me; a happier and healthier workforce, less turn-over, better CX for clients and, in the case of BPOs, a real differentiator. To be able to provide a “bleeding edge” process in the United States, that you know will be the industry standard down the road, is exciting.  The fact Optymyse is so easy to deploy and manage while being such a potent tool is great and to be the only gold standard bearer for the whole of the country is super-exciting.”

Whether you’re a BPO, outbound sales office, inbound customer care center, helpdesk or simply a company where you want to show how much you value your people DataTel Communications and SJS would love to hear from you.

About SJS: SJS use an innovative, science-based approach to provide visual mental health and wellness solutions for varying environments including customer care centres, outbound sales, helpdesks, emergency service control rooms, contact centres and general office environments. By combining the latest neuroscientific methodologies with Optymyse; a highly configurable, automated employee communications platform, SJS help organisations to achieve their goals while protecting the wellbeing, mental and physical health of their employees.

About DataTel Communications: DataTel Communications has been a leading telecommunications supplier for over 50 years and is locally owned. During this time DataTel has developed a reputation for superior service and customer commitment. We’ve been instrumental in bringing state of the art telecommunications to thousands of area businesses, educational facilities, hospitals, and more. No job is too big or too complex. By remaining ahead of the curve and by offering our customers a wide range of products and services, DataTel has added satisfied customers every year since its inception.

Contact DataTel: +12088844000 / Mail: [email protected] / Website: www.datatelco.com

Join the SJS Certified Partner Programme today and really stand out from the crowd!

Few people know that over time our brains create automated patterns of behaviour, which left unnoticed rob us of our ability to choose how to behave.

Our brains are extremely efficient because we use what neuroscientist call “Pattern Recognition” to speed up our responses. The process of pattern recognition involves matching the information received with the information already stored in the brain. However, it has been discovered that pattern recognition creates behaviours that we no longer control, instead our brains simply instruct us to say, behave and feel the same way we did in the past.

Left unnoticed the brains ability to automatically make decisions about what words you use, your tone, mood, hormones and so on means you lose the ability to adjust and become a better version of yourself and fix the behaviour’s you don’t like.

Let’s take long term relationships at work or at home. You know this person well enough that your brain not only anticipates what they are going to say to you, but before you have had time to process the information being presented, the brain simply fires up the same emotions, hormones and responses you always give, and what’s worse is your brain might not have even noticed differences in the delivery of the information. Therefore leaving you stuck in a negative cycle of miscommunication. Sounds familiar?  

The science shows that once we hit our 30’s we have so many connections created by experiences that the brain no longer reacts to things at face value, but instead it quickly matches what we experience to a past response. This poses the question; How much better would your relationships be if you were able to teach yourself to become more sensitive to the short cuts you brain is taking, catch them and replace them with better, more thought-out responses?

Let’s go back to that conversation with the person you know well, if you were able to notice that you are replying with an automated response and had not listened properly, how much more caring could your response be and what impact would that have on the person, your relationship with them and the amount of gratitude you receive in return?

Here are 3 things you can start doing to help you always be the best version of yourself:

  1. Meditation – a guided meditation which asks the question “What emotions do you want to change in your life”. I’ve had a great deal of success with Dr Joe Dispenza’s “Breaking the habits of being yourself” guided meditation. https://drjoedispenza.com/
  2. Be present – slow your communications down and force your brain to listen, consider and respond using the information you have been given (words, tone, mood, tempo, expressions, body language). If you feel yourself becoming tense, hot, fidgety or looking away from the person you are interacting with, try and catch yourself and you’ll likely provide them with a response which is much more caring and helpful. Takes practice!
  3. Be selfless – whether you are a husband, wife or manager, placing your needs to one side, having no expectations of others and removing your ego from the interaction will allow you to be more supportive and caring. Ironically doing exactly this will ensure your needs are met further down the road, be patient.
  4. Become sensitive – to your own emotions, because until you can catch old habits and replace them with new ones you are not in control of your life, life is in control of you.

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According to online search term data, there’s been a substantial increase in demand for technology which can help organisations protect the impact they have on the well being and health of their employees.

It’s also worth mentioning that in the UK organisations are facing more and more employee claims for Psychiatric Damage caused by workplace stress. According to the HSE, pay outs range from £1,795, where there is a complete recovery within three months up to £108,620 for serious long-term effects of stress, having adverse effects upon quality of life.

So how much more demand is their for employee wellness solutions?

Data shows, the search terms “introducing wellbeing at work” and “employee wellbeing platform” saw increases of 900% and 800% respectively in 2020 compared to 2019.

“When you see Optymyse having a positive affect and you get great feedback, it’s a wow factor that makes everyone feel really good. I’ve not used a product that allows me do so much and to deliver such a positive experience with such ease” John Myers – Operations MI at NewDay.

For obvious financial reasons if you are already suppling contact centre, call centre and collaboration solutions to the UK market you’ll want to benefit from this opportunity. However there is a much bigger opportunity because the research we have done into Motivational Psychology shows that when wellbeing and engagement is good users will deliver higher levels of performance, take less time off sick and deliver better customer care.

Therefore it makes sense to take a serious look at how you can help customers tackle mental health and wellbeing at work because it will help them extract higher levels of ROI and success from the technology you have already sold them, making it more likely for them to stay with you and buy more from you.

If you’d like to learn why Optymyse is the perfect platform for increasing well being at work and how by working together we can provide both the technology, and the know-how needed to create people friendly environments scientifically proven to improve wellbeing get in touch.

“When lockdown happened, there was an urgent need to make sure we were still in touch with people working remotely. When you become detached from your comfort zone and team dynamic you feel isolated. Optymyse was the lifeline we needed, it allowed us to create familiarity and link people back to the contact centre and their colleagues” John Myers – Operations MI at NewDay (finance)

If like me you’re a manager of people and you want to make sure the people you are responsible for are protected from the dangers of work place stress I think you’ll enjoy this piece.

Cortisol is a stress hormone, and when we are constantly on high alert or living under the fight or flight response, our immune system lowers. Thus, making us more susceptible to sickness and disease. But did you know as cortisol levels go up, a chemical called IgA goes down. IgA is one of the strongest building blocks of life.

IgA is responsible for the healthy function of our body’s immune system. It’s constantly fighting a barrage of bacteria, viruses, and organisms that invade and/or are already living within the body’s internal environment.

In a workshop renowned neuroscientist Dr. Joe Dispenza had attendees move into an elevated emotional state such as love, joy, or gratitude for nine to ten minutes, three times a day. He discovered that the cortisol levels of participants dropped by three standard deviations, and their IgA levels shot up on average from 52.5 to 86.

Next we need to understand what triggers the fight or flight response. In a recent webinar on the subject of reducing stress at emergency services contact centres and control rooms, we introduced SCARF to our audience. To watch a 9min extract from the event and understand how SCARF can be used to reduce stress levels click here: https://youtu.be/OZAxkTYmN-w

So now we know how much damage stress does to our health and the health of our people, just how bad is the problem in business today? There seems to be more research from the USA, but as we all know the UK is never far behind the US.

  • Work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly.
  • 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
  • US businesses lose up to $300 billion yearly as a result of workplace stress.
  • Stress causes around one million workers to miss work every day.
  • Only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance.
  • Depression leads to $51 billion in costs due to absenteeism and $26 billion in treatment costs.

Pretty gloomy right? I don’t think so, the science proves that if we are good managers, if we treat people with respect, share the right content, reward and treat people fairly we quickly become part of the solution.  

If you’d like to learn some quick, cost effective ways you can protect your employees we’d love to welcome you to one of our free workshops where we’ll talk more about SCARF, and give you some practical examples of how you can create SCARF compliant environments both on-site and at home.

Get in touch and we’ll include you on our next workshop.

According to the 2021 State of the Contact Center Report by 8×8 the future of contact centres is a hybrid mix of on-site and remote agents, so how can companies ensure that those employees, responsible for creating positive customer experiences, feel as comfortable doing this at home as they do in a full feature onsite contact centre?

One way is to provide the same rich, engaging content to home workers via mobile devices and desktops, as is delivered to onsite workers via TV screens.

“When lockdown happened, there was an urgent need to make sure we were still in touch with people working remotely. When you become detached from your comfort zone and team dynamic you feel isolated. Optymyse was the lifeline we needed, it allowed us to create familiarity and link people back to the contact centre and their colleagues” John Myers – Operations MI at NewDay (finance)

Many companies are banking on the fact that now agents can have more flexibility they will be more loyal, but it’s more likely that now geographic location is less important, companies with the highest levels of employee experience and satisfaction will lure the best agents and gain competitive advantage.

In Adobe’s 2021 State of Work Report, 49% workers say they’re likely to leave their current job if they’re unhappy or frustrated with workplace tech.

For many small to mid-sized contact centres its simply not financially possible to rip out existing contact centre solutions and move to an all singing all dancing omnichannel product, so instead, enhancing what they have to make sure mental health and employee engagement is being addressed is a great way to reduce the chances of losing their best agents to their competition.

“Compatible with most contact centre solutions Optymyse is a superb way to improve communications and create certainty while focusing on agent needs at home and onsite”

If you’d like to learn more about how to gain competitive advantage and improve the mental health of your agents, select a date and time when you’d like to have a stress free chat, Click Here to book a time.

Everyday we get to work with great people who care about their employees and colleagues. Take John Myers at financial services company NewDay Cards as an example. John’s a Management Information and Planning Professional, with over a decades experience helping organisations make the most of their investments in people. But what impressed us the most and what you’ll hear when you watch this interview is how much passion John and NewDay have for looking after the mental health and well being of their teams.

Unlike many in his field John has stepped out of his comfort zone and rather than stopping at FTE’s, Scheduling and Occupancy Rates, through working with SJS he now understands the science behind creating agent happiness and he’s applying this to his role at NewDay.

Earlier this month our CEO Steve Pace sat down with John to ask him how working with SJS and using our Smart Contact Centre Visuals Software “Optymyse” has helped him to create comfort, familiarity and certainty for employees who have been forced to work at home, and how the process of combining neuroscience with Optymyse visuals resulted in those same employees giving him such a feeling of joy and satisfaction.

Click To Watch!

Certainty is a human need! It’s up there with Safety, Food and Shelter, if ignored doubt and uncertainty will heavily impact productivity and CSAT.

“Why am I bothering, no one cares anyway”

“I heard they’re downsizing so what’s the point of working my backside off”

Left unchecked people will almost always revert to these types of productivity sapping thoughts, so as leaders one of our most important jobs is to make sure this does not happen.

As people get lost in their own insecurities, mental health issues and the rumours which fuel them, they are no were near as productive, creative or customer focused as they could be. This adds up to lost minutes and hours, day after day, week after week, month after month, which cost thousands. Lost customer confidence will also make your organisation less profitable.

This is where well thought out, automated, people focused visual communications makes so much sense!

With very limited effort and investment it is possible to guarantee all of your employees (onsite and at home) have access to both the metrics they need to make smart decisions, positive recognition to make them feel valued. Plus all of the operational, company, health and safety and HR information needed to remove DOUBT, be ENGAGED and increase CERTAINTY to levels where everyone can focus on the customer.

Click Here to learn how

Unlike animals, human beings can turn on stress hormones through thought alone.

We’ve all watched the Gazelle being chased by a lioness, and I sincerely hope none of us ever experience THAT level of stress, but what’s amazing is 15 minutes after running for it’s life that same Gazelle will have zero stress and be back to grazing.

Human beings on the other hand can be in no physical danger and still activate the Sympathetic Nervous System (the fight or flight system that helps us deal with perceived threats in our external environment) just by worrying about stuff like:

· Am I doing well enough compared to others and my own expectations?

· Can I complete my projects on time?

· What do my employees really think of me?

It’s a scientific fact that the hormones of stress (Cortisol and Adrenaline) downregulate our genes to create disease, which means that your thoughts can literally make you sick. The good news is your thoughts can also make you well!

Some studies have shown that over 90% of disease and illness today is linked to lifestyle and stress, not genetics. So if you’re running a call or contact centre you’re going to want to reduce the production of stress hormones, which in turn shut down the immune system, for both yourself and your teams. Not only is this a great way to reduce vulnerability to disease, infection, and cancer, its also a very good way to increase Customer Satisfaction.

If you’d like to learn more about how to improve the mental health of yourself and your employees, select a date and time when you’d like to have a stress free chat and we’ll give you our best advice, along with some instant tips on how you can make your contact centre / home worker environments less stressful.

click here to book a time to chat!

Final thought from the scientists…

Consider this: people produce cancer cells every day, the good news is a healthy immune system can get rid of these. If you’re constantly stressed your body will be less likely to be able to protect you against the multiplication of cancer cells.