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In the right headspace

Mon 1 Nov 2010
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Research has shown that over 80% of office staff arrive at work in a negative state of mind each day, and over 40% are tired. This has a huge impact on productivity, communication and service. Getting staff into the right headspace and working at their optimum potential is a developing science in its own right. It turns out that the old adage of the glass being half full or half empty relates to a plethora of communication and learning processes in the workplace. Therefore researchers are increasingly interested in the psychosocial effects of attitude and perspective.Of course this is no news to most contact centre managers today, who themselves are under more pressure than ever to do more with less. Maximising internal training initiatives and improving attendance and productivity are often the difference between a business failing or thriving in these pressured financial times. Managers know    all too well the difference that a positive attitude can make to staff performance. Yet for an average contact centre staff member, the workload is high, staff retention is low and the customers are impatient and often abusive.Now that we’re well into the 21st Century, the impact of stress in the workplace is becoming extremely well documented. Stress makes it harder to think, harder to learn, harder to be creative and harder to be courteous; it significantly reduces efficiency and job satisfaction plummets. More than that, the overall effect of stress on general health is impossible to overstate, with immense implications for employee attendance and productivity. Yet in a recent survey, the Australian Services Union found that stress levels in contact centres were shooting through the roof, and significantly increased from a previous study in 2000.In order to meet this problem head on, young New Zealand company BE Intent has developed an interesting solution for reducing workplace stress. Using technology in a unique way, BE Intent’s workplace wellness tools move staff into a more constructive state of mind whilst measuring their impact on productivity. In particular, BE Intent uses a web-based application to provide constant motivation, training and support for contact centre employees throughout the day. Every hour the app discreetly reminds users that it’s time to take a short break, and delivers a short series of slides – ‘intents’ – to help prevent pain and discomfort from computer use and to boost the user’s state of mind.Everyone knows that taking regular breaks can help boost output by keeping the mind fresh, but BE Intent really takes this to the next level by using this break as a chance to reinforce positive and inspiring messages about the personal lives of staff. And our content is presented using beautiful images of faraway forests, beaches, smiling children or laid-back humour that provide an instant laugh and a quick pick-me-up.There’s an introspective element to the service as well – as users log in to the app each day they are prompted to reflect on their current and desired state of mind, and the content that BE Intent delivers is automatically personalised based on these parameters. Add in a novel goal-setting tool, a constantly growing life-skills resource portal and a library of instant exercises and audio sessions for specifically changing mood, and staff can use BE Intent to boost their productivity and bring health and focus to their lives. Organisations can also be supplied with direct reports that track overall staff engagement and state of mind on a daily basis.Another important component of the technology is the facility for staff to choose their own individual areas of interest about which the app can deliver educational content. Based on studies of how staff engage with BE Intent, these areas range from health and wellbeing topics, such as nutrition or exercise tips, to general interest areas such as spelling, grammar and trivia. And as the app delivers small pieces of content once every hour, staff get to enjoy the cumulative benefits of learning in bite sized pieces.One of the key strengths of our service is that we can deliver quality content for just about any topic that you can name. For instance, we create a lot of custom intents (slides) for businesses that relate to just their teams, and they often use this as a way to enhance their existing training and development programmes. We can add a lot of value to companies by building on what they already do well.Their results have been gentle, but outstanding. Phoneplus Albany saw an improvement in awareness of health and safety issues by almost 50% in only four weeks. Typical results for organisations show specific and significant improvements in areas such as dealing with difficult customers, objection handling and time management. All of these steps forward have an important positive impact on call times; one study showed a shortening of call times by over 10% through using BE Intent, resulting in significantly increased productivity.The AMP contact centre team in Wellington viewed almost 12,000 exercises in just four weeks. For EFTPOS Wellington staff, their customer service material was converted into live material that helped embed the training in a fun and consistent way.The implication for contact centres then is that BE Intent represents an exciting leap forward in the use of technology for workplace health and wellbeing. The coffee might not always be fresh, but contact centre workers can be – a small investment in lowering stress and boosting the state of mind of employees can reap amazing rewards in terms of staff engagement and job satisfaction. That’s good news for any employer.

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