At a recent event, I spoke to a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) about how it wasn’t unusual for him to have a day of 14 half-hour back-to-back meetings. He explained that this started during the beginning of the pandemic, and by 4pm he was absolutely exhausted and struggling to stay focused and pay attention. However, he added that over time he got used to such a heavy schedule and was better able to manage his energy and concentration.
When I heard this story, I noticed that while I often hear stories like this from all kinds of executives at different companies, I often wonder how people end up doing any work when they have back-to-back meetings all day.
I asked a little ironically how we got to his point, since I’d never seen a job description that included an objective that required someone to attend as many meetings as physically possible.
This resulted in a few smiles and a lot of nods.
While my comment was playful, it also included a serious point I’ve made to many executives about how to actively manage their time to create the space needed to really think about and overcome the challenges they face. to understand.
I was thinking about that conversation the other day when I ran into a few research from Microsoft about the impact on our brain and emotional state when we have back-to-back meetings.
Using an electroencephalography [EEG] cap, the Microsoft research team was able to track the electrical activity in the brains of back-to-back meeting participants. Unsurprisingly, they found that back-to-back virtual meetings are stressful and that a series of meetings can reduce your ability to concentrate and engage.
However, the study also found that introducing short breaks between meetings to allow people to move, stretch, organize their thoughts, or grab a glass of water can help reduce the cumulative buildup of stress over a series of meetings.
That’s a really helpful insight, and I hope more executives and their teams embrace the introduction of these short breaks between meetings to reduce stress, support well-being and maintain focus.
But I have also thought about whether these research results have a wider application.
In particular, I’ve been thinking about whether the calls from customer service agents can be analogous to a series of very short consecutive meetings. If so, it will impact the amount of stress that customer service agents face. This comes into sharp focus when you consider that the average customer service representative is often expected to be on a constant call during an 8-hour shift, apart from a 30-minute lunch break and two 15-minute breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Is it any wonder, then, that the contact center industry is experiencing constant burnout and high turnover?
Let’s say we want to develop a more sustainable approach to serving our customers, especially through live channels such as phone or video. When we do that, we need to think more clearly and empathetically about our agents and what they’re going through.
Now I know the technology is evolving to meet this challenge and that’s great. But we shouldn’t stop there. To build a more attractive and sustainable contact center model, we need to rethink both contact center operations and their economics.