Over the years I have experienced a myriad of different work atmospheres both as an employer, a consultant and a manager and in all these situations the one thing that has always proven true is that people perform better in an atmosphere that they are comfortable being in. If you create an atmosphere that people like being in they will produce far greater than if they are in an atmosphere that is antagonistic.
A few years ago I was hired as a consultant for an incoming call center in Las Vegas in an attempt to find out why they has such poor sales conversion and such a high agent attrition level. After only one day there I knew the reason, the call center manager was very strict and ran a very tight ship. Call center agents were not allowed to talk to their neighbor, they were not allowed to read at their desk, they were not allowed any snacks, and they were not allowed to do anything but answer the phone. Because it was an inbound center there of course were times when it was slow and the phone was not ringing for some agents, during that time, they were expected to read company product information, nothing else. Whenever the manager walked onto the call center floor you could see the tension in the room, everyone sat upright in their seat and you could cut the tension with a knife. I randomly talked to a couple dozen agents and advised them our conversation was strictly confidential and asked them how they felt about their job and the feeling across the floor was pretty much consistent, none of them liked working there because of the manager, they felt the rules were unreasonable, they all talked about how many people were constantly quitting because of the working conditions and quite a few of them were on the lookout for another job. The supervisor’s opinions echoed the agents and some of the supervisors said they tried to talk to the manager about these working conditions but he would not listen and was not interested in what the supervisors had to say.
After witnessing this operation for around three or four days I sat down with the owner of the call center and gave him my opinion that his biggest problem was the call center manager, he had created an atmosphere of stress and that most of the agents did not like their job. He asked me what my recommendation was and I told him my recommendation was to find a new call center manager and to immediately put new policies into place. My suggestions for him were to relax the rules for agents reading at their desk, and allow them to read magazines during slow periods so long as the phone was picked up on the first ring, and to allow them to quietly speak with their neighbor directly next to them so long as they kept their voices down and as long as it did not interfere with any of the agents who were on the phone and didn’t distract anyone. I also said that allowing small snacks such as chips and pretzels on their desk should be allowed. He was a little leery about some of the things I was suggesting and I said to him you are not running a preschool here, these are adults, and you need to treat them as such, you need to make this a conductive working environment. I stayed around for another day or two and then left, about a month later I received a call from him letting me know that my suggestions had worked out very well. The call center was much more relaxed, sales conversions were up, and they had not lost an employee in the last month. He said of course they had to set some guidelines because there are always those that will try to take advantage but that overall everything I suggested worked and several of the agents had made comments that this was now a great place to work.
I told this story because it is a great example of how simple things can make a huge difference in a company and it proves if you have an employee that hates their job, hates coming to work, this attitude is most definitely going to affect their work, their productivity, on the other hand if you create a working environment that is enjoyable and create an atmosphere that people like working in, this will create a more productive employee. Create a workplace environment that is not only productive, but fun, a place where your employee’s friends and relatives are jealous of and you will see the results.