Workplace, Tips & Tricks, Informal mindfulness 3 minute read

Overcoming the Mental Burden of Customer Service Work

In customer service, the number one rule that gets drilled into you from day one  is, ‘the customer is always right.’

Politeness, patience and a calm mindset can go a long way in this field – but more often than not, especially during the height of the pandemic, this rule leaves customer service workers to pick up the pieces. Abuse, both verbal and physical, along with a record number of complaints, has left many customer service people and frontline workers to bear the brunt of the aggression, dissatisfaction and stress, imposed by the public as a result of the rising tensions caused by Covid-19.

Those who have worked in retail or front-of-house roles, even before the added pressures of the pandemic, will know that it’s a job that involves a lot of forced pleasantries and smiles. This can mean dealing with people who are taking out their external issues, which are ultimately beyond your control, on you. It can be rewarding when your efforts are met with appreciation, but often, it’s a pretty tough gig – and the pandemic pressures only enhanced all of the not-so-great parts of the job. As we have learnt over the past few years, customer service and retail workers are a very crucial part of the supply chain, and without them, we likely would have collapsed.

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The pandemic pressures placed on Australian retail workers not only include increased abuse but job insecurity, with young women, casual and linguistically diverse workers being hit the hardest, a group Smiling Mind’s 2021 State of Mind report found are also experiencing higher levels of psychological distress compared to other Australians. As a result, these groups, who make up over half of the retail workforce, have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic induced recession – with 56 per cent of retail workers noting an increase in customer abuse since 2020. 

With all of this in mind, the mental health and overall wellbeing of retail and customer service workers have never been more important.

According to Smiling Mind’s State of Mind Report, your work is one of the most important factors that helps support positive mental health and helps you to cope with everyday life. However, it is also one of the greatest challenges to your mental wellbeing, with 22 per cent of people reporting that work has affected their mental health in the past 12 months. 

In light of all of this, Smiling Mind would like to offer some quick, simple practices that will help to promote mental resilience and self-care for retail workers, that you can pepper throughout your workday.

Serious staff woman wrting on notepad at supermarket

1. Focus on one task at a time

Often, working in retail settings requires you to multitask, in a big way – which can lead you to be pulled in a hundred different directions – leaving you burnt out, exhausted, and not capable of dealing with that last customer question or complaint of the day. If you have nothing left in the tank, you are more likely to react emotionally to a situation, which requires professional handling. By doing something as simple as trying to focus on one task at a time, you can allow yourself to mindfully complete that task to the best of your ability, which can create a sense of calm and even make the most simple duties meditative. 

2. Practice gratitude

This doesn’t necessarily mean writing a list or journal entry of what you are grateful for in the middle of a busy workday. Rather, it could be as simple as making a mental note of the little things that make you genuinely smile throughout the day – a colleague buying you a coffee, a customer picking up some fallen clothing, or a nice moment of connection with a stranger. The little moments that bring us joy are actually what keep us going, like fuel to a car. 

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3. Rest up

When you’re facing multiple pressures in your workday, it’s important for both your body and your mind to make sure you’re balancing your work with enough rest. In particular, a good night’s sleep is some of the best rest you can get. If you’re struggling with this, the free Smiling Mind App is an excellent place to start – even just spending 10 minutes before bed listening to one of our sleep meditations can help set you up for a positive, more productive day when you wake up! 

Practising mindfulness both at work and outside of work is the easiest, and most helpful habit, that you can put in place to support your mental health and prevent mental injury. 

To find out more about mindfulness in the workplace, head to link our blog for more workplace tips and tricks.

Smiling Mind

Written by Smiling Mind

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