As a customer service rep, you are placed on the front line. The company expects you to be upbeat and uplifting to clients while always putting your best face forward. I have worked several customer service positions where I spoke with customers for 8-9 hours per day. For several years, my battle with depression had affected my personal life but for some reason it never affected my work performance. When I first started the job, I had to learn to not take anything the customers said personally. Once I mastered that, I could work and go home without thinking of work. I was working blindly and aimlessly. I motivation was a check and while it was minimal, it was more than what I had previously. Then one day while sitting at my desk answering what felt like the 500th call that week, I realized that I no longer wanted to be there. My body was exhausted.
I had battled with depression at this job for years after my father died; I dealt with being broke and homeless while achieving my master’s degree from one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Then I was dealing with not being where I envisioned myself to be at the age of 27. My life had spiraled out of control to the point where working long hours on the phone began to take a toll. This particular week customers were angry with decisions made by the top dogs and I had to deal with complaint after complaint. Then I questioned, why am I doing this? I’m working extremely hard to make other people rich. That coupled with not having enough money to pay rent made me realize how much of an issue my job was.
So at this point I was done, but I still needed a job. It didn’t help that every job I applied for rejected me and kept me in the reality that I was to either work in customer service or quit and not have any income. So I had to find ways to deal until I found a new job.
Here are 5 tips that helped me deal with depression while working customer service:
- It’s not the customer’s fault.
You have to remember that while you are going through a hard time, it’s not the customer’s fault that you are sad or don’t want to be at work. They don’t care. Your job is to care, or at least pretend to care, about their issue. Their complaining about trivial stuff can be exhausting. Even the sweet small talks can be painful. Always remember to take one call/customer at a time. Help the best way you can and move forward. Don’t take anything they say personally. If they are upset, you know (and they know as well) it’s not you that they are lashing out at. They are venting and more often are grateful to have an ear to listen. Just do your job and go home without thinking of what happened that day.
- Stay active while working
Sitting at a desk all day is super tedious. There are also studies that show employees who work in windowless offices have increased depression than those who get natural sunlight on a daily bases. What I found helpful was standing from time to time to answer calls and using my breaks as opportunities to take walks. It helped to break out of a routine while releasing serotonin (Had to sneak a PT term in here somewhere).
- Find quiet time at work
While some use their breaks for lunch or to run errands. I preferred to find a quiet place where I could meditate or listen to music or watch funny videos. It lifts your spirit and you might return to your job with a fresh bout of energy.
- Talk to someone
Oftentimes we keep our problems to ourselves due to embarrassment or not having anyone to relate. When I started talking other people in different departments, I realized how many people were in the same boat. It made me feel good to know that if I was having a difficult day, I could vent to someone who understood what I was dealing with.
- Start from within
Sometimes we may like our jobs but the situations that we are experiencing in our life can throw us out of whack. When you have time off, make the most of those moments. Talk to people, meditate, exercise, read, watch motivational videos. Get some much needed sleep. Do what makes you happy. If you do a little each day, it will greatly improve your sense of self.
You would be surprised by how many customer service reps are faking their smile. After all, it is a job and not having one can make you even more down. Understanding your triggers can help you on the path to finding the root of your depression.
While the job may not be the source of depression, it can play a major part. Try your best to stay active in job searching. Remember you won’t end depression with a new position but it helps to start over in a different environment. Things that once triggered you are no longer in sight so use that as an opportunity to seek restoration.
Be mindful of where you are. Don’t try to ignore your feelings thinking they’ll pass and that you can deal. It takes time to work through.
Be kind to yourself and remember you are not alone in your fight.