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        How to overcome phone anxiety at work

        How to overcome phone anxiety at work

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          Research shows almost two-thirds of UK office workers feel anxious when answering or making a business call.

          Phone call anxiety is a very real fear that can cause significant issues for employees who must speak to people remotely in order to do their job.

          Despite 94% of the population owning a mobile phone, a poll of office workers in the UK reveals 62% have experienced “telephobia”.

          Studies suggest older employees are less likely to experience phone anxiety than their younger counterparts.

          What is phone anxiety?

          Phone anxiety is a debilitating problem for employees who need to make and receive calls regularly. It becomes a serious issue when it affects the operational efficiency of the office. The prospect of answering a colleague’s phone when they’re not in the office makes 15% of employees feel so anxious that they would rather let it ring out, according to research. Officially known by the name telephobia, it’s defined by medical experts as being a type of social anxiety or phobia.

          Office worker anxious about being on the phone

          It isn’t an actual fear of phones as a physical object, according to psychologist Dr Lindsay Scharfstein, who specialises in phobias and social anxiety disorder: just about everyone has a phone in the office, or a mobile in their pocket, handbag or drawer and will use it for texts or emails without a problem. Scharfstein says telephone phobia arises because we’re speaking to someone we can’t see on the end of the line and it’s a subconscious fear we’re being judged.

          Anxiety talking on phone

          Feeling anxious when speaking on the phone is caused because it’s a means of communication that’s devoid of non-verbal signals. There’s no eye contact or facial expressions, nor hand signals or body language, to encourage participants to move forward, safe in the knowledge that it’s going well.

          Psychologists suggest older people in the baby boomer generation feel less anxious because they have grown up in an era before the invention of mobile phones and social media. At one time, the landline was the only means of remote conversation and they were used to picking up the phone for a chat.

          In comparison, many millennials who have grown up with instant messaging, texts and emails have never experienced long phone conversations.

          Scharfstein says it’s common to become nervous before a business phone call, especially if you intend taking notes during the conversation – fears include an inability to keep up with the speed of the conversation, or concerns that a silence while finishing off a note may appear to be disinterest or rudeness.

          Research shows 20% of employees doubt their own performance, so they’re always nervous at work, while 25% feel more introverted while in a conversation without non-verbal cues.

          Whatever the cause of an individual’s phone anxiety, the consequences can severely impact workplace performance.

          How does it make you feel?

          Phone anxiety makes you hesitant when it comes to making a call. You may sit with the phone poised in your hand for some time before plucking up the courage to dial out. You may worry that you’re bothering the other person and that the call will be unwelcome, as well as stressing about what you’re going to say.

          When a phone rings on a nearby desk, you may hope it stops before you get there, or that someone else picks it up first. This causes a general delay in answering calls.

          In physical terms, the symptoms can include shaking hands, nausea, racing heart, fluttering stomach and shortness of breath, as well as trouble concentrating. After putting the phone down, you may obsess for a long time about what was said, wondering if you’ve embarrassed yourself.

          As well as the mental and physical impact on the individual’s wellbeing, there’s also the impact on the business to consider.

          Speaking on the phone is obviously an important part of customers’ experience, with 84% of marketing firms saying a telephone conversation has had a higher conversion rate than other forms of contact.

          Hearing your voice may be the first impression a customer or client has of your business, so it’s of the utmost importance to ensure it’s positive.

          Dealing with anxiety at work

          Overcoming anxiety at work can be challenging, but not impossible, if you take the right steps. Before you make a call, instead of worrying about what might go wrong, focus on positive goals instead.

          Jot down ideas, such as any information you should provide for the other person, what you need to ask them and what the hoped-for conclusion is. Instead of sitting there worrying about how to get over phone anxiety, draw up a concrete plan.

          Feeling prepared is half the battle, so identify your worst fears, such as worrying you’ll lose your train of thought or will fail to sound articulate. Take steps to alleviate them by creating a written outline, or even a brief script, to prompt you in the right direction.

          Consider that the person you’re calling may feel the same way as you. No-one needs to know how nervous you are, because even if you don’t feel confident, you can fake it. The person you’re speaking to can’t see from your face that you’re overwhelmed. Sound confident by speaking clearly and using a friendly tone.

          It may sound unlikely, but research has shown that if you smile while you’re on a call, it will automatically make you feel better, and this will shine through in your tone.

          Be honest and if you don’t know the answer to a question, say you will find out for them, rather than trying to fudge a response.

          Seek support from your colleagues by having a practice run to hone your skills in a role-playing exercise. There’s no shame in admitting you need some support.

          Don’t overthink the call – if the other person turns down a request or says “no” to your suggestion, never take it personally and don’t read anything into it. It’s a professional business call and not an attack on you as a person if it doesn’t go exactly as expected.

          How can a serviced office help?

          Being based in a sombre corporate office, where it’s quiet and nearby colleagues can hear your phone conversations, can create a poor working environment for individuals suffering from anxiety.

          Being based in the more relaxed setting of a serviced office can put employees more at ease. You’ll be part of a friendly community, where coworkers will be happy to help you practice your telephone technique.

          If you require confidentiality for a call, make it from a private meeting room, rather than the general office area.

          BE Offices has invested time, money, expertise and effort into making our serviced offices, London, into a place of tranquillity, comfort and fun.

          Nothing can calm the nerves like supportive colleagues who understand what makes you tick. They can help you achieve your full potential, no matter who’s on the other end of the line.


          © chainarong06 / & © Impact Photography /

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