Phone anxiety – can we return to the workplace safely?

As lockdown restrictions continue to become more lenient by the day, more and more of Britain is returning to the workplace.

The ‘r’ rate may have fallen, but people’s anxiety has shot up. According to a CIPD survey, 20 per cent of us are feeling anxious about returning to work – namely for fear of contracting corona.

However, beyond the perfectly reasonable health concerns, many of us are feeling nervous, or even guilty, about returning to our day job – especially when times are anything but normal.

For Paula Bates, Managing Director of Toucan Telemarketing, one of the key concerns she’s noticed is the dreaded ‘phone anxiety’. Paula says: “Phone call anxiety was a very real problem before the pandemic – now, we’ve got it compounded with the fear that we’re disturbing people during times of crisis.”

A fear of rejection

“Many business owners are great at chatting to prospects face to face,” says Paula. “It’s talking on the phone that’s the problem. When it comes to cold calling, the fear of rejection is too much.” Picking up the phone to make a call and answering the phone become giant hurdles.

Specialising in securing meetings with key prospects, Toucan Telemarketing has been coaching teams on their telephone manner since 2001. Part of the challenge for Paula is helping clients overcome this anxiety – a genuine fear that is backed up by science, and a weight on the mental health of those affected.

Why do some people get ‘phone anxiety’?

According to psychologists, there are a number of behavioural factors that make us clam up at the idea of a phone conversation. Much of it is based on the simple fact that we cannot see the other person, and as such may miss vital behavioural nonverbal cues.

Lack of visual stimuli

Said behavioural cues were a common theme among the “Zoom fatigue” theory, whereby remote workers would feel exhausted from chatting through a screen, missing vital cues due to poor internet connections. Some people may feel this way after going through a phone interview.

In tandem, 93% of communication is ‘non-verbal’, making telephone conversations that much harder as we struggle without gestures, facial expressions and other body language.

Fear of being judged

Again, similar to Zoom calls, phone anxiety comes from all the spotlight being placed on the caller. Paula adds: “We already have the pressure of feeling judged as the only speaker, without visual cues. Now we also have the intrinsic fear that our prospects are not yet equipped to return to business as usual.”

Getting over phone anxiety – the “new normal”

One benefit of the “new normal” is that there are fewer time pressures, so we have time to build up those relationships naturally again, without rushing through a sales call to the final decision. Paula says: “For now and into the distant future, it’s a case of practice makes perfect.

“Sometimes the timing isn’t always right. The average salesperson gives up after three calls. We’ll persevere, but only if the customer is happy to continue engaging with us.”

For the Toucan Telemarketing team, it is this relationship building that sets them apart from the rest. “We serve as an extension of your sales team to foster the best relationships with your prospects – it’s what’s kept our customers coming back to us time and again, and it helps improve sales team confidence.”

Find out more about how to improve your telesales strategy with Toucan Telemarketing.