Surviving Stress in a Call Center

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Stress at work is a given.
Why else do so many companies hand out little squeezy stress balls to their employees? I've never known those things to actually reduce everyday stress.
You're not allowed to really peg someone in the back of the head with one the way you want to when someone has been so rude as to not put more paper in the printer when they last used it.
Or when someone didn't bother making more coffee after they took the last cup.
But one does come in handy for squeezing to strengthen your hand or, if placed between your back and your ergonomically engineered chair that seems to be designed for people 5'10" and above, you can use it for a mini lower-back massage.
Though for real, temporary stress relief, it's my opinion that chocolate works much better.
My all-time greatest contribution for overall team stress relief was during the holiday season when I worked in a call center.
Every team would decorate their section with lights and tinsel and stockings and whatever else they could think of to create some kind of festive atmosphere.
Christmas cards were routinely handed out.
There were baked goods and candies galore.
We all would get fat and sometimes sluggish.
But the job was still the job and the daily stress was still lurking about.
So I decided to do something a little different.
There were about a dozen people in our group.
Inspiration struck.
I bought a cheap 3 ft.
artificial Christmas tree, a couple of yards of muslin, and a set of permanent markers.
Over the course of two or three evenings I cut out 24 gingerbread man shaped figures about 10" high from the muslin and then colored different designs on half of them with the markers.
They weren't personalized with names but I did try to vary the designs according to what I thought might fit each person's character in an amusing way.
Then I sewed them up including scraggly strands of embroidery floss for hair, stuffed them and, voila, I had 12 Dammit Dolls! Showing up at work a bit early, I set up the tree on a central table in our group and tucked the dolls all over it.
It helped to add some candy canes here and there also.
The fun began when everyone came in.
I explained that these were Dammit Dolls and each person could have their own.
They each got to choose whichever one they wanted and, surprisingly, pretty much everyone chose the one I had in mind for them when I was coloring them.
It was a huge hit.
People could throttle and twist the dolls and one girl even used hers as a voodoo doll to stab repeatedly with T-pins! Everyone kept theirs long after the holiday season and I even had a few requests for more from other group's supervisors.
I guess it just goes to show that for stress relief, something with a face works better than a mere squeezy ball.
Hmm, now if I could just find little chocolate people to bite.
© Janet L.
Burgar, December 2008

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