Keep Things CoolWhile changing the way a support staff works can reduce help desk stress, where it works also plays an important role. Help desk managers at Schering-Plough Corp. recognized that having help desk workers toil away in a drab room under the glare of harsh fluorescent lights contributed to help desk stress. "We've tried to make the environment as pleasing as possible," says Patty Kani, manager of support services. "They [help desk workers] like low-lighting, so we just use task lighting and no overhead lights. It makes a calmer atmosphere. We also have a refrigerator and coffee machine close by, and we encourage help desk workers to eat and drink at their desk. Spills are no big deal." At least one of the support staff agrees. The mellow atmosphere helps to diffuse the natural tension of the job, says Boylan, who has worked at Schering-Plough for six years. "It's a hushed environment, and it reduces the stress," he says. "It helps. It really does." Aside from low lights and comfortable surroundings, the managers of Schering-Plough's help desk also try to make it a fun place to work. "We sometimes buy toys," says Kani. And according to her, the biggest hit on the help desk is the "Jibber Jabber," a small rubber doll that squawks like a crazed chicken when you shake it. "We tell our employees to shake the doll when they really want to ring the neck of an impatient caller," laughs Kani. Games have a place at the Schering-Plough help desk, too. There's a dartboard on one wall and a putting green in the aisle. "We don't encourage them to put photos of callers on the dart board," says Kani. Once managers gave everyone on the help desk oversized boxing gloves so they could pummel the company punching bag to relieve stress.
|At a Glance: Schering-Plough Corp.|
|The company: Schering-Plough is an international pharmaceutical and healthcare products company based in Kenilworth, N.J. Its help desk staff is located in Memphis, TN. The problem: Schering-Plough's support group, 15 help desk professionals answering 500 calls a day, is constantly threatened with high employee burnout and turnover. The solution: Corporate strategies focused on offering better-than-average pay, great benefits, and a fun, comfortable environment to its help desk workers. With the introduction of games, such as a dartboard and a putting green, stress levels are down, and the result has been lower turnover. Five of its 15 help desk professionals have been with the company for 20 years or more. The IT infrastructure: Schering-Plough has a multi-site Novell 4.0 WAN environment (around 200 servers) dedicated to disk storage and printer sharing. Its Windows NT WAN (about 100 servers) serves e-mail, shared databases, and Web access to approximately 12,000 employees located in offices in Tennessee and New Jersey, while providing the same services for 1,000 remote workers in the field. The future: The company hopes to maintain its record low employee turnover rate by continuing to provide help desk workers with time away from the phones, employee appreciation days, improved benefits, and a relaxed atmosphere.|