A fishy tale of ergonomics

A fishy tale of ergonomics

Saxon, Art

The benefits of a pleasant, comfortable working environment can never be overemphasized. The office is the place where many of us spend our waking days. It is also a location that is host to current and prospective clients — one that needs to exude organization and professionalism. Therefore, investing extra time and money to create an attractive, efficient workplace for both associates and customers is essential.

Our company is a telemarketing service agency, and often, prospective clients who have the opportunity to visit the call center prior to signing a contract have a pre-conceived idea that they will see a boiler-room type of operation — one that has long been inaccurately depicted by the media. We wanted to overcome this stereotype and also have a call center that was most effectively engineered for comfort and safety. So when continued growth necessitated a move to larger quarters, we were determined to pick not only a first-class location, but to design and decorate the interior space as ergonomically and tastefully as possible as well.

In our original location we had no windows to view the outside world and, although we tried to make the office an attractive place to work by maintaining a neat appearance and adding hanging plants, spacious workstations and ergonomic chairs, the environment fell short of our desires.

When TeleSTAR moved to a campus-like business park in Media, Pennsylvania more than two years ago, we found the opportunity we were seeking. It is a spanking-clean facility that is always maintained at the highest standards. To it we contributed our extensive collection of hanging and potted plants, added large windows all around, and hung original artwork. Another element which has added to an overall positive office atmosphere was discovered almost by accident. Here’s what happened.

One of the first small business-to-business telemarketing projects we handled was working with a local, one-person business enterprise that specialized in the installation and maintenance of fish aquariums in business establishments and professional suites. During the course of the project, we went out with our client to visit several professional offices where his aquariums had already been installed in reception or waiting rooms. One enthusiastic MD told us he tracked his patients’ blood pressure and found a significant reduction in the readings after the tanks had been installed. His conclusion was that watching little creatures swimming around placidly reduces stress and tension.

After noting this phenomenon, we concluded that since telemarketing can at times be a stressful occupation, perhaps our executive office would be a perfect location for an aquarium installation. Little did we realize how popular the aquarium would become. Not a day went by without a TSR stopping by to look at the fish. It was apparent an aquarium in the call center could help soothe sales stress, so we installed a 55-gallon tank with plants and two dozen brightly colored Cichlids (a type of aggressive fish).

At first, the new addition to the office drew rave reviews. The TSRs had something beautiful and, supposedly, serene to view. Soon, however, we received complaints about the creatures in the tank attacking one another. After consulting with fish experts, we decided to swap the aggressors for calmer fish. Coincidentally, the fish expert had just acquired a nine-inch Iridescent shark because she had outgrown her tank and the original owner could no longer care for her. Sharks are typically thought of as predators, but this community-type breed is not.

Learning this, we purchased the Iridescent shark not only because sharks are an intriguing species, but also because the Iridescent’s large size would allow the entire call center to see it easily. The fish, along with several smaller sharks of the same type and other community varieties, was moved into the tank previously inhabited by the Cichlids.

TeleSTAR associates immediately become fond of the new group and, in particular, the large shark, because of her size and graceful movements. People began to think of names for her and soon a contest with prizes was in place to name our new family member. Of all the entries received, the selection committee unanimously chose a name that stood out far above the rest — Rebuttal — aptly named for probably the single most important component of a telemarketing call.

Occasionally Rebuttal gets nervous and darts around the tank splashing water. Nevertheless, the environment seems to agree with her. She grew another two inches and has been moved to a still-larger home. Our associates have watched her closely since her arrival and comment on the effect her beauty, gracefulness and sereneness have on them.

“Soothing, interesting, educational, exciting. I can lose myself in the tank and come back to calls feeling refreshed. It’s like an abstract painting. The fish have given us a special office spirit.” Lilian B., TSR

“I love fish tanks] They help you relax. When you’re on the phone, you need to have something to help you keep calm — and fish do just that. They’re great to watch and also can be exciting.” Louelle W., TSR

Understanding that some degree of stress is manageable, we also know that helping to control the unmanageable has a definite impact on our TSRs’ success and comfort. Only now do we realize that “swimming with the sharks” can be a soothing experience. The enjoyment the office staff has experienced with the installation of these aquariums cannot be measured in dollars and cents, but rather by the success of our telemarketers and the growth of our business.

Art Saxon is president and Mickey Diamond is vice president of operations of TeleSTAR Marketing, Inc., a full-service telemarketing agency located in Media, Pennsylvania.

Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation Jan 1996

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