When dealing with phone calls you want staff who are confident and capable of helping customers with enquires, and who can prevent issues from escalating when the situation calls for it.

Unfortunately many staff lack confidence when it comes to call handling, with the problem of ‘phone anxiety’ causing serious issues for some employees and, ultimately, the companies they work for.

Phone anxiety – sometimes referred to as telephobia – is a genuine fear of phone calls that affects many employees.

In this research we seek to uncover the true extent of phone anxiety in UK businesses – in particular the construction industry.

Based on a survey of 250 office based employees within construction carried out independently in June 2022, this report looks at:

    • How many employees have experienced phone anxiety in the last 12 months
    • To what extent employees are experiencing phone anxiety
    • The reasons why employees experience phone anxiety
    • If working from home has made the problem of phone anxiety worse
    • If phone anxiety is particularly a problem for younger workers
    • Whether training could resolve the problem (and if it’s available)

Report highlights

    • Nearly two thirds of construction employees have avoided customer calls due to anxiety
    • Concerns about confrontation with unhappy customers and general nerves about phone calls are the main causes of anxiety
    • A quarter of office based construction workers rate their anxiety levels either very or extremely anxious
    • Younger employees are more likely to experience phone anxiety than older counterparts

Have you avoided answering phone calls in the last 12 months because of phone anxiety?

0 %

25-34 year olds

0 %

35-44 year olds

0 %

45-54 year olds

Phone anxiety leaves employees unable to pick up the phone

What our research has found is that phone anxiety is a serious issue for many employees, and for 61% of those we surveyed, is leading to them avoiding answering the phone.

Maybe not surprisingly, it’s younger workers who seem to experience phone anxiety more than older employees.

While 69% of 25-34 year olds said they’d avoided answering the phone in the last 12 months due to anxiety, 62% of 35-44 year olds and 61% of 45-54 year olds experienced the same.

What it shows is that while younger workers appear more susceptible to anxiety (likely due to their lack of experience) phone anxiety remains a serious problem for the majority of construction workers.

Why construction employees are anxious about dealing with phone calls

  • I generally don’t like the phone – 18%
  • Worried about confrontation with an unhappy customer – 9%
  • Afraid I won’t understand the caller – 7%
  • I’m worried I might be overheard and judged – 7%
  • I haven’t been trained and I’m afraid I’ll say something wrong – 4%

How severe is phone anxiety in the construction sector?

One of the more concerning aspects of the problem with phone anxiety in the construction sector, is the levels of anxiety employees say they feel.

In our survey, a quarter (25%) levelled their anxiety between very anxious and extremely anxious.

Another 18% said they experienced low levels of anxiety when faced with handling phone calls from customers.

What has working from home done for phone anxiety levels?

Much has been made about the pros and cons of working from home in the last few years, and there’s no doubt it has many benefits.

For businesses it can reduce costs on office space and open up a wider talent pool. For employees it can make it easier to develop a work/life balance and also save money on travel.

But when it comes to working environments, and dealing with calls, working from home has been an issue for many.

According to our survey, a quarter of construction workers say working from home has increased their levels of phone anxiety, compared to when they work from an office.

This is particularly true among younger workers (those with less experience) with a third of 18-34 year olds saying their anxiety is worse since working from home.

It’s not just younger workers though.

For example, a quarter of 35-54 year olds say they’re more anxious about answering work calls since switching to working from home.

Among those employees who say working from home has made them more anxious about phone calls, the lack of immediate support, or dealing with angry customers are the biggest reasons for concern.

Would training help with phone anxiety?

With so many ways to communicate with customers now available, phone calls are often an afterthought when it comes to training.

Something as simple as knowing how to transfer calls can often be forgotten about until the circumstance arises.

When it comes to training, around half of those employees who experience phone anxiety believe it specific training on call handling and talking to customers would reduce their anxiety on the phone.

Despite this, 84% of employees said their company offers no training for phone answering.

How do we prefer customers to contact us?

It might come as a surprise (given how anxious employees are about dealing with phone calls) that the phone is the least preferred method of contact with customers.

Only 4% of people surveyed for this study said the phone was their preferred method of communication, compared to 61% who said it was their least preferred method.

On the other hand, 81% of employees said they preferred customers to contact them via email (because it meant teams could deal with enquiries at their own pace and avoid confrontation)

Again it’s younger workers who are least likely to choose phone calls as a way of communicating with customers, 83% said they least preferred phone calls.

That’s compared to 89% who said they preferred emails.

How would you prefer customers to contact you?

  • Emails – 81%
  • Instant messaging (WhatsApp) – 7%
  • Phone calls – 4%
  • Text – 5%
  • Live chat on website – 3%

Least preferred method of customer comms?

  • Emails – 3%
  • Instant messaging (WhatsApp) – 6%
  • Phone calls – 61%
  • Text – 10%
  • Live chat on website – 16%

Why construction companies need to get a grip on their phone management

What’s clear from this research, is that a large proportion of the construction workforce are experiencing phone anxiety on a regular basis when it comes to dealing with customers.

While younger workers are more likely to experience this anxiety, it’s a problem across the board.

As employees become more accustomed with other (arguably more convenient) methods of communication, traditional soft skills like talking directly to customers is becoming less prominent.

It also seems that too many businesses are overlooking the importance of employees being confident on the phone and are failing to plug the skills gaps around phone handling and call management – something that is increasing the likelihood of phone anxiety.

How could a telephone answering service help?

More needs to be done to increase employee confidence on phone calls so they’re better able to deal with enquiries.

However, there are other ways to improve the level of call handling in your company, or equip employees with the relevant information so they’re better prepared for dealing with calls.

A telephone answering service can be one answer.

With a telephone answering service, not only are all your calls handled by a team of professionals, but with accurate messages and the right information delivered before they deal with calls, your team will be more confident in dealing with customers, without the worry of confrontation.

If you want to free up your teams to focus on more value adding tasks like focussing on client work, then a telephone answering service can handle all your incoming calls for you, and even help resolve some basic customer issues for you.

With the extra time available, your teams can focus on the more complex tasks and be more confident in dealing with customer problems on the phone.

Want to know more about how a telephone answering service can help your employees in the construction sector?

Get in touch to arrange a 7-day free trial of our telephone answering or virtual receptionist service.