Phone anxiety is a fear of dealing with phone calls.

It’s sometimes referred to as ‘telephobia’ and can manifest itself in a number of ways. For employees who are responsible for handling phone calls as part of their job, phone anxiety is a genuine problem and can have serious effects on their ability to do their jobs.

Now, research by telephone answering service provider Face For Business has revealed how phone anxiety is affecting employees in the healthcare sector.

The research, based on a survey of 250 office based workers in the UK health sector and carried out in June 2022, looks at:

  • How many healthcare employees have experienced phone anxiety in the last 12 months
  • To what extent employees are suffering from phone anxiety
  • The key reasons healthcare employees experience phone anxiety
  • How (if at all) working from home has affected levels of phone anxiety in the health sector
  • To what extent training can alleviate phone anxiety, and if it’s readily available to employees
  • If phone anxiety is more prevalent in younger workers

Research report highlights

  • 60% of healthcare employees say they’ve experienced phone anxiety in the last 12 months
  • Of those, 60% of employees say they’ve avoided answering work calls because of their anxiety
  • 63% of employees believe training would make them more confident dealing with calls (but 69% say no training has been offered)
  • Nearly one third of employees believe working from home has increased their levels of phone anxiety
  • Having no immediate support and confrontations with callers are the biggest reason for phone anxiety when working from home

Have you avoided a work call due to phone anxiety (by age)

0 %

18-24

0 %

25-34

0 %

35-44

0 %

45-54

0 %

55-64

0 %

65+

Majority of UK health workers experiencing phone anxiety

Dealing with calls is a primary part of working in the health industry, whether it’s booking appointments or answering patient enquiries when possible, which means you need to be confident on the phone and able to handle a number of enquiry types.

However, this isn’t always the case according to our research and we’ve found that the majority (51%) of healthcare workers have experienced phone anxiety in the last 12 months.

For some who’ve experienced phone anxiety it’s actually prevented them being able to pick up the phone.

In fact, of those who said they’d had phone anxiety, 60% said they’ve avoided answering the phone due to their nerves.

It’s not just younger workers who are nervous or anxious about dealing with calls either.

While just over a third (35%) of workers aged 18-34 say they’ve experienced anxiety about answering calls in the last year, 58% of employees aged 35-54 admitted to suffering anxiety over phone calls.

This may be due to younger employees having fewer call handling responsibility, but it reveals that anxiety isn’t just restricted to young people who are often assumed to be more reliant on non-verbal comms like text and email.

Why are health workers so anxious about the phone?

Answering the phone can be a nerve wracking experience for a number of reasons, especially in the health sector when you’re often dealing with sensitive information and patients who are seeking answers.

Like many industries, most healthcare workers who are anxious about answering the phone say they have a general nervousness and fear of answering or making calls to strangers.

One in five (20%) of those surveyed in our study said this was their main cause of anxiety related to calls.

Next was a fear of getting into a confrontation with a patient if they were unable to help or put someone in touch with the right person (13% said this was their biggest fear of dealing with calls)

Perhaps more worrying (and something that paints a negative picture of some work places) just over one in 10 (11%) healthcare employees say they’re concerned about being overheard and judged by their managers when on the phone.

Also worrying, is the levels of phone anxiety that some workers say they experience.

Nearly a third (32%) of all respondents in our survey rated their anxiety between very and extremely anxious when faced with handling a phone call.

One in three (30%) said they felt somewhat or slightly anxious about phone calls.

How much phone training do employees get, and would it help?

Despite it being a common part of office life, especially in the health sector when working on reception, phone training is often overlooked.

When it comes to helping with phone anxiety, 63% of employees believe more training could help alleviate their phone anxiety and make them more effective.

This is particularly true with younger workers and those just getting started in their careers.

Nearly two thirds of 18-34 year olds (65%) say they would benefit from more phone training as part of their development. 58% of 35-54 year olds also agree with this statement.

So with employees asking for more phone training and believing it would make them better at their jobs – and reduce their anxiety, you’d think healthcare operators would be stepping up and providing this training.

But that’s not the case according to our research.

The vast majority of employees (69%) say they’ve been offered no training on the phone.

What’s more worrying about those stats, is that younger people (who are less experienced) are the highest proportion of employees who say they’ve had no training on the phone.

68% of 18-34 year olds say they’ve had no phone training as part of their job. That’s compared to 58% of 35-54 year olds.

What has working from home done for phone anxiety in the health sector?

Like many industries, employees in the health sector have been among millions who have shifted to working from home at least part of the time in the last few years.

And for some, this working from home has increased their feeling of phone anxiety.

Nearly one third (31%) of health workers who have worked from home part of the time in the last 12 months say it has increased their levels of phone anxiety.

Again, this isn’t limited to just younger workers.

While just over a quarter (26%) of 18-34 year olds say working from home has made their phone anxiety worse, 25% of 35-54 year olds say the same.

Has working from home made you more likely to experience phone anxiety

  • Yes – 31%

Has working from home made you more likely to experience phone anxiety (by age)

  • 18-24: 29%
  • 25-34: 23%
  • 35-44: 21%
  • 45-54: 29%
  • 55-64: 25%
  • 65+: 33%

Why has working from home made you more anxious on the phone?

  • No immediate support – 15%
  • Nervous I won’t be able to help the caller – 7%
  • Afraid of confrontation if I can’t help the caller – 13%

How do healthcare employees prefer to deal with patients?

Given the levels of anxiety experienced by health workers when it comes to phone calls, it’s probably not surprising that the phone is the least preferred method of communication with patients.

61% of employees we surveyed said the phone was their least preferred method of communicating with patients when at work.

That’s compared with 70% who said they preferred to deal with enquiries via email, because it gave them more time to look at information and respond.

This is the same across age groups, with phone calls constantly being labelled the least preferred communication method, while emails consistently come out on top across all ages.

Improving call handling in the health sector

What’s clear from our research, is that a significant proportion of employees in the health sector are experiencing phone anxiety and need more training and support in order to improve their confidence.

This isn’t just for improving employees, it can help to improve the patient experience and ensure they get the right service.

If employees need additional help with phone calls, then a telephone answering service can be the ideal resource.

A telephone answering service can handle every call that comes into your business (or as many calls as you need) and ensure your team get accurate and timely messages so they can handle enquiries in a more efficient way.

But as well as taking messages, a telephone answering service can handle some basic enquiries for you to free your team up to handle more complex tasks or carry on with value added jobs.

Particularly in the healthcare sector, a telephone answering service can easily operate as a booking service to take these stresses off your employees and provide them additional support.If you want to know more about the benefits of telephone answering in the healthcare sector, click here.