Call centre health and safety
Most call centres these days are located abroad... Apart from those of a company presented by very cute, clever and very British dog. "Oooh, yes!"
The truth is that there are more contact centres currently in the UK than ever before. In a way, they are the equivalent of the factory mills from a century ago. Even the locations of a big percentage of them are in the traditional old industrial areas of Scotland, the North East, Yorkshire and the North West, with only 5% in London.
The UK economy during the last few decades has created a big demand of cheap customer care services and the logical solution for many private companies and public organizations have been found in the contact centres. Currently over one million people are employed in call centres, representing 3.5% of the entire UK workforce so call centre health and safety should be a priority.
For most of us, call-centres are a nightmare, a nuisance, an unnecessary commodity which we would try to avoid at any cost. Many people are considering dealing with them more stressful than getting married and more uncomfortable than going to the dentist. There is some reason for such extreme thinking, for sure.
On the other hand we have to recognise the fact that this is highly stressful work, involving many risks for the employees. Work-related stress and depression are common between workers involved in jobs dealing with the public. They are usually exposed to verbal abuse and this is the main reason of not having the customer face to face and is highly stressful plus reduces the quality of communication itself. The level of autonomy and decision making is much lower than in any other front desk or even a factory job where norms of conduct are available and widely accepted. Another stress generating factor is the uncertainty of what the next call would be about and the impossibility in the majority of cases to see trough the solution of the problem. According to a recent IOSH-commissioned study, conducted between 600 employees from 14 call centres across UK and Ireland found that call handlers had suffered one or more of a range of ill effects, mainly because of the lack of appropriate training.
This alone should highlight to businesses that call centre health and safety and welfare are major factors for more productivity.
Around one in ten were recognized to have a voice problem, with women being more likely to develop such conditions. Singers and actors are usually trained how to use, protect and not overload their voices, but this is not the case with call handlers. These people are professional voice users and overtime could suffer serious work related injuries of the vocal strength and quality, which would impact on their work and personnel lives as well. Absenteeism due to voice failure is common in the industry. It is well known that when overloaded with work and stress, many people can loose their voices temporarily until the body recovers.
Most of the training which employees of call-centres are receiving is sales and customer care service related, but it fails to provide information about voice care and effectiveness.
In recent years call handlers professionals are offered a career path and opportunities to develop in the company. It is becoming more common that people working in call centres are university graduates and not just temporary workforce.
Some universities are even offering MSc courses in contact centre management.
Fingers crossed, in the future we would have healthier call handlers and we may get served more professionally and efficiently...
" Oooh yes!..."
Call centre health and safety