Psychosocial risk factors in call centres (!) April 22, 2009Posted by tomcwu in Health & Safety, Stress.
It’s always good when a 92 page government report crops up to confirm what you already know, especially when said report comes with such a helpfully clear title. Carphone Worker cannot pretend that Psychosocial risk factors in call centres: An evaluation of work design and well-being (2003) is riveting reading. But hey, we’re the union, so we’re interested in these things, and thought you might be interested in some of its key findings too. The following direct quotes will give you an idea.
we know that depression in the workplace is associated with lack of control, while anxiety is associated with work pacing.
working as a call handler is associated with higher job related depression than working in other roles within the call centre, though anxiety levels are broadly similar. Call handlers in this study report much higher levels of both job-related anxiety and depression than most other benchmark groups.
When compared with other call centre employees, call handlers report the lowest levels of overall job satisfaction, and intrinsic job satisfaction is particularly low.
the proportion of call handlers at risk of mental health problems is much higher than for all other benchmark occupations.
In our sample, call handlers in the telecommunications and IT sector reported the poorest well-being.
The call handlers we categorised as working in small call centres, reported less anxiety, depression and general mental strain than those working in either medium-sized or large call centres.
those call handlers who reported that they were eavesdropped on the most also reported the poorer well-being.
Call handlers report much lower levels of autonomy (control over work timing & methods, and participation in decision-making), narrow work roles with low task variety & skill utilization.
High levels of job-related depression are associated with: low skill utilization, high workload, high role conflict, low task variety, low method control, and low role clarity.
What does all this mean? For us, two things. One is that if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it is probably not your fault at all, but the fault of an unhealthy work environment – your work is making you sick. (This tallies with the high rate of sickness observable in Carphone Warehouse call centres.) The other is that “lack of control” over your work, as highlighted in the report is a major contributor to depression in the workplace. (It also means that if you are feeling anxious or depressed, you are not alone.)
A union is a means for workers to reassert some control in their working lives – you get together with other employees, so the company has to listen to you (which their own Pulse survey tells them they don’t). For your own health, and that of your colleagues, an active, organised union could be just what the doctor ordered. Find out more about the union on this website.