Lack of sleep, fatigue plague call center workers - study

Posted at 08/03/10 6:56 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Many call center employees are experiencing fatigue and insomnia, a study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the University of the Philippines Population Institute showed.

Almost half of call center employees work on the graveyard shift, and a survey showed that 47.7% of them suffer from insomnia, while 54% experience fatigue.

Carlo Sanchez, a former call center agent, lasted 5 months in his job at a call center. He said he had to resign because he developed asthma. He also had a hard time adjusting to his work schedule, which was from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next day.

According to him, he also got stressed from the feedback he would get from customers he would call.

"Minumura ako. They will say, 'I will cut your head off...b-s'. Ganun...Pero kailangan patient at polite ako," said Sanchez.

“BPO employees face heavy workloads backed by performance targets combined with tight rules and procedures, all this enforced via electronic monitoring. This type of high-strain work organization is well-known to produce high levels of job-related stress”, said Jon Messenger, Senior Researcher with the Conditions of Work and Employment Programme of the ILO and co-editor of the study entitled Offshoring and Working Conditions in Remote Work, with Naj Ghosheh. The study results were released last month.

Sleepless in the city

The UP Population Institute also released a study on January 29, 2010 on the lifestyle of call center agents. The study, entitled Lifestyle and Reproductive Health Issues of Young Professionals in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu, showed agents get 6.2 hours of sleep each day on the average as compared to the 6.5 hours of sleep non-call center employees get on the average daily.

Due to fatigue and lack of sleep, many call center agents turn to vices such as smoking and drinking to cope with their jobs.

Some 43% of call center employees smoke, while only 21% of non-call center employees pick up the habit.

A call center agent who smokes usually consumes 9 sticks a day on average. Employees working for other companies consume 8 sticks a day on the average.

Gabby Enar has been a call center agent for 4 years. He said sometimes he doesn't sleep at all for 48 hours, that's why he smokes. "Ito yung pampatanggal ng stress talaga...I need this," he said.

Majority of call center employees surveyed (85%) drink alcohol after work to unwind and get sleepy. Beer is their favorite drink.

Call center employees also don't get to eat on time. Some 86% of call center workers surveyed got sick due to work, as compared to 60% of non-call center employees.

In spite of the fatigue and stress, Enar and other call center employees have no plans of leaving their jobs because of the good salary, which is 53% higher than the salary of a minimum wage earner.

Those who work for call centers also receive many benefits such as meal and transport allowance, and medical insurance.

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines said they have asked call center companies to strictly require employees to undergo physical and medical examinations. -- Report from Apples Jalandoni, ABS-CBN News