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Human issues in call centers and bpo industry

Human issues in call centers and bpo industry

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Human issues in call centers and bpo industry Human issues in call centers and bpo industry Document Transcript

  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com INTRODUCTION ON STRESSToday’s age is called “The Age of Anxiety” and this century is called “The Century ofStress”. Today vast majorities of people are in a state of Stress. Their fast-paced lifestyledemands that they are raring to go always and are always under pressure to perform.This pressure usually leads to Stress. Stress can be due to various reasons. And Stress inmany cases causes Tension, Depression, Anxiety, etc.A lot of research has been conducted into ‘stresses over the last hundred years. Sometheories about it are now settled and accepted; others are still being researched and debated.Hans Selye was one of the founding fathers of research on stress. He stated in 1956 that“Stress is not necessarily something bad – it all depends on how we take it.” The stressof exhilarating, creative successful that of failure, humiliation or infection is detrimental.Since then, a great deal of further research has been conducted on the subject, and new ideashave come to light.Stress is now viewed as a "bad thing", with a range of harmful biochemical and long-termeffects. These effects have rarely been observed in positive situations. Stress is that stress isa condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that “demands exceed thepersonal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.” In short, it is what wefeel when we think we have lost control over events. There are very many proven skills thatwe can use to manage stress. These help us to remain calm and effective in high-pressuresituations, and help us avoid the problems of long term stress.Stress is something that occurs all the time and affects everyone one way or another at leastsome of the time. Stress can be a good thing. It can be a source of motivation to help getsomething done or help one to react quickly to a potentially dangerous situation. Human Issues in Call Centers and BPO Industry IntroductionThe purpose of writing this project is to address, the Human Issues in Call-Centers. Inproject I found or suggest some the opinion that this project will be use to HR-Heads ofVarious Call-centers, CEOs and Center-Heads and also Team Leadersand Project Managers. BPO/Call Centers has given many gifts to People of India, few ofthem are: High Stress Level, Number of other Illnesses, Broken Marriages Etc. Need is toProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com understand these issues and address them properly. To start with, let us understand the technology involved, history of call center sand Industry, as a whole. Understanding- "Call Center" As a first step, it is useful to establish a definition of a call center. This is not a completely straightforward task, as there are considerable variations between types of call centers, which are spread across several sectors of the economy, and which perform different functions for different organizations, both within and across sectors. The broadest definition in the call center literature is that provided by Norling, who states "a call center is any communications platform from which firms deliver services to customers via remote, real-time contact". Callaghan and Thompson apply a similarly inclusive definition, stating that call centers may be "broadly defined as workplaces that integrate telephone and computer technologies". While these definitions usefully highlight the centrality of communication technology integration in the call center field, it leaves the boundaries of the industry somewhat ambiguous. Taylor and Bain narrow the definition byspecifying the types of technologies used: "we define a call center as a dedicated operation in which computer-utilising employees receive inbound-or make outbound-telephone calls, with those calls processed and controlled either by an Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) or predictive dialing system. The call center is thus characterized by the integration of telephone and VDU technologies." Other authors narrow their definitions by focusing on the types of services which these integrated technologies are designed to provide. For example, in an early definition, Richardson states "telephone call centers are specialist technology-intensive offices that are established by organizations in order to deliver services to customers over the telephone, replacing or complementing face-to-face interaction with the public" . Similarly, Kinnie, Purcell and Hutchinson provide a tripartite definition incorporating technology, technological control, and tasks: We define call centers in the following way: i. Employees are engaged in specialist operation which integrate telecommunications and information systems technologies;ii. Their work is controlled by automatic systems which virtually simultaneously distribute work, control the pace of that work and monitor their performance; Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comiii. They are in direct contact with the customer through dealing with in-bound calls, making out-bound calls or a combination of the two. Houlihan also includes the types of operations typically performed in a call center within her definition. She lists the tasks most effectively performed by call centers: "Call centersare centralized, specialized operations for both inbound and outbound communication handling. Call center operations are especially suited to information delivery, customer services and sales operations". Buchanan and Koch-Schulte go one step further and include in their description the organizational rationale for establishing call centers: Call centers are a relatively recent phenomenon made possible by the dissemination of telecommunications and information technologies. The technology enables telephone service representatives to deal quickly and remotely with customer needs by connecting the representative to the customers account information on his/her computer as the call is relayed to the headset. As call centers can be centralized in locations far from the customers of a business, they allow firms to cut costs by reducing the number of local service outlets. In reviewing these definitions and descriptions, it becomes clear that although there are variations in stress placed on different elements, there is general agreement about which elements are keys. Borrowing from this accumulation, we might, therefore, define a call center as a specialized office where agents remotely provide information, deliver services, and/or conduct sales, using some combination of integrated telephone and information technologies, typically with an aim to enhancing customer service while reducing organizational costs. HISTORY OF STRESS Since the origin of the term stress it is ambiguous stress began life as a variant on distress in the 14th century. It meant the experience of physical hardship, starvation, torture, and pain. These days, however, the term revolves around the medieval definition, in which stress simply meant hardship. The recent scientific developments inform us that stress is actually good for us. Stress is derived from the Latin word stranger, meaning to draw tight, and was used in the 17th century to describe hardships or affliction. During the late 18th century stress denoted "force, pressure, strain or strong effort," referring primarily to an individual or to an individuals organs or mental powers (Hinkle, 1973). Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comAs has already been noted, stress has been defined as a stimulus, a response, or the result ofan interaction between the two, with the interaction described in terms of some imbalancebetween the person developed, particularly that surrounding the person-environment (P-E)interaction, researches have considered the nature of that interaction and, more importantly,the psychological processes which it takes place (Dewey, 1992).Stress is a physiological and psychological imbalance. It arises due to the demands on aperson and that person’s inability to meet these demands. Stress is the body’s way ofreacting to any situation and it can have serious repercussions on an individual’s life. Yet,people fail to realize the importance of stress management in their lives. Effective managerscan stay in control of life, without panicking even under stressful situations. They handlestress by planning work, taking regular breaks, and rejuvenating them. STRESS! What is it???“STRESS IS THE DEMAND MADE UPON THE ADAPTIVE CAPACITY OF MINDAND BODY” --- DAVID FONTANA.It isn’t easy to find a generally acceptable definition of stress. The word withdifferent people takes different meanings … be it professionals, psychologists, doctors,engineers, management consultants, all use the word in their own distinctive ways.Management consultants talk in terms of organizational challenges, psychologists in termsof human behaviour and doctors in terms of psychological mechanisms.The word ‘stress’ is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a state of affair involvingdemand on physical or mental energy". A condition or circumstance (not alwaysadverse), which can disturb the normal physical and mental health of an individual. Inmedical parlance stress is defined as a perturbation of the body’s homeostasis.At one end of a scale, stress represents those challenges that excite us and keep us onour toes whereas on the other end, stress represents those conditions under whichindividuals have demands made upon them that they cannot physically andProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.compsychologically meet. Hence, at one end, stress is a life- saver and the other it is a life-destroyer. TO DEFINE STRESS…It is a demand made upon the adaptive capacities of mind and body. This definitionis useful in three ways…Firstly, it makes clear not only that stress can be both, good or bad, but also that since thereis wide range of things that can make demand over the mind and the body, there is widerange of things that can cause stress.Secondly, it infers the point that it isn’t the events that determine that we are stressed or not,but it is our reactions to them.And thirdly, as the definition says… that stress is a demand made upon the body’scapacities, its nature and the extent of these capacities determine our response to thedemand. If our capacities are good enough we will respond well. If they aren’t… we giveaway.Stress is the "wear and tear" our bodies experience as we adjust to our continuallychanging environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can createpositive or negative feelings. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us toaction; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As anegative influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression,which in turn can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes,insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. With the death of aloved one, the birth of a child, a job promotion, or a new relationship, weexperience stress as we read just our lives. In so adjusting to different circumstances,stress will help or hinder us depending on how we react to it.Stress is a fact of life. But too much stress can break down a persons physical,mental, and emotional health. Planning can help people to manage stress in their lives.They must begin to make choices that support their values and develop a personal plan totake charge of their lives TYPES OF STRESS - SOME GOOD, SOME BADProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comDid you know that some types of stress can be good for you? Thats right! Some forms ofstress can be good for you, but other types of stress disorders can cause major healthproblems and even be life threatening.There are four main types of stress that people experience.EUSTRESSEustress is a type of short-term stress that provides immediate strength. Eustress arises atpoints of increased physical activity, enthusiasm, and creativity. Eustress is a positive stressthat arises when motivation and inspiration are needed. A gymnast experiences eustressbefore a competition.DISTRESSDistress is a negative stress brought about by constant readjustments or alterations in aroutine. Distress creates feelings of discomfort and unfamiliarity.There are two types of distress.1. Acute stress is an intense stress that arrives and disappears quickly. Acute stress is the most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Acute stress is thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. Because it is short term, acute stress doesnt have enough time to do the extensive damage associated with long-term stress. Acute stress can crop up in anyones life, and it is highly treatable and manageable.2. Chronic stress is a prolonged stress that exists for weeks, months, or even years. Someone who is constantly relocating or changing jobs may experience distress. While acute stress can be thrilling and exciting, chronic stress is not. This is the grinding stress that wears people away day after day, year after year. Chronic stress destroys bodies, minds and lives. It wreaks havoc through long-term attrition. Its the stress of poverty, of dysfunctional families, of being trapped in an unhappy marriage or in a despised job or careerProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com The worst aspect of chronic stress is that people get used to it. They forget its there. People are immediately aware of acute stress because it is new; they ignore chronic stress because it is old, familiar, and sometimes, almost comfortable.HYPERSTRESSHyper stress occurs when an individual is pushed beyond what he or she can handle. Hyperstress results from being overloaded or overworked. When someone is hyper stressed, evenlittle things can trigger a strong emotional response. A Wall Street trader is likely toexperience hyper stress.HYPOSTRESSHypo stress is the opposite of hyper stress. Hypo stress occurs when an individual is boredor unchallenged. People who experience hypo stress are often restless and uninspired. Afactory worker who performs repetitive tasks might experience hypo stress.The practice of ongoing work practice modification and target revision as managementswings from one side to another of the quality/quantity debate is a major source of stress forcall center agents. As Houlihan notes: "The practice of putting a drive on particular targetsfor improvement (for example, the collection of renewal dates, the up-selling or cross-sellingof products, the quality of data input, or the intensity of sales push) and continualreprioritisation means that the goalposts are constantly shifting". Virtually all of the callcenter authors who write about work conditions mention the difficulty of dealing with thesecompeting goals. Korczynski and colleagues suggest that this dilemma is particularlydifficult for front-line workers because they may be likely "to identify with embodiedindividual customers, for interactions with specific customers may be an important arena formeaning and satisfaction within the work". They contrast this customer-as-individualorientation to the managerial goal of balancing customer orientation with efficiency, whichthey suggest leads management to prefer workers to identify with a generic category, thecustomer, since "such a disembodied image of the customer will encourage workers to dealwith individual customers efficiently because they will be conscious of the concerns of othercustomers waiting in a queue".Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com SIX MYTHS ABOUT STRESSSix myths surround stress. Dispelling them enables us to understand our problems and thentake action against them. Lets look at these myths.Myth 1: Stress is the same for everybody.Complete wrong. Stress is different for each of us. What is stressful for one person may ormay not be stressful for another; each of us responds to stress in an entirely different way.Myth 2: Stress is always bad for you.According to this view, zero stress makes us happy and health. Wrong. Stress is to thehuman condition what tension is to the violin string: too little and the music is dull andraspy; too much and the music is shrill or the string snaps. Stress can be the kiss of death orthe spice of life. The issue, really, is how to manage it. Managed stress makes us productiveand happy; mismanaged stress hurts and even kills us.Myth 3: Stress is everywhere, so you cant do anything about it.Not so. You can plan your life so that stress does not overwhelm you. Effective planninginvolves setting priorities and working on simple problems first, solving them, and thengoing on to more complex difficulties. When stress is mismanaged, its difficult to prioritize.All your problems seem to be equal and stress seems to be everywhere.Myth 4: The most popular techniques for reducing stress are the best ones.Again not so, no universally effective stress reduction techniques exist. We are all different,our lives are different, our situations are different, and our reactions are different. Only acomprehensive program tailored to the individual works.Myth 5: No symptoms, no stress.Absence of symptoms does not mean the absence of stress. In fact, camouflaging symptomswith medication may deprive you of the signals you need for reducing the strain on yourphysiological and psychological systems.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comMyth 6: Only major symptoms of stress require attention.This myth assumes that the "minor" symptoms, such as headaches or stomach acid, may besafely ignored. Minor symptoms of stress are the early warnings that your life is getting outof hand and that you need to do a better job of managing stress. STRESS AND GENDERDoes stress tend to affect the male of the species more than the female? Opinions vary, sincethere are differentiating factors between the sexes. All parameters being equal, however, thepreponderant view is that women are more adept at handling stress, thanks to better copingmechanisms.EFFECTS OF STRESSThe human body’s reaction to stress is natural. It results from the need to resist a stressfulsituation. For example, when a person is nervous, there is an increase in his/her pulse rate.This is a ‘fight or flight’ response. However, things can go out of control if too much stressis present. The person can have a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Too much of stresscan tell upon a person’s health. If neglected, it can lead to serious health disorders at a laterstage. Stress has both physical and psychological effects on an individual. (Refer Exhibit 1 tofind out the effects of stress on an individual.)Exhibit 1 Effects of Stress on an Individual Physical Effects : [ - Increased heart rate and blood pressure - Sudden increase or decrease in weight (change in appetite) - Frequent headaches, fatigue, and respiratory ProblemsProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com - Nervous weakness ( biting nails, too much sweating) - Insomnia - Reduced immunity to common colds and flu - Ulcers and weak digestive system Psychological Affects : - Difficulty in concentrating - Unable to spend leisure time productively - Always anxious - Bad decision making - Mood swings - Increased usage of food, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs - Developing fears and phobias - Feeling out of control and confusedSTRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH STRESS After understanding the sources of stress and the effects of stress on individuals, let usdiscuss some strategies to fight stress.  Strategies to Fight StressSome of the important strategies for managers to fight stress are prioritizing and delegatingwork, laughing a lot, exercising regularly, practicing relaxation techniques, maintaining agood balanced diet, and having a good night’s sleep.  Prioritize workProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comMulti-tasking is the buzzword these days. An individual requires special skills to performmultiple tasks simultaneously. One way to minimize stress while multi-tasking is to plan,prioritize, and perform. Planning involves preparing a list of activities that need to beperformed. This involves considering the time factor. Prioritizing involves ranking theactivities based on their importance and performing these activities in that order. Prioritizingactivities each day is the simplest way to tackle stress. The next step is to schedule time fortasks depending on the priorities. For instance, a person may have to attend a communitymeeting and an official party. He/she may schedule time for both activities by attending theofficial party first and then the community meeting.  Delegate workSome individuals prefer doing all the work themselves. This adds to their stress. They shouldlearn to delegate routine work to others. For instance, a manager can delegate the work ofpreparing a report on a project to a subordinate.  LaughterLaughter is a good de-stressor. An individual can relax and de-stress by watching ahumorous movie, reading comics, etc. A sense of humor allows an individual to perceive andappreciate the imbalances of life and provides moments of delight.‘A day without laughter is a day wasted for life’. This is very true. Laughter is the best outletfor stress. It is a great stress buster. Laughter is a no cost, no side effect medicine. A personwith a sense of humor is less likely to be under stress. A sense of humor allows an individualto perceive and appreciate the imbalances of life and provides moments of delight.  ExerciseExercise is another good stress-buster. It keeps an individual physically and mentally alert.When a person is nervous, tense, or angry, exercise is the best outlet for giving vents tohis/her emotions. Regular exercise lowers blood pressure, lowers pulse rate, boosts bloodcirculation in the body, increases artery suppleness, lowers cholesterol, and reduces fatigueand tension. These benefits help an individual to tackle the physiological changes that occurduring stress. Exercise should increase blood circulation to the heart.  RelaxationProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com The best strategy to reduce stress is to relax. Relaxation is not being idle. It is doingwhat one wants to do, rather than what one should do. It is very important for a person toschedule some time for relaxation. This relaxation time should disconnect the person fromall his/her tensions, worries. This is the time when the person rebuilds his/her energy levels.Relaxation techniques vary from person to person.  DietA good balanced diet plays a vital role in reducing stress. A person tends to neglect dietwhen under stress. This may lead to overeating or under-eating. This improper eating resultsin a weak immune system and creates health problems. A well-balanced meal that is eaten ontime is very important to minimize stress.  SleepSleep is a weapon. During sleep, a person prepares himself/herself to face another day.Stress makes a person sleepless or very sleepy. A stressed person may feel sleepy throughoutthe day and awake during nights. On an average, everyone needs at least 7-8 hours of sleepper day. Some may need more sleep or some less. After a good night’s sleep, a person feelsfresh. An individual must adopt a bedtime routine that induces sleep like reading a book thatis soothing, and listening to music that is relaxing. One must go to bed at the same timeevery day.  MeditationMeditation is one of the most effective techniques in reducing and avoiding stress. Regularmeditation helps in stress reduction. It • enables one to control the thought process • enables one to take effective decisions • helps in physical and mental relaxation • Improves concentration Meditation is a technique to achieve a thoughtless or mindless state. In this state, aperson has no thoughts. This kind of state thus acts a stress reliever and a great rejuvenator.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com  YogaYoga is another important stress reliever. Yoga has been tried and tested since ancient times.According to Patanjali Maharishi, yoga is the cessation of mind. It is a state of no-mind.Yoga is not for bodybuilding. It simply focuses on gentle postures that improve circulationof blood to vital parts of the body. The increase in blood circulation rejuvenates the organsand releases stress.  Maintaining work-life balanceWork-life balance means a harmonious balance of work and domestic life. It allows anemployee to fulfill all the roles in his/her life effectively and efficiently. Researches haveproved that employees are at their best when they are contented and motivated both at workand at home.Achieving a work-life balance is not as easy as it seems. In the corporate world, change isconstant and imminent. The impact of globalization has further fuelled these changes. Thecorporate world signifies uncertainties, too many responsibilities, and long work hours.These changes in the environment disturb the balance between domestic and work-life ofemployees. The increasing competition and demands of society further aggravate thesituation. All this adds up to stress.  Importance of Work-life balanceThe corporate world is realizing the importance of the work-life balance. Companies arerealizing the fact that the work-life balance of employees has a direct effect on theproductivity of their organizations. Exhibit 5 explains the various practices that companiesfollow to maintain work-life balance.The importance of work-life balance is due to the following reasons:Changing social scene:In today’s world, maintaining work-life balance is the greatest challenge employees’ face.Employees have realized that their personal lives have an effect on their work life. Hence,they are striving hard to maintain the balance.Changing work culture:Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comThere is a shift in the organizational work culture. Today’s work culture provides flexiblework hours, focus on results, and recognition of achievements. However, this has made theworkplace even more competitive as employees are expected to always give their best, andthis leads to stress.Increased work time:With globalization, organizations are working 365 days, 24 hours, and 7 days a weekirrespective of time zones. Businesses are focusing more and more on customer care. Withthe coming of call centers, this focus has doubled. The technology has added to the speed ofwork but the workload remains the same.Dual income families:The shift in attitudes, work styles, and cultures has disturbed the work-life balance. Workingmothers have major responsibilities of managing both home and work place. This makes itall the more important for them to balance work and life. Organizations are helping womenby providing facilities like work from home, day care etc. Benefits of Work-life BalanceAchieving a work-life balance benefits both employers and employees. While the employersget the benefit of productive and active employees, the employees feel secure and loyal. Italso improves confidence, concentration, self-esteem, and loyalty among the employees. Theconcept of work-life balance is still fresh in India. Indian IT companies are probably the firstones to provide a fun-work environment. Some companies are now investing in recreationalfacilities at the worksite.Steps to achieve work-life balance:To build up an awareness of the importance of work-life balance in employees, companiesshould conduct regular workshops and programs on work-life balance.The following measures have to be taken by employers:• Discourage employees from working late• Take a regular employee satisfaction survey that can identify the pitfalls in the work patternProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com• Provide vacations and encourage employees to take breaks• Provide opportunities like work from home, flexi times STRESS MANAGEMENTEvery one wants stress-free life. Yet, stress is ubiquitous. Of course, it cannot be controlledby more nutrients as the real cause of stress is anxiety or pressure which may ultimately leadto the neglect or proper dietary habits. Stress refers to the “circumstances that threaten one’swell being and thereby tax one’s coping abilities”.Stress is inevitable part of modern life. Like Janus, stress has two faces. It is a good servant,but a bad master. In other words, it can be one’s best friend or worst enemy. A certainamount of stress is necessary to achieve success. But, undue stress causes distress.Stress is received by different people differently. If two people experience the same amountor pressure, one may be healthy while the other is sick. This is so because our personalitiesdo influence the level of stress. The present day’s lifestyle breeds stress and tension. Whentension lasts long, depression sets in.According to Dr. Raw Baum, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvanian bioenergetics analyst and stresseducator, “Stress is our body’s bio-chemical reaction to how we live our lives. Stress candevelop into distress and disease through your personal adaptations to internal and externalenvironments.”Stress is the body’s reaction to the external demands placed upon it by the environment.Stress can be either good or bad. Good stress creates the necessary excitement to perform anactivity. This type of stress is temporary and has no long-term effects on the body. Bad stresscreates an alarming reaction in the body. It affects the body’s immune system and hasdetrimental affects on the body over a period. There are many sources of stress for an individual. It can be family, friends, workplace,superiors, and colleagues. The sources of stress for an individual should be identified. Theeffects of stress may include minor symptoms like headache, irritability, loss ofconcentration, loss of appetite to major symptoms like insomnia, amnesia, heart attack,ulcers etc. Stress should be identified and treated in the early stages or it could result in aburnout. A severe case or neglected case of stress leads to burnout. Exercise, diet, and restProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.complay a vital role in stress handling. A healthy person is better at handling stressful situationsthan an unhealthy person.A working person should learn to balance work and personal life to lead a happy life. Thiswork- life balance can be achieved by giving importance to both work and personal life.Organizations should help their employees achieve work-life balance, as this has an effect onthe productivity of the organizations.Spirituality at the workplace has become a necessity in today’s world. The practice ofspirituality at the workplace enables an individual to deal with stressful situations. Itprovides an individual with the strength to face unforeseen situations without panic.Spirituality helps a manager to deal with stress internally instead of looking for externalsolutions. Action PointsManagers should: • Identify sources of stress and their effects on you. • Adopt a de-stressing routine like going for a solitary walk at the end of the day. • Spend time with family, friends. • Make time for vacations. • Practice relaxation methods like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. • Sleep for at least 6-8 hours. • Plan, prioritize, and delegate work. • Try to maintain a work-life balance.Managers should not: • Ignore symptoms like frequent headaches, coughs, and colds. • Take on too may responsibilities or demands that are outside your capabilities. • Use drugs, tobacco, alcohol to handle stress. • Use self-medication. • Wait for deadlines to approach. • Set unrealistic goals.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com STRESS AT WORKPLACE“Job stress is a consequence of two key ingredients: a high level of job demands andlittle control over one’s work.” -PAUL FROILAND. WHATS IT?In this difficult economy, you may find it harder than ever to cope with challenges on thejob. Both the stress we take with us when we go to work and the stress that awaits us on thejob are on the rise – and employers, managers, and workers all feel the added pressure.While some stress is a normal part of life, excessive stress interferes with your productivityand reduces your physical and emotional health, so it’s important to find ways to keep itunder control. Fortunately, there is a lot that you can do to manage and reduce stress at work. CALL CENTERSCall center is a generalized term that embraces a number of activities like reservationcenters, help desks, information lines or customer service centers, irrespective of how theyare organized or what types of transactions they handle. Call center is generally referred to arefined voice operations setting that provides a full range of high-volume, inbound orProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comoutbound call-handling services, including customer support, operator services, directoryassistance, multilingual customer support, credit services, card services, inbound andoutbound telemarketing, interactive voice response and web-based services.Call centers are becoming increasingly popular in todays business, where many companieshave centralized customer service and support functions. Call centers are generally largeoffices with representatives who either make or receive phone calls. Depending on the typeof work, call centers may have a single office employing a few people or large office withthousands of employees. The main activity in some call centers is answering inbound calls,such as a bank that gives out a toll-free number for customers needing help. At the same timethere are some call centers that focus on outbound calls too. With increase in outsourcing, call centers are also becoming popular. By way ofoutsourcing, companies contract out some functions to other companies located mostly incost effective destinations like India. In this field India enjoys several advantages over anumber of developed counties. In India, we a have large pool of qualified people; Englishspeaking graduates and IT professionals. In addition to this India have some otheradvantages like cheap labor, flexibility in working hours and time zone difference. This isthe reason why a number of MNCs are outsourcing their business activities to India.Call centres are comparatively a recent introduction to the world of career options in India.The career avenues provided by Call centres is one of the best suited and growing optionwhich even a fresher can opt for. With the opening up of the Indian economy and the adventof globalisation more and more companies from abroad are basing or outsourcing their callcentre services to India, a trend started by GE when it established a call centre near NewDelhi in 1998.A call centre is a service centre with adequate telecom facilities, access to internet and widedatabase, which provide voice based or web-based information and support to customers inthe country or abroad through trained personnel. Call centres exist in all sectors of businessincluding banking, utilities, manufacturing, security, market research, pharmaceuticals,catalogue sales, order desk, customer service, technical queries (help desk), emergencydispatch, credit collections, food service, airline/hotel reservations etc. The wide area ofservices provided by the call centres makes it a lucrative career with a range of opportunities.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com UNDERSTANDING - THE CALL CENTER “INDUSTRY”There has been some dispute amongst researchers as to whether it is appropriate to refer tosuch a thing as the “call center industry”. As Bain and Taylor point out, “despite similaritiesin the integration of computer and telephone technologies, centers differ in relation to anumber of important variables—size, industrial sector and market, complexity and length ofcall cycle time, nature of operations (inbound, outbound or combined), the nature andeffectiveness of representative institutions including trade unions, and management stylesand priorities”. To this list of variables, Callaghan and Thompson would add the “degree ofproduct complexity and variability and the depth of knowledge required to deal with theservice interaction”. Bain and Taylor argue that it is more appropriate to use the term“sector”, as call Centers are found across a wide range of industries and may be similarprimarily in terms of their core technologies. They do note, however, that there is aprofessional literature and a collective identity that is maintained and developed throughconferences and forums. Belt, Richardson and Webster (2000) agree that call centers are notan industry as the term is generally defined, but rather represent certain ways of deliveringvarious services using the telephone and computer technologies across traditional industryboundaries. However, these authors provide three strong reasons defending the practice ofreferring to call centers as an industry:First, the call center community often defines itself as an industry, with numerous nationaland international call center conferences and workshops taking place each year, industryjournals and call center forums organized at local levels.Second, the labor force requirements of call centers are often the same across sectors. Thismeans that many, though not all, call centers share a common labor pool.Third, the organizational templates and technologies used tend to be very similar, regardlessof the sector.To this one might add the remarkable similarities that international researchers have foundbetween technologies used, work practices and key issues including monitoring, control,training, and labor demographics for workers in countries as diverse as Germany, Japan,Australia, Greece, Canada, the US, the UK and the Netherlands. STRESS IN CALL CENTERSProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comStress exists in every call center. Call centers are stressful work environments. The demandsof serving the customer in real-time helps to lay the foundation. Add to this factor thingssuch as job repetition, potential job dissatisfaction, poor ergonomics or low pay and thestress level climbs higher.If stress in the workplace (i.e. the call center) is not on the agenda the results of stress arerevealed through higher absenteeism than other parts of the company, higher WorkersCompensation claims and ultimately in reduced customer satisfaction.This Operations Topic focuses on various approaches to managing stress. Raising the payisnt necessarily the solution. There are many other creative means of managing stress inyour call center. • Factors that Create a Stressful Call Center • Emotional Labor • Stress Levels, Staff Turnover and Some Suggested Solutions • Customer Centric Attitude and StressRecommended Solutions to Solving Stress in the Call Center • Involve Front Line Staff in Creating Solutions • Attention to Ergonomic Factors Helps Reduce Stress • Develop an Internal Ergonomic Program • Employee Assistance Programs Can Contribute • Consider Massage Therapy Services or Yoga As Possible Solutions Resources • Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanizing Your Interaction Hub • Managing Workplace Chaos: Workplace Solutions for Managing Information, Paper, Time and Stress • Tele-Stress - Relief For Call Center Stress Syndrome HUMAN ISSUES IN CALL-CENTER INDUSTRYProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com[ STRESSFor many employed in call center sector, “ daily experience is of repetitive, intensive andstressful work, based upon Taylorist principles, which frequently results in employee“burnout”. Brown characterizes work as “repetitive brain strain”. These descriptions arehardly surprising, in a way, given that call centers are established by organizations to “createan environment in which work can be standardized to create relatively uniform andrepetitious activities so as to achieve economies of scale and consistent quality of customerservice”. In other words, that workplaces are organized in ways that weaken employeeautonomy and enhance potential for management control, and “a loss of control is generallyunderstood to be an important indicator of work-related stress”. There is almost universal consensus that call center work is stressful. Even in studies thatreport the observation that some staff actually enjoys their work, mention of stress is still thenorm, and a significant portion of the call center literature is devoted to detailing the sourcesof stress in call center work.FOUR KEY STRESSORS- ‘Can we get off the phone for a while?’The primary source of stress reported is inherent to the nature of the job: spending all day onthe phone dealing with people one after another, day after day, is difficult. Doing it underconstant pressure to keep call volumes up, with no time between calls to “recover from anawkward call or from ‘customer rejection’” is even more difficult. And doing it with “verylittle authority or autonomy to rectify problems” that arise is perhaps the most difficult of all.Many studies report agents as wanting to ‘just get off the phones’. For example, Belt andcolleagues note “agents in all three sectors [financial services, IT, and third-party services]spoke of the phenomenon of ‘burnout’, caused by the pressure of working exclusively ‘onthe phones’”. In the same study, the authors mention that the issue of ‘burnout’ was alsorecognized by some managers: “It was pointed out that managers face an inherent conflictbetween the need to reduce staff boredom and labor turnover, and the pressure to concentratestaff energies on telephone based work”.“The question of how call center employees deal with stress is an important one, particularlyin view of evidence that a build-up of stress leads to illness, absenteeism and turnover,”Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comwrites Houlihan. Many authors agree, and there are a variety of individual copingmechanisms described in the literature. Tricks to circumvent control mechanisms, such asthose discussed above are sometimes mentioned as attempts at stress reduction, althoughthey are unreliable in this role as they may also increase stress.Others mention social interaction squeezed into brief moments--Callaghan and Thompsondescribe agents using humorous (or rude) gestures towards the phone, or making faces atcolleagues to defuse stress over angry or abusive callers, and making jokes to combat thetedium of the day. Lankshear and Mason describe a similarly social approach to reducingtension in one of the sites they observed, where staff often laughed and joked with oneanother in intervals between calls, with management’s approval. More formally, some callcenters include stress management as a component in training programs, and many have, orclaim to have, team de-briefings which permit staff to vent frustrations while discussingdifficult calls or dissatisfactions with elements of work.Knights and McCabe take a different approach to stress in the workplace. They note thatalthough much organizational analysis and most of the call center literature tends toconceptualize stress as an individual problem, it is actually located within “a framework thatemphasizes the interrelationships between structural relations of power and the subjectiveinterpretations and actions of employees”. This more nuance positioning may provide moreinsight into call center conditions, as it allows a researcher to consider the response ofemployees “forced to interpret the often contradictory demands management place uponthem” including “contradictions…over service quality versus the quantity of work output”.“Clearly,” these authors write, “staffs face some fundamental contradictions over unityversus conflict, uncertainty versus certainty, quality versus quantity and these are at the heartof the reproduction of stress, resistance and control”. This focus on the “contradictory”nature of demands strikes at the heart of the second inherent sources of stress in (primarilyinbound) call center works: the quality/quantity conflict. QUALITY/QUANTITY CONFLICTTypically, organizational rhetoric in inbound call centers is concerned with ‘customer care’,or ‘keeping customers happy’ (providing quality service), yet these goals are juxtaposed withan ongoing pressure to keep call times down and call volumes up. Call centers are rooted incontradictory tensions and structural paradoxes, and confront a number of trades-offs on thatProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.combasis. These set a context for attitudes towards the organization and can impose conflictingrole requirements on agents. A core example is that of the pressure for quantity versus theaspiration for quality, the guiding logic of which is the conundrum of trying to get closer tothe customer while routinising, centralizing, reducing costs and prescribing standards.The dichotomy is not completely straightforward, it is important to note. Part of providingquality service from a management perspective is making sure customers do not wait toolong for their calls to be answered, even though the push to keep queue waiting times short istypically categorized as part of the pressure towards quantity. As Bain points out, “efforts toattain what is perceived to be the desired balance between the quantity and the quality ofcalls presents a perennial challenge”.The practice of ongoing work practice modification and target revision as managementswings from one side to another of the quality/quantity debate is a major source of stress forcall center agents. As Houlihan notes: “The practice of putting a ‘drive’ on particular targetsfor improvement (for example, the collection of renewal dates, the up-selling or cross-sellingof products, the quality of data input, or the intensity of sales push) and continualreprioritisation means that the ‘goalposts’ are constantly shifting”. Virtually all of the callcenter authors who write about work conditions mention the difficulty of dealing with thesecompeting goals. Korczynski and colleagues suggest that this dilemma is particularlydifficult for front-line workers because they may be likely “to identify with embodiedindividual customers, for interactions with specific customers may be an important arena formeaning and satisfaction within the work”. They contrast this customer-as-individualorientation to the managerial goal of balancing customer orientation with efficiency, whichthey suggest leads management to prefer workers to identify with a generic category, ‘thecustomer’, since “such a disembodied image of the customer will encourage workers to dealwith individual customers efficiently because they will be conscious of the concerns of othercustomers waiting in a queue”.INTENSITYThe third central stressor in call center work is its intensity. As Bain (2001) argues, “far frombeing either in terminal decline or on the wane, Taylorism—in conjunction with a range ofother control mechanisms—is not only alive, well and deeply embedded in the call centerlabour process, but its malevolent influence appears to be spreading to previously unchartedProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comterritory”. There is widespread consensus that “call centers are a new, and particularlyeffective, manifestation of the increasingly capital intensive ‘industrialization’ of servicesector work, and work performed in them is highly intensive and routine”.Buchanan and Koch-Schulte quote one call center worker who describes the constantpressure graphically:Ellen:It’s almost like the army. It’s much regimented. You punch in with a time clock.You come in and you sit down, and the numbers are all computerized. As soon as you finisha call, the minute you hang up another call comes up just this constant, all day, repetitious…constant sort of like beating on a drum, but day after day.The pace of work is determined by the combination of technologies that deliver calls to theheadset and account details to the screen, and workers often have no control over thisprocess.Descriptions such as “exhausting,” “robotic,” “controlled,” and agents discussing the natureof their work often use “machine-like”. Houlihan expands on the idea of controlled,machine-like agents by suggesting that this is in fact exactly the way that the organizationconceives of them:Call centers are information handling organizations. As currently characterized, the job ofthe agent is to be the voice of the organization, interfacing with the client or customer. Theorganization rehearses the things it wants said and feeds them through the agent. The agent islargely constructed as a mouthpiece rather than as a brain.Buchanan and Koch-Schulte spoke with a call-center worker who articulated her feelingsabout the organization’s expectations of its agents in very similar terms:Rosa: You are standing waiting to be used by the technology, and it’s a physical embodimentof that. You are standing, waiting until that call comes in to use you to make money. Andyou are simply another part of that machine.When this feeling of being a cog in a machine which never stops as it grinds on, repeatingthe same actions over and over again, is combined with “the cumulative emotional demandsProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.compresented by the interpersonal nature of the work”, stress is inevitable.TargetsThere is a fourth feature of some call center work that may engender stress: performancetargets. There are various types of targets, which may vary between inbound and outboundcenters. Inbound centers typically have targets for call duration, ‘wrap time’, and daily callvolume. Outbound centers often also have sales or ‘completion’ targets, which are closelymonitored and upon which pay may be partially based. In addition, in some sectors, inboundcall centers are attempting to introduce the practice of cross selling, where agents attempt tosell additional products to the customers who call in for another purpose. In these centers,sales targets similar to those in outbound centers are often in place.Taylor and Bain argue that particularly in the financial services industry in the UK, targetsare a significant source of stress for workers as more and more importance is placed uponmeeting them in an increasingly competitive business environment. Sales targets, inparticular, are difficult to accept, or meet, for staff who often consider themselves as servicepersonnel, particularly when they are set centrally and implemented locally:“Cross-selling is seen by employees, not as an opportunity to engage in creative work, butas an additional and acute source of pressure”. This is especially the case when sales targetsare parachuted in on top of service targets set originally when there was no pressure toproduce sales.As a CSR in Taylor and Bain’s study emphasizes: “When somebody phones in for a balanceyou have to try to get a sale or get them interested as well as turning the call round in 155seconds”.Even in centers that claim not to prioritize targets, researchers have found that staff oftenfeels significant pressure. Targets simply intensify the stress produced by thequantity/quality debate, or, as one agent is quoted as saying, “They say that they’re not reallyinterested in numbers. They say that they are more into quality. Well, that’s a lie. They’reusually more into numbers than anything”. It is important not to over generalize however.While most call centers do have some targets, they are a source of stress that is directlyunder management control. Some call centers are managed in such a way that targets are setProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comto realistically reflect local conditions, are interpreted in light of other, more subjectiveinformation, and are not used punitively or to intensify work. In some they are even usedeffectively to motivate and encourage staff. For example, Lankshear and Mason describe aseries of conversations with managers in their call center site where managementconsistently conceptualized their performance reports (for example, one commented that it’s‘human nature’ for productivity to drop before and after a holiday), and used their stats as anexcuse to praise good performance and coach those who consistently had difficulty meetingtargets: “Our best bet is to develop the people we have got” one manager is quoted as saying.Other Health issues…The result of intense, stressful work may be an effect on workers’ health. There are oftenhigh rates of absenteeism and sick leave reported in the literature, although there is relativelylittle exploration of these issues, particularly when compared to turnover. Most often,authors provide a brief list of known health issues. For example, Richardson, Belt andMarshall write that “Health concerns have been expressed, including tension, sleeplessness,headaches, eye-strain, repetitive strain injury (RSI), voice loss, hearing problems and burn-out”, but they do not develop the point. More detailed descriptions of the causes and effectsof these ailments can be found in industry and trades union reports. For example, the TradesUnion Council (TUC) in its brochure targeted at call center workers, cites the main illnessesto which call center staff are prone: “back strain and RSI, stress, eyestrain, and voice andhearing loss”.Also in the UK, regulators have been proactive in their examination of the industry, with theHealth and Safety Executive issuing a bulletin on call center regulations, health risks andbest practices in December 2001. They looked specifically at health issues including stress,noise levels, musculoskeletal disorders (such as back problems) and voice loss, and also atdisplay screen issues, working environments, requirements for work stations, daily workroutines, training, organizational working practices and shifts.Sleeping Disorders : No prizes for guessing the most severe ailment afflicting people working in Indian callcenters. Since this is a unique Indian problem, again, no solution appears in sight. Obviouslythis affects first timers more severely, as they take time to acclimatize their biological clocks,Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.combut even experienced people or managers are not able to completely escape from it. Somecall centers are looking at devising innovative mechanisms like flexible shifts with sleepingarrangements in the office premises as possible solutions.Digestive System Related Disorders:Working long and odd hours without any sleep, and eating food supplied by external catererseveryday, has led to 41.9% of the respondents suffering from digestive problems. Especiallyfor the large number of girls working in the industry, the problem is even more severe. Manycall centers are now taking additional care to ensure their caterers supply hygienic food;besides stipulating strict conditions to maintain the quality of the food they serve.[ Depression:In last years survey, this was not among the top disorders, but this year it has climbed up thechart, affecting nearly one-fourth of the respondents. Not surprising, since, as the industrymatures, the initial glitz and glamour wears away and the real problems come to the fore.Not only are there several health related issues, but, on top of that, the gradual realizationthat there is limited scope in developing a career owing to fewer growth opportunities isincreasing the frustration levels. Coupled with growing mental fatigue and increasinglypunishing physical environments, depression is the obvious end result. Some call centershave now devised different stress management programs mainly to counter depression.Severe Stomach Related ProblemsContinuing digestive problems lead to severe stomachdisorders like gastroenteritis, as endorsed by more than 24% of the respondents. Evendoctors in major cities agree-in recent times many of the patients with various stomachailments are from call centers.Eyesight Problems:Globally call center industry employees are considered a high-risk group for eye-relatedproblems. While the quality of monitors might impact these disorders, sitting continuallywithout adequate breaks seems to be the truer reason. The number of people affected seemsto be on the rise-last year only 19% complained; this year it has gone up to 23%. At somepoint of time, this problem might also afflict the IT services industry, but for the call centerindustry, no remedy seems to be in sight.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comEar Problems: More than 16% of the respondents inform that they have hearing problems. Again, nosurprises here, since a call center job involves taking calls throughout the shift, sitting withheadphones. While quality of headphones does make a difference, it would not be correct tocompletely wish the problem away by thinking that changing headphones will solve it.Some other Human Issues, in Call-Centers, which need ImmediateAttention Personal habits:The young executives are getting more than five figure salaries per month in an early age.They tend to develop certain bad habits such as alcohol, smoking etc. It is not easy toidentify such individuals. It is also very sensitive to talk to them. The professional counselorscan conduct group-counseling, workshops, educative film shows in order to create awarenesson effects of bad habits. Such actions will enable individuals to realize the importance ofgood habits and they could seek one to one Counseling sessions to solve their problems.Discipline and behavioral issues:Call centers provide excellent working environment, free food and transportation. There isalways a situation where individual or group of youngsters tend to commit mistakes andabuse the freedom. They start behaving like in college campus where they have morefreedom. However, the call center executives have more responsibility and accountability,they need to follow discipline and do well in the job. The most common behavior is misuseof food, behave erratically in vans, and smoke in public places, misuse of telephones andother resources of the company. The supervisors always concentrate on performance andachieving targets. They do not have time or interest to go deep into these matters and findout the reasons for such behavior. The professional counselor can play a major role ineducating the youngsters on discipline; provide advice to erring executives. The counselorswith their wisdom and experience can tackle such issues tactfully and bring change withinthe individuals. As said earlier, to majority of them this is the first employment and they arefresh out of the colleges. Few tend to behave differently and they have the “do not care”attitude. Such executives will not take their job seriously, they indulge in teasing, and joking,talking over mobile phones, have friction within the team. These aspects may go noticed orunnoticed by the supervisors. The fact remains that such unacceptable behaviors will causeProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comdisturbance to others and overall it affects the productivity. Sleeping while on duty, readingnovels and playing games on the computer during working hours brings down productivityand quality suffers. The HR representatives and professional counselors jointly have a role tobring behavioral change starting from the training days. Continuous education andCounseling will help to mitigate such problems and it is possible to prevent seriousproblems.Inter-personal relationship and friendship:Executives develop friendship quickly and sometime the friendship breaks and there will bemisunderstanding among the team members and naturally affects the team performance. Thesupervisors and counselors can play a major role to sort out the interpersonal relationshipand develop team spirit. Healthy relationship among the team members has always helpedthe team to out perform. When the relationship fails the individuals will also break downmentally. They either absent for duties or fall ill or the performance will come down. It isalso true that due to misunderstanding and break in friendship they change jobs quickly.Love affair and marriages:Few of the boys and girls fall in love quickly. They maintain the healthy relationship, behavein a matured manner, plan the future course of action and such persons have got marriedwith the consent of their parents. They work together in the same organization for longerduration. There are instances, where lovers fall apart, start disliking, creating troubles to eachother and vitiating the atmosphere. They are immature, take instant decisions to break orunite and sometimes go to an extent of damaging others reputation. The professionalcounselors can play an important role in explaining the importance of marriage, preparationrequired for marriage, how to enter the institution of marriage, which is acceptable to bothparents and society and about the new role and responsibility after getting married.Counseling services can definitely give emotional support to individuals.Absenteeism:Absenteeism is very high in calls centers. Employees tend to be very irregular to the dutydue to various reasons. Professional counseling services to such irregular employees on oneto one basis will help to bring down absenteeism. Counselor can educate and explain theimportance of attending duties to earn salary and also to meet organizational goals. EachProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comindividual are unique and the problem they face are also different in nature. Professionalcounselors can understand, analyze and provide long lasting solutions for the individuals.Higher education and part time jobs:It is possible to do higher education while working in BPO units. Few organizationsencourage and offer support services to pursue higher education. However, timemanagement by the executives is crucial to go forward in education as well as to maintainperformance and career growth. Programmes on time management, tips to study, tips to keepfit and such other programmes can be offered. These steps would help to seek the loyalty ofemployees to organizations and helps greatly for retention of employees. Organizations donot grant permission to pursue part time jobs while working in BPO units. In order to makequick money and to have options open to change jobs in future will drive employees to dopart time work. Human body does not permit to stretch beyond one’s capacity. Executivesneed to take sufficient rest in daytime so that energy levels are maintained. Either due to lackof experience or due to compulsions, executives keep their one feet in call center and anotherin part time jobs. In the long run this would affect individuals health. The HR executivesmust identify such persons and offer professional Counseling services to them.REMEDIAL MEASURES FOR STRESS MANAGEMENTUnderstanding that the “Stress” is a major concern for all Call-Center Employees, it is a dutyof HR-heads of Call-Centers to address it properly.Some of the common signs and symptoms of stressAlthough we all experience stress in different ways, there are certain signs that are mostfrequently reported. These signs fall into two major categories; physical/behavioral signs andemotional signs. If we become aware of our own stress symptoms, we will be more effectivein dealing with them sooner rather than later. What follows is a list of some of the mostexperienced symptoms of stress.The physical/behavioral symptoms include; muscular tension, muscle spasms and tics, rapidheart beat, shortness of breath and high blood pressure, cold hands and feet, backaches,headaches and neck aches, stomach problems, indigestion, irritable bowel and ulcers, feelingfatigued, irritable, decreased ability to concentrate, insomnia and changes in eating behavior.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comSince these physical symptoms may be related to physical problems, you should consult withyour medical doctor before you assume that your symptoms are purely stress-related.The emotional symptoms include; anxiety in a variety of situations not limited to thestressful situation, depression, hopelessness and a strong urge to cry without specificincident, withdrawal from social interactions and avoidance of previously enjoyed activities,powerlessness and decreased self esteem, hostility, anger and resentment, fears, phobias andunwanted thoughts.Learning to become more aware of your own stress symptoms is the first major step in thestress management and healing process. It is often helpful to monitor your daily symptoms ina stress diary where you match the stressful events with the symptom experienced. Forexample; you made find that if you are stuck in early morning traffic you may experienceirritability and headaches. In this case it will be important to use these symptoms as a cuethat you have to begin managing that stress more effectively when it happens.What are the consequences of unmanaged stress?We all know that stress is something that doesn’t feel good to us physically and emotionally.What is even more compelling is what happens below the surface each time we experiencestress. Stress researcher Hans Selye, determined what happens internally each time weexperience something as threatening or stressful. According to Selye, when we perceive athreat in the environment the thinking part of the brain sends an alarm message to thenervous system via the hypothalamus. The nervous system then makes changes in the bodythat prepare you to handle the perceived danger ahead. These changes include increases inheart rate and blood pressure as well as pupil dilation. In addition, there are hormones andchemicals secreted such as adrenaline, that give the body the necessary push to be able tomanage the threat ahead.Although there are situations in which these adrenaline surges are very helpful in helping usmobilize, the constant adrenaline surges due to repeatedly perceived threats, have a toxiceffect on the body. For example, recurrent adrenaline surges inhibit some of the otherimportant functions in the body including growth and tissue repair, digestion and theimmune response. Just as the thinking part of your brain is responsible for turning the stressresponse on, you can turn it off by changing the threatening appraisals you are making. OnceProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comyou are able to determine that a threat does not exist or that it can be effectively managed,your thinking brain stops sending panic messages to the nervous system. As a result of thisreappraisal, the hormones and chemicals cease to be released and the body returns to normal.Bringing the body back to an "un-stressed" state is very important since almost every systemin the body can be damaged by stress. Although our bodies are adaptive and can recoverfrom periodic stressors, chronic stress has serious consequences. We experience theconsequences of stress on three important levels; physically, emotionally and behaviorally.What follows is a description of the specific consequences in these three categories.Physically, the body is likely to develop a stress-related disease as a result of the stresstoxins that are released. For example, chronic stress can lead to cardiovascular disease byelevating blood pressure, damaging the heart and arteries and increasing blood sugar.Respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis can result from stress-triggeredchanges in the lungs.When stress inhibits the body’s digestive functions, diseases such as ulcers, colitis andchronic diarrhea can occur. In addition, stress contributes to inhibited growth of tissue andbone which can lead to decalcification and osteoporosis. The immune system is alsoinhibited by the reduced efficiency of the white blood cells, making the body moresusceptible to disease. Increased muscle tension, fatigue and headaches are additionalconsequences of chronic stress.The second category of consequences of chronic stress is the emotional consequences.Depression can result form chronic stress due to the constant release and depletion ofnorepinephrine. What also contributes to the depression is the thought that life is terrible andthat it is never going to get better. What then results is a feeling of helplessness andineffectiveness, feeling like a failure and a reduction in self-confidence. Individuals who aredepressed are also likely to withdraw from relationships and isolate themselves which oftenincreases the intensity of the depression. In addition, anxiety and fearfulness are commonlyfelt emotions if someone constantly perceives threats around the corner. In addition,individuals who are chronically stressed are likely to exhibit increased cynicism, rigidity,sarcasm and irritability since they believe that their situation is not likely to improve.Chronic stress also has significant behavioral consequences. Behavioral consequences oftenresult from innate survival urge we have to seek relief, to fight or to flee. Unfortunately,Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comthese relief-seeking behaviors eventually become problematic. For example, "addictivebehaviors" can result from the repeated efforts to soothe or escape the painful stress.Alcohol, drugs, smoking and overeating are often seen as tools to help manage the stresseven though their effects are short lived and the consequences of chronic use are destructiveto the body and mind. Unfortunately the mind’s ability to deny the long-term consequencesin order to fill short-term need to escape perpetuates the problem and increases excessive usebehavior. Similarly, procrastination, poor planning, excessive sleeping and avoidance ofresponsibility are examples of behaviors used by stressed individuals to temporarily fleefrom the pain. What is most significant about these behaviors is their ability to generateadditional problems that are as severe as the original stressor. For example, procrastinationor avoidance of the management of a stressor only serves to increase anxiety and exacerbatethe stress experience. Stress consequences reviewed above suggest that in addition to beingphysically and psychologically distressing, they reduce the likelihood of effective goalreaching. Rationale for properly managing and coping with the stress is for health protectionin future as well as making present more productive and satisfying.MANAGING STRESSSince stress is an inevitable fact of life that we can’t always prevent, our efforts need to befocused on coping with stress more effectively. What follows is a description of a threepronged approach to stress management which includes behavioral/practical techniques,relaxation techniques and cognitive/thinking techniques.The behavioral/practical approaches to stress management include exercise and eating ahealthy, balanced diet, which includes selections from the basic food groups. In addition, it isrecommended that one avoid the excessive use of alcohol, caffeine and sugar, whichcontribute to fatigue and vulnerability to mood swings. It is also important to allow the bodyto rest and replenish to help inoculate the body against future stress. Building this stressresistance also includes scheduling time for leisure and pleasure, which provides for a morebalanced, fulfilling life. Anticipating and preparing for recurrent stressors by managing time,setting priorities and limits, delegating responsibility, and not procrastinating are helpfulstress reducing strategies. These techniques are effective stress management tools becausetheir utilizations within our control.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comThe relaxation approaches to stress management include a variety of techniques designed tohelp you effectively manage the body/mind tension. Progressive muscle relaxation is anactive form of relaxation where you individually contract the major muscle groups of yourbody for about five seconds and then you relax the individual muscle groups for a fivesecond holds. The contrast experienced by this exercise relieves muscle tension and relaxesthe body. Some of the more passive relaxation approaches include listening to music,reading and using saunas and hot tubs to relieve tension. Techniques used to relax the mindinclude meditation and visual imagery. Meditation teaches you how to clear the mind ofstressful and distracting thoughts by focusing the mental energy on positive coping thoughts.Visual imagery is designed to help the individual visualize him/herself coping effectivelywith a stressor that was previously experienced as overwhelming. The behavioral andrelaxation approaches described above are necessary but not sufficient conditions for stressmanagement. The third prong to stress management, the cognitive or thinking approach, isessential to effective coping with stress.The cognitive or thinking approaches are an integral part of coping effectively with stressand now the primary focus of many stress management programs. Since it has beendetermined that we can turn off the stress response by changing our threatening/dangerousevent appraisals to appraisals that help us view these events as manageable challenges, wehave a direct link to controlling the stress response. The first step in the cognitive approachis to identify our thoughts or internal dialog that is negative, perfectionist, black and white,rigid and demanding. In other words, you are more likely to experience stress if you believethat you, the world and other people "should or must" behave in a manner consistent withyour demands and standards. For example, you are likely to experience stress if you believethat the world and your life should be stress free and that you do not have the resources tohandle stress if it does occur. In addition, demands of perfection on yourself and on othersimportant to you, increases the chance of feeling stressed since these expectations areunrealistic and rigid. After identifying your stress producing thoughts you are then able tomove onto the second step in the cognitive approach; recognizing the consequences of thisnegative, rigid dialog.The motivation to change the stress-producing dialog comes from the determination thatthere are serious consequences that result form these negative, rigid thoughts. When you talkto yourself in a defeated, pessimistic or rigid way, you deny your ability to cope and are notlikely to manage situations effectively or meet goals you set. In addition, perfectionistProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comdemands are experienced as appropriately unrealistic and contribute to a "why bother"attitude. This attitude reduces the likelihood that you will address these demands since it is arealistic fact that no one or nothing is ever perfect. Once you are convinced that the dialog isnegative and counterproductive, you are ready to move on to the third step in the cognitiveapproach; challenging and replacing the negative internal dialog with a healthier, moreproductive internal dialog.This important step in the reappraisal process requires that you challenge your rigid dialogby asking yourself a series of questions about that rigid dialog. For example, "Why must Iperform perfectly in order to believe I am a valuable human being?" In addition, "Does thatdemand for perfection increase my anxiety and reduce the likelihood that I perform well atall?" "What would I feel like and would I be more motivated if I changed my demand forperfection to a desire to do well?" Another example of this reappraisal process can be seen inthe area of criticism and rejection.A negative internal dialog that would create stress in this area is "I am worthless because Iwas rejected and this proves that no one will ever love me." A healthy challenge to thisbelief would be, "How does the opinion of this person reflect my personal worth?’ "Howdoes it follow that this rejection will lead to future rejections?" It is also important to add, "Even if I were to get rejected repeatedly, could I work to make desired changes in mypersonality without condemning myself or feeling worthless?" By replacing the negative,rigid dialog with more realistic, flexible dialog, you are more likely to feel healthieremotionally and behave more rationally and productively.The behavioral, relaxation and cognitive techniques described above have been determinedto be effective ways to manage and cope more effectively with stress. The techniques givethe control back to the individual and empower him/her to manage the inevitable stressorsthat will occur in life.FACTORS THAT CREATE A STRESSFUL CALL CENTERStress in the Call Center will affect the agent, manager, director, or anyone in the call centerwhen they let stress gain control. When this happens, they lose self control and have thefeeling of being overwhelmed. The first step in gaining control is and identifying what thestressors are and understanding the causes and effects. Stress is caused by many things. Timepressures, high expectations, lack of communication, high call volume, inexperience, ill-Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comprepared, to name a few. The effects are decreased productivity, anxiety, low morale, poorcustomer service levels, and increased turnover. When faced with these stressors, training isthe tool to resolve the issues. You must go to your training programs and processes and askyourself if the training you are providing the call center employees delivers the toolsrequired for them to accomplish their goals without the negative stress. Approach dealingwith the stress in the Call Center with assertiveness and confidence. One of the mosteffective things I have done, in my own call center experience, as well as seen in other callcenters, is to have a specific workshop covering stress. Let employees voice their specificstressors and develop actions to overcome them and resolve what is inhibiting theirperformance. Their minds are then clear and mentally prepared. It will then be motivated fortraining to make them a more confident and capable call center employee.• LACK OF COMMUNICATION This is a call center disease that some call centers just gravitate to simply becauseeveryone is too busy with their job duties and with doing someone elses jobs that we simplyforget to communicate. Sounds harmless but if you dont address it could slowly but surelydrag down your centers morale, employees self esteems, work life balance, job security,employees productivities, etc.• HIGH VOLUME This one is a little tougher because the causes could be variety of different issues. Themore common symptom of high volume is poor workforce mgmt. Put, workforce teamneeds to be very proactive in correctly forecasting your volume two weeks in advance(within 98% of the actual volume) and be ready with a staffing analysis of how efficientCSR schedules are by day for you. If this is every week from your workforce team, you willbe well aware of your holes every day for the next two weeks and you can make staffingdecisions before the day happens. If your workforce team is good, then you will betterprepare to handle spikes/lull in your volume.Another symptom of high volume is poor attendance/retention - if you consistently donthave the reps that you planned for, then you might as well stay home too. Issues like theseare harder to address because the root causes are never the same. You have to go theemployees and find out why they are not coming to work or why they are leaving you. Onceyou have an idea of the root causes, then you and your team can creatively find solutions orcreate new policies to address them.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comHigh volume is a self feeding animal - if you dont get control of it, it will surely bringsdown your operation. Your frontline supervisors will have to help out on the phones all thetime and they cant work with their CSRs. Employees are constantly going from one call tothe next without much breaks in between. Your boss is constantly on you for high ASAs andAbandon %s, blah - the story goes on and on and the picture doesnt look pretty.• Common causes include understaffing, impossible service levels, inappropriate or oppressive management style, mis-match between agent skills and job requirements, mis- match between the stated aims of the job and the actual work being done (e.g. a sales centre that is swamped with technical service complaints), jobs that require no thought on the part of the operator and that could/should be automated (directory enquiries, bank balance requests etc).EMOTIONAL LABOUR"Emotional labor is defined as the effort expended (and the concomitant physiologicalarousal) to manage or regulate oneÂ’s emotional reactions at work. This effort is necessaryfor exhibiting those performance behaviors valued by the organization, and suppressing theexpression of less acceptable behaviors. Service employees are particularly vulnerable to ademand for emotional labor, because their jobs generally require maintaining a friendly andpositive demeanor despite job characteristics that may engender negative emotional reactions(e.g., irate customers, complex problem solving, or hectic work pace). Any work settingwhich engenders negative emotional reactions from employees, while requiring thesuppression of certain behaviors associated with these emotions (e.g., yelling, abruptlyhanging up the phone, or scowling), is fertile ground for emotional labor. The stereotypicalcustomer service call center is such a work place."SUGGESTIONS• HANDLING THE ABUSEAgents handle an average of 110 calls a day, and 80 percent of the calls that come in havesome level of emotion. Usually a caller is calling in because theyre frustrated, angry, upset,concerned—something has happened and theyre not happy.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comTherefore, it is crucial that agents and especially the call center manager note theseoccurrences and become better prepared and informed on handling them for the sake of theirworkers and their callers. In these situations the task should become how to handle this typeof emotional call rather than instantly labeling it "abusive" and not acceptable.• JOB ROTATIONWe instituted job sharing/intern program in our call center. CSRs who meet or exceed jobexpectations are eligible to do a rotation for three months in other groups. CSRs work half aday on the phones, the other half in the Correspondence Dept, or in the Research Dept, WorkForce Management, or Quality Assurance. This breaks up their day, teaches them new skills,& provides us with a pool of trained staff whenever we need it. have a job rotation programthat alternate telephone staff to do administrative tasks to break up the day to day grind.• SPORTS ACTIVITIESIn our call center, what we followed recently is that we organised a sports week where weasked the agents and their supervisours to organise and also take part in the same. This hasbrought a change in their working performance as far as we can see. I personally feel thatyou should organise something that will allow the agents change their daily routine and dosomething routine. • BUDGET FOR ACTIVITIESIf employee turnover is a major problem, you may want to budget money for employeeactivities / incentives. I have a activity committee that plans birthday decorating, holidaypotlucks, contests, etc. Involve the staff to join and participate in the committe.• WEEKLY EMPLOYEE FOCUS GROUPAny employee can come to a weekly or bi weekly focus group with the call center managerand human resource manager. Questions from the employees are posted publicly and theProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comdate that the issues were addressed. Over time, I have seen focus groups that started withvery serious issues slowly evolve to sessions that become more like rap sessions - more funand less serious.• MONTHLY NEWSLETTER FROM THE COMPANYYes, this is a time consuming endeavor but if done right and done consistently, could be agreat medium to communicate new/revised policies, reward employees/teams, train youremployees, and build strong team spirits.• DAILY DEPARTMENT HUDDLEEach team/department should be highly encouraged to have this quicky huddle daily withtheir employees. This goes a long way in building that strong bond between employees andsupervisors and yes, you can also use this time to communicate.• MONTHLY LETTER FROM THE BOSSIt could be from the VP of Ops, or it could be from the CCM. The point is, the company willhave an opportunity every month to speak to the workforce. STEPS TAKEN BY COMPANIES TO HANDLE STRESS FACTORS“Good Call Center Training Alleviates Stress”1. Acknowledge the EmotionProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comListen to the caller and acknowledge that something has happened to make them emotional.Acknowledge it and move on to the next step before it escalates to an abusive call.2. Take Control of the CallStrong words choices will immediately diffuse the emotional aspect of the call. By usingstrong "I can" statements and proper word choices such as "Absolutely, I would be glad tohelp you with …", "I can look that information up for you” instead of emphasizing the "you"in statements like, "can you tell me what happened?"--where the customer immediately feelslike theyre speaking with the wrong person—after all they wouldn’t be calling if they knewwhat was wrong. 3. Transition into the Problem Solving Pat Finally, to get the caller out of their emotional state, transition them into a problem solving path. Once they have had a chance to get through the emotional part, move on so their issues can be resolved. BPOs HELP STAFF COPE WITH STRESSMUMBAI: Blame the nature of the job, deadline pressure or customer expectations. BPOjobs undoubtedly involve high stress. Prashant Chawla, COO, Integreon, a Mumbai-basedKPO, says that there are three types of stress an employee may experience — tightdeadlines, repetitive nature of the job and late night shifts.Aashu Calappa, VP-HR, ICICI OneSource, says, “Everything gets measured and this putsemployees under pressure.” Companies are now making efforts to help their employees copewith stress because it is an occupational hazard. For example, night shifts are rotated on aregular basis. However, deadlines can’t be controlled.Most of the BPOs arrange ‘feel good’ activities like an outdoor picnic or an official dinneronce in three months. This helps employees talk to their senior management in an informalenvironment. Employees are also given recognition by being designated as ‘employee of theweek’ and ‘employee of the month’. Vineet Mittal, president and MD, Stream, says that theyProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comconduct in-house workshops at frequent intervals in which employees play games andindulge in activities like dumb charades and scrabble.Mr Calappa says they organise various events like family gatherings and Valentine’s Daycelebrations to lighten the atmosphere in the office. According to him, an employee could bestressed because of a tough supervisor or if he is not able to perform well in his job. So, thereis a lot of emphasis on the training of team leaders (TL) and supervisors to avoid a strainedrelationship between the employee and the TL.BPOs like Stream have appointed ‘fun officers’ whose job is to arrange a party or a moviefor the entire office once in a month. Similarly, ICICI OneSource has an executive who isrequired to spend at least two hours daily at the shop floor talking to employees about theirday-to-day life. 3Global, a Hutchison-Whampoa BPO, has also appointed an executive toarrange sports events on a monthly basis.Shirish Kerkar, general manager, HR, 3Global, says, “We organise sports events like crickettournaments to ensure that our employees are engaged in physical activities.” The companyrecently concluded a cricket tournament where 300 employees participated (10 people perteam).Shilpa Shetty, a BPO employee, who heads a 200-member team says, “Our deadlines are inhours and not days or weeks. So the stress is obviously high. I’m heading a large team. So,managing it is a big challenge, which at times, may stress me out.” She has adopted aninteractive way of dealing with workplace stress. She makes sure that she talks to her teammembers on a daily basis, which may not necessarily be about work. “I do a lot of catchingup with my team members, which helps me to understand them better,” she adds.Another BPO employee, Prashant Warrier, who interacts with the company’s clients acrossthe globe says, “People at my level are the first ones from the company to interact with theclients, so its puts pressure on us to present our company well because clients aredemanding.” Sanjay Salooja, a Delhi-based counsellor visits BPOs to counsel the employees.He says generally, front-line employees and team leaders talk to him about both professionaland personal problems like long working hours and family demands. Besides teaching thembreathing exercises and yoga, the employees are taught to look at things from a differentperspective. They are encouraged to take ownership and be accountable for their job in theorganisation.Projectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.comTraditionally, call centres meant only voice-based customer support. But now most callcentres are more of a contact centre, offering E-CRM services, that include voice basedcustomer support as well as e-mail response, web-based text-chat services and othercustomer interaction channels. The call centre services can be inbound where in calls arereceived from customers enquiring about a service or product that an organisation provides.The call centre services can be outbound where in calls are made to customers to sellproducts or collect information/money etc. Call centre services can also specialised say inbusiness processing where in calls are made from one company to another company.Some call centres stick to only domestic businesses dealing with customers within thecountry called domestic call centres while others such as an International call centre mainlydeal with clients from abroad say from US, Europe etc. There is a great scope for Callcenters in India, with a large population of educated English speaking people. The widerange of opportunities, comparatively well paid jobs for the minimum qualification itrequires and the facilities the companies provide like to and fro transport, subsidized mealsand medical facilities makes Call centers a good option. ConclusionIt is desirable to employ professional HR Professionals with knowledge of HumanPsychology in BPO units/call centers. The services offered by professionals may not be feltin the initial stages. Companies like Tata, L&T, MICO and few others have employedprofessionals in their factories. The professionals can do wonders in BPO sectors as well.People are the backbone of BPO industry and it is certain that professional HR or HumanPsychologist can make inroad in this emerging organization and facilitate the growth oforganization in an immense way. BibliographyBooks: 1. Bob De Wit and Ron Myer (2005) Strategy Synthesis: Resolving strategy Paradoxes to create competitive advantage. 2nd Edition London: Thomson LearningProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com 2 Hooley, Saunders & Piercy, 2004, MARKETING STRATEGY and COMPETITIVE POSITIONING, Prentice Hall, Europe. 3 Kotler, 2003, MARKETING MANAGEMENT, Pearson Education, Singapore. 4 J Tidd, J. Bessant and K. Pavitt.(2005) Managing Innovation. London: John Wiley. Chapters 1,2,3 5 Huston, L., and Sakkab, N., (2006) ‘Connect and Develop’ Harvard Business Review, 2006, March 6 Bower, J., and Christensen, C., (1995) ‘Disruptive technologies:catching the wave’ Harvard Business Review, January 7 Grant, R (2005) Contemporary Strategy Analysis, Chapter 11 (technology based industries and the management of innovation): Oxford; Blackwell booksWeb pages: 1. www.bpoindia.org/research/ orhttp://www.bpoindia.org/research/call-centers-challenges-for- hr.shtml Viewed on 13 September 2010. M.S UniversityProjectsformba.blogspot.com
  • Projectsformba.blogspot.com Unit Name Human Resource Management Lecturer Mr. Pradhan Sir Project Submission Roma R. Vyas Roll No: 106Projectsformba.blogspot.com