Calling time on poor health in contact centres

Lancaster University is involved in a project exploring how contact centres can improve the health and working conditions of their advisors.

Health researchers Dr Abby Morris and Dr Paula Holland will work with the North West and South West Contact Centre Forum and Liverpool John Moores University.

The three-year project will create resources and guidance that contact centres can use to implement policies and interventions to improve the health and work conditions of their advisors.

Dr Morris, lecturer in organisational health and wellbeing at Lancaster University, said: “The project will generate new knowledge on the number and type of policies and interventions in contact centres in North West England to improve the working conditions and lifestyle factors of agents, the factors influencing their adoption and implementation, and, the policies and interventions perceived to be effective.”

Contact centre advisors typically live on low incomes and are from deprived areas. They experience high levels of stress due to conditions at work, such as continuous performance monitoring and sitting for long periods.

This financial and work-related stress increases their chances of smoking, drinking, having a poor diet and taking part in little physical activity and exercise. These unhealthy behaviours can lead to a decline in health, poor work performance, and promote absence and attrition. Overtime, they also increase the chance of advisors getting heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and dying young.

Dr Lee Graves from Liverpool John Moores said: “Many employees do not have the money, time or support outside of work to improve their health, so we are looking to the contact centres themselves to encourage healthy behaviours and create health-enhancing work conditions.”

Dr Morris said: “This new knowledge will inform the first industry-specific toolkit to support contact centres to adopt and implement evidence-informed workplace health policies and interventions to improve the working conditions and lifestyle factors of call agents. This is important as previous toolkits are not tailored to the unique working conditions within contact centres, and rarely demonstrate a clear pathway of how evidence has informed the toolkit content.”

Jane Thomas MD Call North West said: “Call North West are delighted to support this research initiative, where the health of advisors is paramount and at the core of every contact centre in the North West. Such insight gained will ensure that contact centres are rightly employers of choice for both incumbent staff and future talent attraction. We encourage all contact centres in the North West to participate, the results will offer much insight to improve the health and working environments for our advisors – promoting and encouraging healthy behaviours is key to all businesses.”

If you would like to be involved in this research or have a question, please complete this 1-minute survey and a member of the research team will be in touch within one week.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (ARC NWC) fund this project.

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