Dr. Avnish Jolly,18 May:Working as counsellor in the City Beautiful from last fifteen years, I find Call-center employees are getting stress and breaking traditional life style and living with relationship troubles.
After five years working nights at computer call center, Ashu knew it was time to quit when he visited parent teacher meeting in his 8-year-old son Aryan’s school. It was more embarrassing when his son told teachers his father didn’t go to work but only slept all day, “it was embarrassing,” he said.
Aryan was asked to draw a picture of his family in the school and he drew Ashu sleeping. That’s the only way he ever saw him. Aryan never saw him doing anything else. Earlier when Aryan said “papa aap ka to maza ha – (you are enjoying dad)”. Ashu don’t take it otherwise, but now it means a lot to him.
There are a lot of pressures on people working with call centers. The jobs are very stressful, not very creative and it creates weight gain, posture problem, depression, boredom and often relationship troubles specially adjustment.
People spend their nights drinking too many colas, trying to sound like westerns or people living in metropolitans and dealing with impatient clients on the other end of the phone line, it’s very clearly showing up in health problems and also tiredness and irritability.
In our culture where dating among young people is still the exception, and most marriages are arranged, twenty something outsourcing workers can find it both exciting and confusing to find themselves out at night with attractive colleague, even if they’re simply sitting in the next compartment wearing a headset. Even they find posture problems and develop cervical and lumber related problems very often.
The eligible bachelors’ find the girl working with them is friendly, and in their minds they’ve already decided she’s the one to marry, when she says no, they go through all the emotions of the breakup of a relationship even though there wasn’t any relationship. It effects there personality. Recently, a patient visited my clinic that his friend refused to marry him.
During counseling sessions I find people working with call centers are not even having one proper meal in an entire day, just readymade food, coffee and cola. They say, ‘I’m young, I’m fine – This is my life.’
But it is very difficult to suggest them they will have a lot of problems later in life, particularly in a society with high rates of diabetes and heart disease. The more astonishing is young pregnant mother are not taking proper meals and deliver malnourish children with iron deficiency. After delivery they often find hair loss and that gave them more stress due to lack in beauty.
Smoking and drug use are still relatively rare, especially among women. But young call-center employees are taking up the habits with worrying passion researchers say, either as an effort to cope with stress or to project an air of stylish modernity. The combined effect of sleep deprivation, alcohol, cigarettes, junk food and a sedentary lifestyle at the keyboard “is killing people,” said Ritu Aggarwal who has since left his job as a call-center worker for a computer firm in the city. “People are killing themselves without understanding.”
Arushi came to me for counseling after three years of marriage due to social taboo related with pregnancy few years back. Now she shared that relationships also are feeling the strain, during the years she worked at Call Center, Arushi’s husband is an advocate and by the time she came her husband plans for his work.
Last year a study published in the Indian Journal of Sleep Medicine found that 40% of call-center employees surveyed smoked, compared with 7% of a control group, and 36% had more than two alcoholic drinks a week, versus 2% of the control group. Counselors also noted a separate study, published recently by a World Health Organization cancer research agency, which indicated that people who work overnight shifts may have higher rates of breast and prostate cancer.
Government of India also has raised concerns about risks to call-center employees. “After working, the [employees] party for the rest of the time,” Anbumani Ramadoss, the minister of health and family welfare, said at a public meeting late last year. “We don’t want these young people to burn out.”
Such pressures have driven at least a few call-center workers to suicide. But for a growing number of stressed employees, counseling makes a difference. But professional counseling is new phenomenon in our society; it is increasingly embraced by companies faced with high employee turnover, falling productivity and workers prone to making mistakes or breaking down in tears at work. Companies can establish counseling center in there HR Department for the mental health of there employees.
“Call centers aren’t going to go away, we have to develop mechanism up for them. Otherwise we’ll have a society of ill people.” We may start yoga, meditation or recreational activities. (Names are changed to maintain anonymity of the people).