We've all been there. Fuming, angry and frustrated while the staff in a 'local' call centre deal with our simple enquiry regarding a bank balance, late payment or a transfer of funds.
It's a simple fact of modern life that banks, building societies and utilities can only provide cost-effective customer service through call centres, even though, as far was we're concerned, the service they provide seems to have nothing to do with the customer or customer service! But, spare a thought for the staff that work in these call centres (and there are several within a couple of miles of Pitcorthie) because they really do provide a valuable service to customers and often in the most difficult and stressful work environments.
Research published in the last few years identified that many call centre workers experience a variety of problems and pressures in their job such as: processing hundreds of calls every day, very few breaks, close and intensive monitoring by supervisors and limited toilet breaks. So it's not surprising some call centre workers suffer from stress and other health problems.
A UNISON survey of call centres in Scotland in 2002 found 75% of call centre workers felt 'stressed', 82% suffered from headaches, 78% respiratory problems, 61% pains in hands, arms or back, and 32% other work-associated health problems. Other surveys have highlighted additional problems for call centre workers, including loss of voice, loss of hearing and 'acoustic shock', when a sudden burst of noise causes hearing difficulties.
I recently provided ten minute back, neck & shoulder massages to call centre workers in Edinburgh and got first-hand experience of the kind of pressure they are under and I was very impressed by the patience they showed to irate and demanding customers, and their ability to multi-task in a high-pressure environment.
However, while stress can be very damaging, it can also be very useful, as it plays a vital role in our day to day lives, helping us to meet deadlines, schedule that appointment with the dentist, remember to pick up the kids up from school (at the right time!), prepare the evening meal, etc. But we all know that too much stress can be a bad thing and detrimental to our health. At some stage in our lives we've all experienced some of the physical and emotional signs of stress and the way our bodies learn to deal with it.
Emotional signs are easy to spot, and are the ones most often associated with stress. These include: an inability to cope, mood swings, lack of concentration, low motivation and low libido. The physical signs of stress such as, headaches, tension, tiredness, poor digestion, sweating, rashes and blurred vision, are just as important, but more often dismissed or 'written off' as simply symptoms of modern living.
It would seem stress is impossible to escape, so it is important that we all learn to manage it using effective time management, delegation, regular breaks, flexible working hours and a comfortable work environment.
In addition to these valuable steps at work, we should also correct our work life balance by allocating some 'me time' for holidays, weekend breaks, and time out for some complementary therapies such as massage, aromatherapy and reflexology, to name a few.
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You'll find regular articles giving help and advice on how to combat many ailements and how to cobat stress.