Evaluation of job stress and work-related health concerns at a telephone call center
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Evaluation of job stress and work-related health concerns at a telephone call center

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      The Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) Program received a confidential request from employees at a telephone call center. The employees were concerned about psychosocial factors at work and the impact of job stress on their health. Approximately 50 call center employees at this facility receive 2,000-5,000 calls per day and assist callers with U.S. citizenship and immigration services and benefit-related matters. HHE Program investigators visited the telephone call center in January 2013. We surveyed employees about job stress, psychosocial factors at work, job satisfaction, work-related health concerns, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. We also held a meeting with all employees to address questions and discuss mental health and suicide prevention. We received 38 of the 43 surveys we distributed. All employees reported a job stress score between 5 and 10; 46% rated their job stress at the highest level of 10. Employees reported that workload and the demanding nature of the job contributed to stress. Job satisfaction was low; most employees believed they did not receive the respect they deserved, their salary was inadequate, and promotion prospects were poor. Employees reported work-related health concerns that included headaches/migraines, musculoskeletal strain, and health effects (e.g., allergy and cold symptoms) they attributed to poor indoor environmental quality. Among survey respondents, 45% reported moderate to severe symptoms of depression and 39% reported moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety. To address stress and mental health symptoms, HHE Program investigators recommended the employer (1) engage employees in discussion about whether workload could be better managed and how, (2) if feasible, hire more employees to reduce the number of calls employees must answer, (3) encourage employees to debrief with their supervisor or a coworker immediately after a call with an unfriendly customer, and (4) program the phone system to give a 6-second rest period between calls. They also recommended that employees get emergency help immediately if they have thoughts about harming themselves or someone else, and seek counseling from a qualified professional if they feel anxious, angry, depressed, or have other mental health disorders that are interfering with their social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. To address ergonomic and environmental issues, HHE Program investigators recommended the call center (1) have a certified ergonomist set up the workstations for each employee or hold a training session to teach employees how to properly set up their own station, (2) maintain and clean the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning units regularly, and (3) follow a cleaning schedule for the entire facility.

      Recommended citation for this report: NIOSH [2013]. Health hazard evaluation report: evaluation of job stress and work-related health concerns at a telephone call center. By Wiegand DM. Cincinnati, OH: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, NIOSH HETA Report No. 2012-0211- 3197.

      NIOSHTIC No. 20043405

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