BPO Related Ailments

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The Business Processing Outsourcing or BPO popularly known as the Call Centre Industry, or even Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO) has drawn a lot of people into its fold with promises of a better life and lifestyle. Fat pay cheques, overseas assignments, pick-ups, office parties, a posse’ of young people …BPO stood for rosy dreams and fanciful wishes, until the glitz and the glamour wore off to reveal the darker underbelly of the Call Centre Industry – irregular working hours, night shifts, health problems as insomnia, digestive disorders, computer related ailments and above all limited opportunities for growth and intellectual stimulation.


All about BPO related ailments

Stress: BPO and call centres usually try and create an environment where there is a standardized format that agents follow so that the output is maintained at a required consistency. This usually calls for a reduction in autonomy among workers which invariably leads them to feel fatigued, stressful. Most persons call it a ‘brain dead ‘type of situation. Over long periods of time, the person starts to feel unproductive and burnt out.

Four main stressors

There are four main stressors that work in these organizations:

  • Continuous hours over the phone with little time to relax, especially after calls of ‘rejection’ where the customer has been rude. Very little authority to rectify the problem or handle the situation on one’s own makes it still more difficult leading to stress. Very often call centre employees simply want to “get off the phone” especially to get over awkward calls or just to get some respite from the monotony that creeps in.
  • Insufficient holidays are another stressor and most of the holidays given do not coincide with the country’s cultural calendar.
  • Quality and Quantity Conflict: most organizations seek to keep customers happy and satisfied, yet the whole operations are juxtaposed with the move to keep call volumes up and call times down. The whole effort at trying to keep call waiting queues down and make the customer on the call satisfied at the same time is a source of stress that employees typically face.
  • Controlled environment where the call centre employee is just a mouth piece of organizational brain. The constant pressure in living up to the ideologies of the company while handling calls often lead to pressure.
  • Targets: meeting performance targets on parameters like call handling, efficiency, call wrap time etc. as well as an evaluation of the call volumes handled over a time frame are huge stressors. In many places the company monitors the performances closely and payment is very often dependent on it. This acts as a huge stress inducer.

Effects of stress

Sleep Disorders: Among the first bites to health is the onset of insomnia. Most call centre clients are based in the West and Europe and agents belonging to parts of Asia and South East Asia have to keep working hours to suit the clients. This means that they have to work through the night. The change in the biological pattern takes time and often leads to problems as sleeplessness. First timers are even more prone to these problems as their biological clocks take time to acclimatize. So also are managers and team leaders who often have to work through the night and even through the day to keep pace with organizational requirements.

  • Digestive Disorders: Long and untimely hours at the work place, stress from other factors that are inherent to the organisational structure, all form the perfect recipe for digestive problems. Most persons working in these organizations eat food that is available in the canteens which do not always adhere to health and hygiene standards. Plus the time for these breaks is also not adequate and most people do rush through their meals making them more susceptible to digestive disorders.
  • Depression:Most employees do develop a sense of frustration after a certain amount of time. This comes on with an increased understanding and realization of the fact that call centres do offer limited growth opportunities and an inadequate career making prospect. In fact all of this realization comes with a time lag, once the glitz and glamour wears off.

Simultaneously, the punishing physical environments, stress levels and a complete lack of autonomy in decision making add to the growing mental fatigue. The end result is depression. Various BPO units are looking towards combating work place depression by having a qualified psychologist on the panel.

  • Computer Related Ailments: This is not very surprising considering the fact that a lot of their times are spent in front of the monitor. In fact Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which happens due to overusage of the hands and fingers is very commonplace.Eyesight problems, pain in the back due to bad posture or lack of in between rest and exercises; hearing problems due to being on the phone for long hours and wearing poor quality headphones; hand and leg pains arising from being in one position for long hours…all of these add to the poor health basket of call centre employees.
  • Personal Problems: Most of these problems source themselves from the high pay packets that these professionals get. A lot of people are straight out of college and often do not know what to do with this new found independence – financial or otherwise. A lot of binge drinking and smoking often begins here. Also the socializing habits encouraged by frequent parties also come with their share of personal involvements. Young adults get into relationships and fail to keep their professional lives separate leading to a lot of problems in the work place. In addition the monotony of the job often leads to people involving themselves with behaviour that is completely unwarranted in the professional sphere – like reading a novel or gossiping or sleeping and deliberately not taking a call, all lead to behaviour that is unproductive. The atmosphere also becomes less than positive and many people find it suffocating to work under such situations.

Company executives are often not really bothered with such behaviour; they are only concerned with the call volumes and organizational targets. Hence they choose to gloss over these making the problems run deeper in the bargain.


  • iSEVA
  • BPO India
  • Mind Body n Soul
  • Chandler, Alfred. The Visible Hand: The Managerial Revolution in American Business. New York: Belknap, 1993. (2nd edition).
  • Coase, Ronald H., "The Nature of the Firm", Economica 4, pp 386-405, 1937.

See Also