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Call centre staff pandemic survey reveals most believe they are non-essential

Man speaking on a head set

A survey by the University of Strathclyde on call centre staff has revealed that 82 per cent of those still working during the coronavirus pandemic believe their work is non-essential.

Phil Taylor, Professor of Work and Employment Studies in the Department of Human Resource Management and a global contact centre research expert, carried out a confidential study involving more than 2,000 call centre workers across the UK.

Preliminary interim results suggest more than eight in ten feel ‘pressurised into coming to work’, with worry about losing money, fears for their attendance record and performance appraisal the major drivers.

Large numbers also turned up due to commitment to customers.

The survey, which was supported by the Scottish Trade Unions Congress and other unions and bodies, also revealed that while two-thirds of staff still working in the sector have asked bosses to work from home, just four per cent of all requests have been granted.

Workplace distancing

Staff also reported face-to-face team meetings, with half claiming they were working face-to-face with colleagues. Government guidance suggests at least two metres should be left between people and only a third of workers said their employer was successful in implementing workplace distancing.

Almost two-thirds of those surveyed also report increased call volumes as customers seek re-assurance from companies, while the same number believed that proximity with colleagues on the floor was ‘hazardous’ or ‘very hazardous.

Only four per cent reported having been provided with PPE, with almost two-thirds regarding the cleanliness and sanitisation of their work station as ‘hazardous’ or ‘very hazardous’

Professor Taylor, who has spoken directly with some of the staff in the survey who have told him they feel like they are risking their lives just turning up for work, said: “Open plan office environments and face-to-face working could help spread the virus. One huge issue is that many call centre staff work in “sealed” buildings which have heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems that circulate air and blow it down through air vents, leading to the circulations of bugs, germs and viruses.

“But alongside bad practice, there is exemplary behaviour where some employers are being highly responsive to requests for supportive home working and are implementing good procedure.”

Professor Taylor is still looking for workers in affected workplaces to contribute to the study.