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CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

1.1 BRIEF

Globalisation is an economic phenomenon that has marked itself on a worldwide scale. Among the different definitions that defines globalisation a simple one would be the movement of goods, services and capital due to an increase in trade and investment in many countries around the world. Movement of goods, services and capital has always taken place but advance in technology and reduction of barriers has made trade and investment more flexible. One major advantage of globalisation is that the increase in liquidity of capital allows investors in developed countries to invest in emerging countries. There is no doubt that during the past years, globalisation has contributed to the IT boom in many countries such as India, UK and Australia amongst others. This rapid growth in this sector has contributed to the economy of their respective countries and is now viewed as an important pillar for economic growth.

Every country depends on its industrial strength for economic stability. On the other side, the industries depend on investors either local or foreign for organisational stability. Investors from developed countries mainly invest in Business Process Outsourcing activities which have contributed to the expansion of the Information and Communication Technology sectors. Call centres are a growing part of the customer-related services industry in many countries and it is expected to expand as many organisations outsource their services. In his article, Malcom Higgs (2004) defined the call centre as “offices established by organisations to deliver services remotely over the phone and thus replacing the need for face-to-face interactions with customers and significantly shifting the economics of service delivery”. This concept has been adopted by many organisations to fulfil strategic roles such as telemarketing, financial service transaction and customer service and support. Managers whose organisation is involved in the customer-relation services through call centres face many challenges since their operations are capital intensive, there should be continuous investment with the rapid change in technology and above all they are responsible for the large number of employees that usually work in different shifts.

Research made on the call centre industry has proved that this sector attracts a large working force mainly composed of unskilled young workers who have just left college. The strategies adopted by managers to recruit a mass of potential candidates is motivating these workers by using the right word such as “ there are exciting opportunities being call centre operators”, “interesting salary” or “ previous job experience in this field is not mandatory”. The aim of many organisations that have adopted the call centre concept is to improve customer service which will in turn increase customer satisfaction. However, if managers do not invest in customer training the aim of the organisation will not be achieved. Moreover, even if the call centre industry brings an important contribution to the economy, many researches have revealed the “dark side” of this sector. It has been given the status of “electronic sweet shops” (David Holman 2002) where agents' work is very demanding both physically and mentally with a routine work, low wages and little opportunity for career development. These factors have proved to have an impact on the well-being of the agents such as on their health and on their performance at work. However, other factors either internal or external to the job which will be discussed in Chapter 2 also have shown to have an effect on the health and the work of the agents. Hence tackling the problem at the source is the best way to improve employee well-being, satisfaction, motivation and reduce the high turnover rate that the sector has experienced over the past years.

1.2 Aims and objectives

Ø The challenge of attracting and retaining call centre employee is significant to ensure the stability and growth of the organisation. The aim of this study is to examine different factors internal and external to the job that impacts on both the well-being and work performance of agents involved in outbound and inbound call centres which in turn contribute to the high turnover rate, absenteeism within that sector. The main objectives of this study are firstly to determine to what extent factors internal and external to the job impacts on the well-being and performance of agents. Proper correlations and test will be carried to determine the relationship between what was found in literature review and the information gathered through my investigation in the two call centres. Moreover, emphasis will be laid on personality traits and test will be performed to check if there is a significant relationship between level of control and personality traits. Finally, adequate recommendations with respect to the findings taking into consideration different provisions made under different laws namely labour laws and Occupational Safety and Health Act 2005.

1.3 Plan of the research

This exploratory research is divided into 5 chapters.

This chapter includes of a brief introduction of the research and the research aims. It also elaborates the contribution of globalisation in the rapid growth of BPO industry.

Chapter 2 comprises of the literature review which is one of the most important chapter of this dissertation for findings should be supplemented with academic support. Various factors such as nature of work, physical environment, personality traits, quality of work life, work-family conflict, and social life amongst others are discussed.

Chapter 3 consists of the methodology and the steps taken in carrying this quantitative study. It explains the various methods that can be used to conduct the research and why a questionnaire survey was used to collect data.

Chapter 4 consists of the analysis of the data collected.

Chapter 5 consists of the discussion based on the different test that have been conducted

Chapter 6 consists of the recommendation and the conclusion

CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF LITERATURE

The call centre industry is among the most important economic activities that has experienced a rapid growth over the last few years both with the increase of new information and communication technologies (David Holman et al 2002). Lynn Holdsworth (2002) argued that this rapid growth is due to the altering need of both the business and the consumer. Furthermore she added that to be able to meet the demands and the expectations for a ‘24-hr electronic society', the need for ‘service-based' call centres is essential. However, other researchers have found that call centres have become a vital element of the majority companies' marketing and customer service strategies for bigger, better, faster and even more effective communication (Olukemi et al 2009). There are various benefits that a call centre can offer to an organisation and these were listed by David Holman (2002) as follows: it reduces the price of active functions, upgrade the service facilities offered and opportunity of income generation. On the other side, the rapid increase of call centre has been accompanied by a major challenge in attracting and retaining employees and Olukemi (2009) estimated that for the ‘56,000 call centres in the USA, there is roughly 3.07 million agents' which represent quite a significant amount of employees in this sector. However, Mathew Crome (1998) claimed that for a call centre to survive on the market and to prevent high turnover within the organisation, different strategies should be adopted such as get better customer service, hire experienced and motivated person to work and above all provide an adequate working environment. Within this literature review, different factors both internal and external to work will be discussed concerning an employee's well-being and performance in call centres.

Internal Factors

2.3 Nature of work

According to A.Dawson (2002), the nature of any particular work should be describe by its ‘objectives' character. This consist of its physical environment, where most of the work would take place, rewards and compensation system, number of working hours amongst others. She further added that putting this system in place will not only give appropriate information to any person who is not familiar to that field but also help him/her design a mental framework of the nature of that kind of work and readily compare it with other types of job. The ‘objectives' character within the call centre industry will be describe below however giving full description of both the nature of the work, the working and physical environment will probably not provide sufficient understanding of the experience of working in it.

The Business Process Outsourcing Industry has for long been indulged in different activities such as: payroll administration, processing of receivables and payables, document and data management, financial analysis, web design, multimedia, software development, outbound and inbound call amongst others. However, this research will be based mostly on call centres involved in ‘outbound' and ‘inbound' call. Inbound agents take calls from customers while outbound agents phone up customers themselves. The main duty of the call centre agent is to communicate with customers via the telephone to serve various purposes for example, providing detailed information of commodities, marketing, taking orders etc (J.Wegge et al 2006). The call centre work has been judged to be neither difficult nor challenging but easy as everything is script. However Holman (2002) rejected that argument since earlier studies have proved that the work of a call centre agent is very challenging and J.kennedy (2008) further added that due to the nature of the work, it has been given a status of high-stress environment with high turnover rates. The job is challenging as agent's should be able to carry out their task perfectly, performing synchronized subtasks such as using the communication skills to take a call, manoeuvring a keyboard to enter the necessary information and speaking to the customer. Performing these synchronized subtasks take additional time causing customers to wait for long which subsequently affect their satisfaction. Hence the agents have to perform the task quickly under high time pressure and sometimes attending approximately 25 calls during an 8 hour shift. However, the number of call varies according to the objectives set by the management. Furthermore, the agents are trained to be courteous, helpful, and pleasant even if they are verbally abuse or harassed by the customers. This require them to learn how to control their emotion and not express what they really feel, which is referred to as ‘emotional dissonance' (J.kennedy et al 2008).

2.3.1 Working environment

Various aspects based on customer service work in call centres has caused the call centre industry to be considered as an ‘‘electronic sweetshops'' (David Holman 2002) due to the tiresome, repetitive, high demand and stressful nature of the job. Mc Guire( 2009) claimed that other factors such as meagre wage, routine work, little or no autonomy in the work and poor social support also contribute to that poor status given to that industry. J.Wegge (2006), argued that these tasks restrict an agent to be inventive, practical and share their views and opinions but rather act like a program machine resulting in low work motivation, health problems and high turnover rate

The introduction of new and advance technologies has contributed to the rapid growth of the call centre industry bringing along the use of more sophisticated telephone, computer systems or softwares and tailored monotonous, repetitive work practices. The implementations of these new technologies restrict the agents to participate in the work in terms of the application of their skills, knowledge and abilities gain for the particular task or job. They only have to follow the procedures that have been provided to them. Even if scripting reduces the need for an agent to think and helped them to make their work quickly, studies have proved that too much scripting is positively related to emotional exhaustion. To this, S.kumara (2010) argued that since many organisation have a high level of ‘‘structural labour division'' this allows them to pay their employee a meagre salary as the tasks being simple and basic do not need qualified agents since any unskilled agent can do the job after going through a short period of on-the-job training.

On the other side, the level of management control and performance screening has increased with the introduction of telephone and computers limiting an agent's control over his work. Feedback gained through performance monitoring, can have an effect on the salary of an employee which in turn can affect the latter's well-being at the workplace. Being under close supervision during a whole day shift can cause frustration, tension, anxiety and even increase the level of stress. According to a review by McGuire (2009), each employee has its own opinion on the working environment; some will find a high demand working environment challenging for them to put extra effort by increasing performance and level of motivation while others will find it stressful. This is of vital importance as it will have a positive impact on the way an employee will organise his work and manage the level of stress. Moreover, with the increase of stress related illness such as anxiety and cardiovascular problems amongst others and its effect on performance and low job satisfaction, the well-being of an employee has been given much consideration. Study showed a positive relationship between the provision of a secure and compassionate working environment and improvement of employee's psychological and physical well-being.

2.3.2 Physical Environment

Through different literature reviews based on call centres it has been seen that much emphasis has been laid on different factors within the work environment that are causes of stress, low job performance ,job satisfaction and its impact on well-being of the employee. However, less researches has been made on the physical working environment which is considered as a contributing factor.

The physical environment forms part of the working environment which Dawson (2002) describes as follows; the ‘environment' being where most of the job will take place and the ‘physical environment' being everything that is tangible that is the workspace, the visual display units, chairs, tables amongst others. In their research on well-being of employees within the call centre, the Shepell.fgi Group (2008) found that most of workstations which were ergonomically poor have a negative impact on the agent's health. Hence if the agent is not fit to perform its duty this will adversely affect his/her job performance of meeting his/her respective targets. That's where Mc Guire (2009) came forward with an argument that it is of vital importance to analyse the relationship between physical environment's perceptions and employees' well-being and performance.

Holman (2002) studied the different causes of stress for call centre agents and among the causes illustrated in his study; physical environment was taken into consideration. These include the use of the computer system and the ergonomic design of the system itself but also appropriate design of seats. Ergonomic can be defined as “the application of knowledge of human's characteristics to the design of systems”, (A.Chandra et al 2009). It has been found that the work station should be well design, correctly fitted and have the appropriate equipments since the agents spend most of their working hours at their work station. Non- conforming ergonomic design of the computer based system and the seats will definitely have an impact on employee health such as visual problems, musculoskeletal disorders and even hearing problems. Visual problems is mainly due to the poor position of the visual display terminal, provision of inadequate lighting, excessive glare, leading to problems like visual fatigue, eye strain, burning eyes and ophthalmic migraines at the end of the working day. Seats which are not ergonomically fit for the agent and repetitive awkward working postures increase the risk to develop musculoskeletal problems usually in the back, shoulders, arms and neck. According to the review of A.Chandra (2009) the risk for an agent to develop muscular fatigue will inevitably increase with the frequency of computer work due to provision of improper computer stations and furniture. Research has proved that agents who work on a full-time basis are more prone to experience higher levels of job, physical environment stressors and musculoskeletal strain than those working on a part-time contract.

Poor work station design together with environmental factors can distract the employee and affect “manual dexterity and cognitive ability”. Furthermore, providing inappropriate equipment together with improper working conditions, have an impact on the psychological well-being of the agent which, disrupt comfort and security at the work station. This situation eventually causes an increase in the intention of an employee to leave the organisation. From the health and safety perspective, Mc Guire ( 2009) states that the physical conditions provided to an employee to perform his/her work will affect the employee safety and health perceptions and hence his/her performance and well-being. Hence, when an employee is satisfied with the physical environment provided to work, this will in turn enhance job satisfaction, motivation, performance and the well-being of the worker. However, J.Visher (2007) in her review goes beyond the ergonomic layout of workstations as there are other environmental factors that readily obstruct with the achievement of work objectives.

2.4 Employment in call centres

Nowadays, being employed and having a descent living is crucial for each individual to be able to satisfy our needs which may be material or intuitive. Douglas et al (2006) categorised these needs into four major groups that is, leisure time, earnings, need for prestige and innate drive for work. There has been much debate about employment within the outsourcing industry and Halliden et al 2005, suggested that the employment strategies and procedures vary greatly within call centres since they are not directed using the same approach.

It is well-known that this industry is reputed to attract mostly the young working force usually coming straight out of college with no other job experience and lacking the technical skills to work in that field. Halliden (2005) argued that many call centres do not follow all the employment procedures of agents as it should be done. He further added that most of the agents are employed either on a part-time or informal basis usually provided with little training and a meagre wage. These employees are under close supervision and managerial control which finally result in an increase in the number of absentees, high turnover rate, impact on health, performance and job satisfaction.

There has been quite a large amount of literature that focused on many factors within the call centre sectors that impacts on the well-being and the performance of the employees. However, Townsend et al 2005, has found that less researches have been made on the recruitment process and the types of employment contracts. It should also be noted that with the variation of the work organisation, managerial styles and the maturation of the outsourcing industry itself, both the recruitment process and the types of contract would have to be reviewed.

2.4.1 Types of contracts

The review of M.Parzefall et al 2010 focused on the different types of existing contracts also known as psychological contracts. It has been found that the perception of psychological contract is related to ‘‘an individual's belief regarding the terms and conditions of a reciprocal exchange agreement between that person and his employer''. J.Wegge (2006) explained that the difference in the type of employment contract has a positive effect on the level of motivation of an employee. For example, an employee with a full-time contract will tend to have a positive connection with the organisation compared to an employee with a part-time contract. Moreover, having a full-time contract is a sign of job security which can enhance work motivation and well-being especially in an organisation where the level of turnover is relatively high. However, job security does not depend totally on the type of employment contract an employee has but to what extent the employer is fulfilling its responsibility towards the employee ( M.Parzefall et al 2010). Hence the employer should ensure that there exist a reciprocal relation between him and his employee. Furthermore, the breach of a contract from an employer proved to have an negative effect on the trust, satisfaction, commitment, role-performance and willingness to stay within the organisation.

2.5 Personality traits among call centre agents

It has been seen earlier that the call centre has been given a status of high stress working environment with a relatively high turnover rate (J.Kennedy et al 2008). To withstand a work which is very demanding both physically and mentally, finding and choosing the proper candidate is not always an easy task. In her review, M.Nicholls stated that in the outsourcing industry, personality traits of candidates are assessed to match with the selection criteria. To determine if an individual can fit him/her in the present environment and performance within the organisation. In order to be able to assess the personality traits of the candidates, the “Big Five Personality traits” should be taken into consideration (A.Furnham et al 2008).

The “Big five personality traits” or the “Five Factor Model” is mainly used in the field of personality research and it aims at proving that every individual has its own personality (A.Aluoja et al 2009). In her study on the Five Factor Model, Martina (2010) stated that there is a connection between the different personality traits and the well-being of an individual such as ‘life satisfaction'. This model was developed with respect to various individual characteristics and is used in different countries and organisation to be able to illustrate the structure of the personality of each individual. However, it should be noted that the way personality is assessed with respect to the “Five Factor Model” differs from each organisation and the business they are involved into (Martina 2010).

According to O. Sawyerr (2009), this Five Factor Model has been used within the call centre to demonstrate that people with different personality adapt and adhere themselves to different factors such as the nature of the work, the working environment and the physical environment and even to the stress related to that kind of work. The model consists mainly of five dimensions of personality such as:

  • Conscientiousness which refers to an agent being a hard worker, responsible and careful.
  • Agreeableness means to be trust worthy, flexible and cooperative.
  • Emotional stability means to be stable, tolerant with respect to stress.
  • Extraversion refers to sociable, enthusiastic, outgoing.
  • Openness means creative, intellectual and liberal.

2.5.1 Personality traits with turnover and absenteeism

Many studies made on call centre sector came forward with the same statement of an industry with a high rate of turnover and absenteeism and according to Sawyer (2009), identifying the different personality traits of agents who proved to be successful in the outsourcing working environment might be an important contributor of giving the call centre a better image and status in other literatures.

The main objective of most call centres is to offer a high quality customer service and much emphasis is laid to attain this objective. Hence, there is no doubt that conscientiousness will be a desirable personality trait that managers will expect a candidate to have. Research has proved that an agent who is conscientious will inevitably give a better service and adapt himself/herself to that kind of working environment rather than a candidate who lack all these traits. An individual, who is conscientious, set clear goals, put extra effort to perform well and to do things right no matter whether the work is characterised as extremely demanding both physically and mentally. Therefore, it can be said that conscientiousness is directly correlated to job performance and job satisfaction among call centre agents with that personality trait. Furthermore, with respect to absenteeism and intention to quit the organisation, researches have proved that conscientious individuals are more bound to rules and have a feeling of “appartenance” to the organisation hence they are less likely to show any behaviour of quitting their job.

Literature has shown that agents during an 8 hour shift work have to deal with different kind of customers and usually those who are extremely demanding. To be able to cope with such a demanding working environment, call centre agents who are most suitable for this work should be agreeable and have characteristics like being tolerant, flexible and cooperative. Agents having these particular characteristics will inevitably give better quality service delivery. On the contrary those who are not agreeable will be doubtful. In his review, Sawyer (2009) clearly pointed out that with respect to absenteeism and turnover; agents who are agreeable are more willing to make the best of every situation and to move on with their work even in bad times. However lack of research on this personality trait makes it difficult to draw a concise relationship between these two.

Call centre agents have been trained to control their emotion by being polite, helpful and courteous even if they are verbally abused and harassed by customers. It has been mentioned earlier that when agents do not express what they really feel, it is usually known as ‘emotional dissonance' and with time it ends up to be ‘ emotional exhaustion'. Emotional exhaustion will inevitably cause the agent to be stressed, and have the intention to quit the organisation. However, some agents can adapt themselves to that kind of working environment especially those who have high emotional stability status. Being able to manage their stress will have almost no impact on their performance and well-being. Thus it can be assumed that emotional stability has a negative relationship with absenteeism and intention to quit work. However, those who are unable to manage their stress, who are anxious will be absent from work on a regular basis and will prefer to leave the organisation.

Young Sung and colleagues (2009) suggest that extraversion and enthusiasm can be linked. Being extrovert means being talkative sociable, enthusiastic and ambitious. However Sawyer (2009), in his study find out that those who are extrovert cannot usually fit themselves within the call centre environment. As seen earlier, the work of a call centre agent is to communicate with customers via the telephone following tailored and script procedures. The nature of the work involve no face-to-face interaction hence this kind of work will suit mostly an introvert person. Extrovert call centre agent will definitely have a strong intention to move out of the outsourcing industry in order to seek other job opportunities.

The nature of work within call centres has been mentioned in many reviews to have an impact on the performance and well-being of agents. Agent who is opened to new experience will be discouraged by script monotonous work which is most of the time under close supervision. Research has proved that these individuals look for new work experience and are willing to grow within the organisation. Furthermore, literature has proved that agents in call centres have no autonomy over their work and hardly have any chance to involve themselves in the work. Hence it can be predicted that there is a positive relationship with an agent of high status of openness to new experience with turnover. These individuals find that their need to grow within the organisation, to be creative cannot be met in the call centre working environment hence they are more prone to leave the organisation and seek for other job opportunities. Different factors within the call centre have an impact on the health of the agents. This will be discussed in the paragraph below.

2.5.2 Burnout

The term burnout has been used in many literatures on call centres with respect to emotional exhaustion and lack of interest towards one's work. O.Sawyer (2009) defined emotional exhaustion as ‘mental and emotional fatigue and a feeling of being drained of energy'. The stressful nature of call centre, that involves repetitive work and low autonomy usually leads to burnout among employees. However, it has been found that not all employees experience burnout as this vary according to the different personality traits that each individual possess and that personality plays an important role in the development of burnout. It has been mentioned earlier that agents who are conscientious and agreeable have a tendency to experience less emotional exhaustion as they can cope and deal with difficult situations ( A.Bakker et al). However above these big five personality variables, locus of control was taken into consideration. Locus of control is defined as ‘the degree to which people believe that they have control over a wide range of factors in their lives' (O.Sawyer et al 2009). Locus of control has been found to play a key role in the development of burnout. Studies done on locus of control have shown that there is two different LOC namely internal and external. Agents with an external LOC will have a tendency to believe that everything that happens is a matter of luck or fate and they are usually the one who tend to experience higher level of stress and burnout. They experience a feeling of emotional exhaustion since they feel that they are unable to control their working environment. However, those with an internal LOC believe that there is a strong link between their actions and consequences and they have sufficient control over their working environment. Since they are confident and have their working environment under control, they do not seem to experience any stress or burnout.

2.6 Training

Together with recruitment, training process within call centre has been given little attention. With expansion and maturation of each call centres the need for training has become an important aspect since most call centres focus on quantity and quality of services delivered to customers. However, regardless the type of business the call centres are involved, there is still the need for high performance emotional labour as mentioned earlier due to the stressful nature of call centres themselves. Even if the nature of the work does not involve any face-to-face interaction with the customers, agents should be able to manage the tone of their voice and control their emotions while dealing with difficult customers. Hence appropriate training should be given to the agents to limit any experience of stress or burnout.

It has been found through literatures that managers of call centres have a recruitment goal of attracting large amount of candidates. However according to K.Townsend (2007), managers are looking for candidates with appropriate attitude which will match the organisation rather than taking into consideration the technical skills required for the job. He further added that it is good to find candidates with attitude which will match the culture of the organisation. Finding candidates with the appropriate skills that are communication skills, keyboard and computer skills, and the capacity to deal with pressure and perform the task of an emotional labour. Much emphasis is laid on a candidate's personality than technical skills with respect to emotional labour.

Once the recruitment process is over and the appropriate candidate that will fit the organisation is employed, training takes place. The training methods that are used in call centres have some similarities as every freshly employed candidate will undergo a two week on-the job training. The aim of the two weeks training is mainly based on the knowledge of the products or service that the company offers, the different software that the agents should use to perform their task, the policy of the organisation and different communication skills. When the two weeks training is over, the agents are on probation for another one week where a system of ‘budding' which means that an experienced agent is placed with a new comer. The new agent is under constant supervision and regular feedback is given to the management. Moreover, it has been found that within the call centre industry training given to agents is centred mainly for job proficiency and meeting demands of customer in terms of quality and quantity rather than for career development. As it has been found earlier, the big five personality factors vary from individuals. Therefore, those with personality characteristics as conscientious, agreeableness will adhere themselves to these methods of training. However, those who are extroverts and who are open to new experience would prefer training that will made them grow within the organisation. Hence it can be predicted that training methods is correlated to job performance of the agents.

2.7 Quality of work life

So far in this study, discussion was based on the different aspects of call centres with respect to the nature of the work, working environment, physical environment which can be considered during the selection process. It has been seen that each and every factor mentioned above does have an impact either directly or indirectly on performance and well-being of the agents. Within this section, different factors that affect quality of work life of the agents will be discussed.

Connel et al (2009), in their review on Quality of Work Life, stated that it is common to put all call centres in the same basket with respect to the work which has been described as routine, with low skilled workforce and stressful working environment. However, they argued that the main interest is to analyse the job quality which differs greatly from organisation since during the past years there has been a rapid growth and development of call centres all over the world. The quality of work life has been given much attention as it is the key for an employee to be able to improve his personal life through their work and its environment. Therefore in this research, emphasis will be laid on three major factors that may influence quality of work life that it, the content of the job, reward system and the number of working hours.

2.7.1 Job Content

Evidence gained from literature, has shown that even if there has been an increase in “material wealth”, the quality of work life of employees have not changed that much. Instead there has been an increase in the level of stress, rather no job security and no more satisfaction from work (J.Burgess et al 2010). They further added that the quality of work life has deteriorated with change in technology, leading to ‘deskilling' and ‘alienation'. The concept of ‘deskilling' and ‘alienation' is explained by sociologist Karl Marx and is applied to the call centre working environment.

Karl Marx defined alienation as a ‘condition whereby workers have no job-satisfaction or fulfilment from their work'. In their study, Burgess and his colleagues found that there is an increase in ‘material wealth' while quality of work life is still the same. Karl Marx explained that within the actual society, people work for the satisfaction of other needs. It has been seen that call centre agents have no control as they only have to meet the number of calls the organisation has targeted (O.Sawyer et al 2009). He further added that since the agents are alienated from their work increases the rate of absenteeism and turnover. Furthermore, literature has shown that there has been a rapid degradation of work within call centres as the level of skill required has progressively reduced as managers, use ‘ deskilling' as a method to control the workforce.

Braverman another sociologist defined deskilling as ‘the breaking down of the job into its constituents parts to reduce labour cost'. It has been shown that so far within the outsourcing industry; they are still in the Fordism era that is workers perform repetitive tasks that requires little training. Hence they no longer have to employ skilled workers at high rates as unskilled workers can do the job following the procedures which has already been script for them.

2.7.2 Reward System

Compensation in terms of salary, increments accompanied with promotions, and medical benefits amongst others can be considered as motivating factors to make employee perform better and be get job satisfaction since they are rewarded for their effort (M.Azril et al 2010). The call centre industry in literature has been given a reputation of paying the agents with a meagre salary. However, not all employees within the call centre are given the same treatment as not everyone performs the task of an agent. In their review, J.Burgess ( 2010) and colleagues made reference to ‘core' and ‘peripheral' workers. ‘Core' workers are workers who are employed on full-time basis and who have considerable job security, for example managers. ‘Peripheral' workers on other side are workers who are employed either on a full-time basis or part-time under government training schemes, who enjoy less job security and who are easier to recruit since their skills are common to employment. However, within this study, emphasis will be laid mostly on ‘peripheral' workers. Since these workers are dispensable and easily replaced, they receive low pay in spite of being unskilled; they are putting extra effort to perform well within the organisation. Many agents have reported that they suffer from high stress that affects their well-being and performance at work with respect to the absence of payment of overtime, inflexible leave arrangements and lack of incentive in terms of rewards to help them to meet their objectives. Furthermore, workplace politics plays an important role in the reward system among employees in the call centre industry. Internal Politics of the organisation has proved to be bad and unnecessary to have a negative impact on the work of the agent which in turn increases the intention to quit their job.

Studies have proved that within many organisations, workers have the tendency to stay in groups and protect those within the group while ignoring others. Promotion will be given only to those belonging to that particular group preventing others that deserve to have a promotion for their good performance. Those people usually forget the aims and objectives of the organisation; there is a lack of corporation, poor governance since they don't abide to the policy and ethical codes of the organisation thus resulting in low performance among the agents.

2.7.3 Working hours

With regard to working hours in call centres, many researches have been done focusing on the effects it might have on work-life balance and health of the employees. The quest for a 24 hour business system and organisational flexibility has lead to a shift from the habitual 8 hour shift work, five working days to an extension of working hours and number of employment days. It has been found that in most call centres vacancy it is clearly mentioned that they are looking for agents who are willing to work weekends and public holidays and who are flexible in their working hours since they may be require to work at night. In her study, J.Connell (2009) argued that with this new system, the need for rosters are important and that ‘unsociable' working hours have become part of an organisation employment system.

Rosters are designed in such a way that there is a system of shift work. The agents are required to start early, finish late and during weekends since the organisation usually work in the time zones of other countries. Hence this lead to an increase in the unsociable hours which are among job requirement in call centres. Researches have found that this system of shift work has an influence on the work-life balance of the agents since they have to spend most of their time at work they are deprived of their social life. Many studies have shown that shift work has an impact on the health of the agents. Most health complaints can be related to the quality of the day sleep after night shift and to a lesser extent to the sleep before morning shift. Health problems that night work can cause are gastro intestinal disturbances as this leads to a change in the sequence in the timing of meals, cardiovascular or neurological disorders.

2.7.4 Circadian Rhythm

A Circadian Rhythm is a major rhythm with regular ups and downs in the 24 hour day. Many systems in the body are very active at certain times of the day and not acting at all on other time of day. Usually most activities happen in late afternoon or early evening for example body ability to produce energy from food is highest in the afternoon and evening. The least activity usually happens in the middle of the night. There are personal differences in circadian rhythm among each individual. Hence this variation in circadian rhythm, may in turn lead to shift work sleep disorder, lack of sleep being a major issue. Lack of sleep will inevitably lead to a decrease in performance, concentration and low motivation of the agent. Moreover, to be able to concentrate and work properly, B.Charbotel (2008) argued that many agents use drugs such as sleeping pills, medication for anxiety or depression or other stimulants and over time become addict to these drugs.

Bullying and Harassment at work

Through the last decade, bullying and harassment have become an increasing phenomenon at work. According to M.Rafferty (2007), even if there has been an increase in awareness and measures taken to prevent bullying and harassment at work, the number of cases reported is still at its highest peak. In her report M.Rafferty defined bullying as follows “repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, verbal or nonverbal, physical or otherwise by one or more person against one or others, at the place of work”. Harassment on other side was defined as “any conduct related to sex, race, colour, disability, sexual orientation or any personal characteristic which is unwanted by the recipient” (L.McMahon 2000). B.McCulloch (2010) clearly mentioned in her article that bullying is a form of harassment where there is excessive abuse of power and authority on an individual. Other research has shown that bullies are most of the time those who have been linked to anti-social personality disorder and to childhood abuse. M.Vickers (2009), mentioned that bullies used namely exclusion, breaking promises, constant changes in work procedures, restriction to training and career development opportunities and pressure to complete targets in limited time. Bullying and harassment at work have an impact on both the employee and the organisation. The impact of bullying and harassment on the well-being and health of a worker will depend on its frequency and duration. Employees affected by this hostility, are often vulnerable, upset, humiliated, threatened. These victims over time lose their self-esteem, self-confidence and experience an increase in the level of stress. Long-term repeated hostility effects on the victims can worsen and cause nervous breakdown, depression, anxiety, psychological trauma and even lead to suicide. Bullying has a severe consequence on the organisation as victims tend to absent from work on a regular basis or even leave the organisation since they are unable to work. However, M.Vickers (2009) argued that some characteristics of the organisation contribute to bullying such as “job design, job related stress, internal politics, conflicts, workplace culture and misuse of the organisational procedures”.

External Factors

So far, within this review, emphasis has been laid on the internal factors that have an impact on the well-being and performance of call centre agents. However, other external factors can also contribute to stress; affecting job satisfaction, performance and well-being of the employees. These factors can be classified as follows:

  • Financial stress,
  • Political Instability
  • Family conflict
  • Law

Financial Stress

Many employers depend on the performance of their employees to be able to achieve the aims and objectives of the organisation. However, there are many factors that have an impact on the performance of these employees which in turn have a negative effect on productivity and quality of service delivered. Douglas (2006) argued that any individual work to be able to satisfy one's needs. M.Masemola (2003) argued that as every individual try hard to achieve their needs and gain ‘financial independence', the process become more and more difficult due to different factors such as change in economy, political conditions, inflation amongst others. In their review J.Burgess (2010) and colleagues have found that even if the economy has increased in terms of wealth, the quality of work life, the wage of employees has not improved. Other research has proved that many people are facing financial problems that in turn disturb their performance but also creates other personal problems such as family or marital conflicts and even drug abuse.

It has been found that people going through financial problem prefer not to talk to anyone about it as they feel that they are losing score in this materialistic world we are living. Moreover, people who are living beyond their means found themselves with additional financial difficulties. This situation will inevitably affect the employee leading to a state of financial stress which is a common phenomenon in the lives of people at every stage of society. M.Ross (2007) stated that external factors have a tendency to add more stress than the internal working environment and it does make employees to be ‘irritable' and ‘distractive' during their work. Agents who are not concentrated have poor performance and find that they are unable to meet the targets of the organisation. He further added that those experiencing financial stress will be unsatisfied with the wage that they received.

Earlier within this literature, it has been found that within the call centre industry, agents are under close supervision and managerial control. Therefore if an agent is unable to manage the stress from personal problem and from work which is reflected by his/her performance at work, the latter might lose his/her job. Hence, fear of losing once job is another factor that can contribute to the existing stress which in turn has a negative impact on the health of the agent.

Political instability

The call centre industry has been given the status of the most important activity that has a large contribution to a country's economy. The investors of these call centres both local and foreign while investing in any country take into consideration many factors and political stability is one of them. However, situation of political instability can bring many changes and affect various organisations. M.Aslam et al argued that political instability will affect the organisation in terms of the quality of the products or service delivered as this situation will affect employee behaviour. They further added that these employees usually suffer from mental disturbance and feel anxious and this in turn affect the organisation returns and expansion and hence the financial system of the country.

Hence when political instability arises, organisation especially those dealing with foreign clients such as the call centre industry should pay much attention to that situation. In many cases, the organisations find that they should bring changes to their policy and procedures which in turn may lead to an increase in unemployment and a decrease in the salary of the workers. Research has proved that the call centre industry require agents to concentrate on their work and put their full “mental capabilities” therefore political instability can have an impact on the employees such as lack of motivation and concentration, frustration even intention to leave the organisation. Political instability affects the organisation as there is a decrease on returns and with time this situation can lead to downsizing.

Moreover, some sociologist, have found that organisations are not the only victims of political instability as society also suffers. Political instability will bring about a change to the norms that govern society and this will have an impact on the employees who form part of the society. Emile Durkheim a sociologist argued that with the rapid economic growth, there has been an absence of norms in society. The absence of norms within a society is called ‘anomie'. He explained that anomie is present when social controls are weak, when moral obligations that constrain individual and regulate their behaviour are strong enough to function effectively. Durkheim argued that the absence of norms allows people to do what they want and they are unable to control themselves. In a situation of anomie, people become greedier, the drive for money can no longer be controlled and they tend to spend more than they have. This finally results in employees having debts, facing financial problems; they are mentally stressed and are unable to respect deadlines which are due to a decrease in performance. Industrial conflicts, marital break-up and high rate of suicides are several indicators of anomie.

Work-Family Conflict

In the present century we are living, research carried out among students who are leaving college or those who are in their final year at the university, have certain expectation when they think about their career. These individual are seeking for jobs that will allow them to balance work and personal life with respect to family (R.Weisman). However, with respect to the call centre industry as it has been discussed earlier it is difficult to have a certain balance between work and personal life due to the number of working hours and numbers of working days ( J.Connell et al 2008). S.Guerts et al (2008) complement the statement made by J.Connell et al (2008) and argued that for most employees balancing work and family is very challenging and failing to do so regularly result in conflicts. Work-family conflict or family-work conflict, are mainly due to job stress and role stress of the employees. These conflicts usually result in health problems, impacts on the well-being of the employee but also increase emotional exhaustion that the latter already has due to the nature of the work and the working environment. It should be noted that these conflicts are not restricted to those who are married with or without children but also single parents and single individuals and do not involve only men since with time there has been an increase in the number of women entering the working force ( O.Karatepe et al 2006).

J.Connell et al (2008) defined work-family conflict as “a form of interrole conflict in which the general demands of, time devoted to and strain created by the job interfere with performing family-related responsibilities”. Therefore, S.Guerts et al (2008) have found that it exist two forms of conflicts namely ‘work-family conflict' and ‘family-work conflict' which they explained as follows; work-family conflict results mainly from not accomplishing home responsibilities and spending that time to complete work that has been brought home and family-work conflict mean not being able to fulfil responsibilities at work due to family constrains. Both types of conflicts have an impact on the well-being and the health of an employee in the form of anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, lost of trust and frustration. However, it has been found that stress related to work is one of the major causes of work-family conflicts. M.Chu Yu et al (2010) came forward with an argument that women are more prone to face work-family conflicts than men. The role of women within the family has been given much importance. Work-family conflicts result mainly from role demands stemming from one domain which are incompatible with the role demands stemming from another domain due to the ‘triple burden of women' which consist of work, taking care of children and care of household work.

So far within this section, the cause of work-family conflict has been restricted to tension that aroused by conflicting role pressures. However, family-work conflict that is family life interfering with work can result from different situations for example some individual may live in a family where there are regular fights or even if some members of the family are indulged in different curses of society such as drug abuse, alcohol, domestic violence amongst others. These employees suffer from emotional exhaustion, fear, anxiety, depression and psychological strain which in turn have adverse effect on competence and performance. Being unable to perform their tasks, and concentrate on their work and respecting deadlines, these agents with time develop a fear of being dismissed.

Labour law

Labour law has been implemented in almost all countries over the world in order to enable every employee to know what are their legal rights and restrictions under the Employment Rights Act. Law makes provision for the different relationship that an employee has from the time he/she get employed. Relationships between employer and employee, government, trade union and banks which are under the Employment Relation Act. The Employment Rights Act makes reference to different conditions such as the type of contracts, hours of work, remuneration, other conditions of employment for example sick leave, medical facilities and compensation. Most of employees who are employed in local organisation are eligible to benefit from most of the provision made under the Employment Rights Act and the Employment Relation Act under certain conditions. However, many investors especially those involved in the Business Process Outsourcing work with foreign clients sometimes apply the conditions of employment under the labour law of other countries such as the hours of work, remuneration. Hence many employees finding themselves in great difficulties when they are dismissed decide to leave the organisation or in case of accident since they are rarely aware of the benefits they are eligible for. On the other side, amendments made to the labour laws by the government sometimes benefits those who are in the public sector rather than those who are in private one. Hence those employed within the call centre industry which forms part of the private sector find that they are left aside, deprived of their rights and this situation bring along frustration, insecurity among the employees.

Case Study

Mauritius has been viewed as the most successful economies in Africa due to the four pillars of the economy that is sugar, textile, tourism and finance services. However, with globalisation and the fact that both the sugar and textile industry were facing high level of competition on the global market from China and India, these four pillars had to be reviewed as they were not strong enough to ensure the future improvement and expansion of the economy. Hence the Mauritian government, invested in the information technology sector in view to attract foreign companies with a resourceful, low-cost and business-friendly environment and lay the establishment of a fresh pillar for the economy. The name has been amended with time and is now entitle as the information and communication technology sector which comprises different activities such as manufacturing, telecommunication, wholesale and retail trade and business services such as call centres. The Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) activities are the head of the expansion of the ICT sector and represent about 45 % according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

Through the years more and more companies have began to crop up resulting to approximately three hundred according to the Outsourcing and Telecommunication Association of Mauritius. It is estimated that the growth of the BPO industry is 70 % a year and employing a working force of around 100,000 people. From statistics provided by the National Computer Board, at March 2007 the number of employee was 6,960 occupying different job positions half of whom are employed in call centres as teleagents. This proves that there has been rapid growth rate within the sector itself. As every employee in Mauritius, these workers are covered by the Employment Rights Act which has been amended and came into force in 2008. The Act makes provision regarding the agreements between employer and employee, conditions of employment, benefits and among these is the Workfare Programme. The aim of this programme is to help employee who have lost their job for economic reasons for a certain period of time through the provision of job placement. On the other side, the Employment Relation Act which also came into force in 2008 made provision for the formation, registration and recognition of trade union. However, within the call centre industry, there are no trade union organisations.

According to the information gathered at the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Office at Vacoas, cases reported to them by call centre agents are rare. Recently agents from Infinity BPO, Prestige Call Centre and MMS Outsourcing reported that they have not received their monthly salary for three months including their end of year bonus. With respect to special regulations that govern call centres, the officer argued that so far there are no such regulations but with the present situation within the call centre industry, the government will definitely come forward with one.

The aim of this study is to analyse how external and internal factors mentioned within the literature review affect the well-being and the performance at work of call centre agent. However, the problem of non payment of salary by employer will not be considered within this study so as not to interfere with the present situation within call centres in Mauritius. For collection of data which will be done through a questionnaire survey, two call centres with a relatively large number of employees involved in outbound and inbound call will be considered. The names of the organisation will be kept anonymous as requested by the Human Resource Managers.

CHAPTER 3 METHODOLOGY

This chapter introduce various methods that can be used to carry out a research. The methods part of any research paper is an important milestone which helps to be able to provide concrete results for decision making process. Furthermore, the results that have been collected can be studied and verified.

3.1 Target population

The Call centre Industry was carefully selected for the dissertation as it was judge that it is a high risk with respect to the impact that ergonomic and psychological hazards have on a call centre well-being and performance.

3.2 Sample design

The sampling design is one of the methods that can be used to collect the data. The advantage of using sampling design is that it serves as an aid to obtain a representative sample of the population for analysis. That is a sample whose characteristics are similar to the population of concern. Taking a sample from a population has various advantages such as:

Ø Less time consuming than a census

Ø Less costly to administer than a census

Ø Less cumbersome and more practical to administer than a census of the targeted population.

3.3 Types of sampling methods

  1. Simple random sampling - Every individual or item has equal from the frame has an equal chance of being selected and selection can be done either with or without replacement.
  2. Systematic sampling - It involves choosing every nth number respondent from a directory.
  3. Stratified sampling - The population is divided into strata like first into male and female and from there the ethnic category.
  4. Cluster sampling - The random selection of group rather than individual for example religious group.

However for this study, two other methods of sampling were used namely judgmental and convenience sampling. Judgment sampling is a non-statistical method of sampling where the units to be sample is selected based on knowledge and/or experience. This method of sampling was used as aim of the study was to lay more emphasis on call centre agents involved in outbound and inbound calls to be able to identify the impact of various factors on their well-being and performance and obtain information from a specific group of people. Hence a more representative sample should be selected to get accurate results rather than using other statistical methods. This method involves handpicking agents from the population within the call centre based on knowledge and judgment.

On the other side, convenience sampling another non-statistical method of sampling was used as the target population was selected according to their convenient accessibility and proximity. This method of sampling has been useful during the pilot testing as it has help to obtain basic data and trends with respect to this study rather than using simple random sampling.

3.4 Sample Size

A sample size of 200 agents was selected from a total of 3,615 employees within the call centres industry. This sample consists of agents involved mainly in call handling in order to get accurate results to meet the objective of this study.

3.5 Survey Method

There are two different methods of collecting data namely primary and secondary data collection and for the purpose of this study both method has been used. Primary data include the collection of information through various methods like interviews, surveys and questionnaires amongst others but for this study, only questionnaires were used. Secondary data collection involves data from relevant literature from journals, books and from the internet.

3.6 Data collection design

As mention above, data was collected from agents using a formally designed schedule of questions which was respondent-completed from the sample of the population. The questionnaire was design according to the objectives of the study, people perceptions and attitudes. Among the various types of questionnaire survey, captive group survey was used. This method was used as the survey has targeted only a group of employees within the call centre industry. It should be noted that within the call centre industry apart from call handling, there are other department such as management, IT department etc.

The major advantage of using a respondent-completion questionnaire survey is that it is cheaper, quick and relatively anonymous. However as any other method of collecting data do have some disadvantages as it often results in low response rate. When designing a questionnaire for a respondent completion greater care must be taken with the layout and presentation especially if it would be read by untrained people. ‘Closed' questions, that is questions that can be answered by ticking boxes is ideal for respondent completion survey rather than using ‘open-ended' questions that was avoided.

The questionnaire was divided into different sections in order to meet the objective of this study.

  1. Demographic Profile
  2. About the job
  3. Physical environment
  4. Personality traits
  5. Shift work
  6. Social life
  7. Health concern

3.7 Questionnaire pilot testing

For adequate questionnaire coverage and clarity of the questions, 10 questionnaires were subjected to a pilot test. The questionnaire was then revisited taking into consideration the recommendations made by the pilot-test groups, the objectives of the study and information based on the literature review

3.8 Analysis and interpretation of data

After collecting the data, it must be analysed to make adequate recommendations and conclusions. Before the analysis stage, the data must first be checked for errors, inaccuracy, incompleteness and hence bring the necessary correction through a process called editing. The results of the survey will be used as support evidence to illustrate some of the main findings for the writing up of the research report.

3.9 Limitations

This study is carried out as efficiently as possible to achieve its objectives. However, there are some limitations such as:

3.9.1 Lack of information

Not much research has been done regarding call centres and the lack of information acted as a constraint during the collection of materials for the literature review.

3.9.2 Reluctant to co-operate

Questionnaires distributed within the two call centres were either returned blank or responded partly. Many have argued that they do not want to disseminate information about their working environment as they fear to encounter problem with the management. They have been informed that management was aware about the ongoing survey within the organisation.

3.9.3 Time consuming

Time was a limiting factor. It was only possible to meet some of the agents when they were about to start their shift and administration of the questionnaires was difficult due to the lack of time. Questionnaire was judge to be too long and time consuming

Degree of truthfulness

The analysis of the data was based on the truthfulness of the respondents. The accuracy of the results will only depend on the extent to which the agents give correct and true answers.

3.9.4 Lack of experience

Lack of experience can act as a constraint to be able to conduct the study in the best possible way. Some issues may not be considered or ignored in this study that experience researcher will be aware of.

CHAPTER 4 DATA ANALYSIS

An analysis is a systematic approach to problem solving. The analysis of the data was made using SPSS to be able to draw bar charts, pie charts and tables. The analysis was based upon data collected and SPSS was used to be able to draw bar charts, pie charts, tables and to perform different test that have been judged to be necessary within this study.

4.1: Demographic Profile

Valid

Frequency

Percentage

Gender

Male

45

36 %

Female

80

64%

Age group

18-25

94

75.2%

26-35

29

23.2%

36-45

2

1.6%

Marital

Status

Married

20

16%

Single

105

84%

Education Level

CPE

1

.8%

SC

20

16%

HSC

104

83.2%

Income

5,000-15,000

125

100%

Job Position

Outbound

48

38.4%

Inbound

77

61.6%

Table I

1. Gender of respondent

The above table shows the percentage of Male and Female. From the 125 respondents, 64% were Female and 36% Male. The results clearly shows that Female are present in large number in the call centre industry compared to Male.

2. Age group of respondent

From the results illustrated in the above table, it is clear that the working force within the call centre is relatively young with a percentage of 75.2% for 18-25, 23.2% for 26-35 years and only a small percentage of 1.6% representing those within 36-45.

3. Marital status of respondent

The results show that a relationship can be derived between the young working force and the marital status of the respondents. Most of them, i.e. 84% of the sample taken are single while only 16% are married.

4. Post Occupied by respondent

Earlier within the literature review, it has been mentioned that emphasis will be laid on call centres mainly involved in outbound and inbound calls. From the data collected during the survey in two call centres, it has been noted that the majority are involved in inbound calls, i.e. 77% and only 38% are involved in outbound calls.

5. Month/Years of service

With respect to the months/years of service within the call centre, 51.2% of the agents indicated that they have been working between 3 months and 1year. 40% respondents were there between 1 and 3 years and the rest representing 8.8% have been working for a longer period (4-6 years).

6. Highest level of education achieved

Qualification of the respondents was determined by the highest education level they achieved before entering the world of work precisely the call centre industry. The distribution of education level is clearly represented in the frequency table. The majority of the respondents entered the working force after the HSC (Higher School Certificate) while the rest with their SC (School certificate) and CPE. The above results prove that the call centre industry attract mostly a young working force usually coming from college with no job experience.

4.2: Nature of work

4.2.1: About the job

Figure 4.1

A variety of questions were asked to the agents during the survey. Among the different sections within the questionnaires, nature of work was analysed. Respondents had to choose from Agree to Neutral. To facilitate data entry, each was given a rating: 1 for Agree and 5 for Neutral. The above bar chart illustrates the answers of the respondent pertaining to different categories. With respect to their skills, most of them agreed (60%) that their present job allows them to make good use of their skill and abilities to perform their respective task. 30.4% strongly agreed with that statement while 7.20% and 2.40% disagreed.

Another factor that was analysed was the amount of work. According to the results obtained, there were diverging opinions. While 37.6% agreed that the amount of work they were expected to do was reasonable, 28.8% disagreed as they judge that the amount of work allocated to the agents during their respective shifts was above expectation and at the end of their shift they were unable to complete all the work. This in turn results in an accumulation of work the next day.

Different researches made on call centres have proved that it is referred as tiresome, monotonous, high demanding and stressful. To confirm this statement the question was asked to the agents. From the results illustrated in the above bar chart, 49.6% of the respondent strongly agreed that their work satisfied all the criteria mentioned within literature reviews based on call centres.

Compensation with respect to the salary they received was also analysed. The relationship between the amount of work allocated during a shift and the amount of money paid was taken into consideration before answering this question. 52.8% of the respondent strongly disagree that they were paid fairly for their work. Some of them argued that they work more than expected, they give all their best to complete their work but in return received a meagre salary.

Training was viewed as an important aspect within the call centre industry. After having been selected and since most of the employees are new in this field, proper training should be given to them. Most of the agents agreed that they receive the training they need to be able to do their job well. According to them, training was given during the first two weeks to explain the aims and objectives of the organisation, the type of activity they are indulged in and to get familiar to the process. Further to these two weeks, the agents are given one additional week known as “on-the-job training” where they are given the opportunity to apply the knowledge gained.

The agents were asked whether they were given adequate opportunities for professional growth in the organisation. 34.4% disagreed with this statement while 28% agreed. Those who disagree were in the organisation not more than 3month-1year. However, among the 28% who agreed, they were mostly those who had been working for more than 1 year. Some of the agents argued that the organisation's policies for promotion and advancement are not always fair since favouritism is a common issue. Others further added that this system contribute to the high turnover level in the call centre industry and explains the fact that most call centres are constantly recruiting.

4.2.2: Opinion of respondent about the job and working environment

Figure 4.2

To conclude this section, the agents were asked to give their personal opinion regarding their job and the work environment as being secured and compassionate. The majority gave a neutral answer for this question.

A chi-square test was performed in order to determine the possible relationship between gender and opinion about the working condition and environment.

Ho: Gender is not associated with opinion about working environment

H1: Gender is associated with opinion about working environment

Table II Chi-Square Tests

  • alue

  • df

    Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)

    Pearson Chi-Square

    9.199a

    4

    .056

    Likelihood Ratio

    8.901

    4

    .064

    Linear-by-Linear Association

    1.387

    1

    .239

    N of Valid Cases

    125

    a. 0 cells (.0%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is 5.04.

    Table III Job and work environment * Gender of Respondent Crosstabulation

    Gender of Respondent

    Total

    Male

    Female

    Job and work environment

    agree

    Count

    5

    9

    14

    % within Gender of Respondent

    11.1%

    11.3%

    11.2%

    strongly agree

    Count

    10

    4

    14

    % within Gender of Respondent

    22.2%

    5.0%

    11.2%

    disagree

    Count

    6

    18

    24

    % within Gender of Respondent

    13.3%

    22.5%

    19.2%

    strongly disagree

    Count

    5

    10

    15

    % within Gender of Respondent

    11.1%

    12.5%

    12.0%

    neutral

    Count

    19

    39

    58

    % within Gender of Respondent

    42.2%

    48.8%

    46.4%

    Total

    Count

    45

    80

    125

    % within Gender of Respondent

    100.0%

    100.0%

    100.0%

    From the above chi-square test table, it can be noted that the chi-square statistics is 9.20 with an associated p-value of 0.56. Given that p> 0.05, H0 is not rejected. Hence a conclusion can be made that the association between gender and opinion on working environment is statistically significant.

    From the cross-tabulation table, it can be seen that opinion of respondents varies with respect to gender. While 22% of Male respondent agree that the working environment can be defined as secured and compassionate, only 5% of the Female respondent agree. On the other side, while 23% of the Female respondents disagree with the statement only 13% Male also disagree. The majority of the respondents whether they are male or female preferred to give a neutral response to that question.

    4.3: Physical environment

    Figure 4.3

    Physical environment plays an important role in the well-being and performance of the agents as previously mentioned within the literature review. Different questions were asked to the agents such as:

    1. Work surface was analysed and 62.4% of the respondent agreed that the amount of space allocated to them to perform their task was sufficient. On the other side, approximately 13.6% of them disagreed with this statement.
    2. Condition of the chair taking into consideration the ergonomic factors and standards there was analysed. 40% disagreed as their chair was neither in good state nor were they ergonomically fit for them to perform their work. However, not all respondent shared the same opinion as 36% agreed that the chair provided to them was in good repair and was in accordance to standards.
    3. Position of Visual Display Unit terminal, keyboard and mouse was also analysed since it is among the different factors within the physical environment that can impact on the well-being of the agent. Similar to opinion on the condition of the chair, opinion with respect to the VDU also varied. 33.6% agreed with its position as they judge that it is in norm with the ergonomic regulation while 47.20% disagreed and complain that due to the inappropriate position of the VDU they suffer from occupational stress.
    4. General lighting system was also assessed and here also opinion varies. 38.4% agreed that the lighting system was appropriate while 44% of the respondent argued that the lighting system was poor, the balance between natural and artificial light was not maintained and this created glare that prevented them to perform their work correctly.
    5. With respect to the ventilation system, the majority agreed (85.6 %) that it was well maintained.

    4.4 Personality traits, level of control and burnout

    4.4.1: Personality trait

    Figure 4.4

    Personality trait of the agents was taken into consideration and analysed with respect to their level of control over their work and working environment. Hence agents were asked to mention the personality trait that bestdescribe them individually. The above bar chart shows the results for the 125 respondents irrespective to their gender. However, further analysis will be done to test whether the above statement can be accepted or rejected.

    4.4.2: Level of control

    Figure 4.5

    The above bar-chart gives an indication of the level of control with respect to different personality traits. Openness to new experience personality trait showed to have a high percentage with respect to level of control. 44% of the respondents replied that they have an average level of control and 36% argued that their level of control was low. Opinion of respondents varies according to the different personality traits.

    Hence, to test whether there is a correlation between personality traits and level of control over one's work among agents a chi-square test was performed. The result is illustrated in Table I below:

    Table IV: Personality traits * Level of control Cross tabulation

    Level of control

    Total

    Strong

    average

    Low

    Personality traits

    conscientious

    Count

    9

    5

    11

    25

    Expected Count

    6.0

    8.2

    10.8

    25.0

    agreeable

    Count

    6

    7

    10

    23

    Expected Count

    5.5

    7.5

    9.9

    23.0

    emotionally stable

    Count

    7

    5

    7

    19

    Expected Count

    4.6

    6.2

    8.2

    19.0

    Extrovert

    Count

    6

    6

    7

    19

    Expected Count

    4.6

    6.2

    8.2

    19.0

    openness to new experience

    Count

    2

    18

    19

    39

    Expected Count

    9.4

    12.8

    16.8

    39.0

    Total

    Count

    30

    41

    54

    125

    Expected Count

    30.0

    41.0

    54.0

    125.0

    Table V Chi-Square Tests

  • alue

  • df

    Asymp. Sig. (2-sided)

    Pearson Chi-Square

    13.385a

    8

    .099

    Likelihood Ratio

    15.705

    8

    .047

    Linear-by-Linear Association

    2.669

    1

    .102

    N of Valid Cases

    125

    a. 2 cells (13.3%) have expected count less than 5. The minimum expected count is 4.56.

    H0: Level of control is not associated with personality traits

    H1: Level of control is associated with personality traits

    From the above table, it can be noted that the chi-square statistics is 13.4 with an associated p-value of 0.99. Given that p> 0.05, H0 is not rejected and a conclusion can be made that the association between level of control over one's work and personality traits is not statistically significant.

    4.4.3 Burnout

    Figure 4.6

    Figure 4.3 shows that the opinion of the respondents with respect to feeling of burnout from work varies greatly with 37% who disagree and 32% agree.

    A Pearson Correlation was made to determine whether there was a relationship with personality traits and feeling of burnout. The table below shows the result:

    Table VI Correlations

    Feeling of burnout

    Personality traits

    Feeling of burnout

    Pearson Correlation

    1

    -.031

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .728

    N

    125

    125

    Personality traits

    Pearson Correlation

    -.031

    1

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .728

    N

    125

    125

    Since the Pearson's r value is -0.31 it can be concluded that there is little or even no association between feeling of burnout and personality traits. The p-value also confirm the above statement since the Sig (2-tailed) value is greater than 0.05.

    Table VII Level of control * Feeling of burnout Crosstabulation

    Feeling of burnout

    Total

    agree

    strongly agree

    disagree

    strongly disagree

    Level of control

    Strong

    Count

    9

    9

    11

    1

    30

    % within Feeling of burnout

    22.5%

    25.0%

    23.9%

    33.3%

    24.0%

    average

    Count

    10

    11

    19

    1

    41

    % within Feeling of burnout

    25.0%

    30.6%

    41.3%

    33.3%

    32.8%

    low

    Count

    21

    16

    16

    1

    54

    % within Feeling of burnout

    52.5%

    44.4%

    34.8%

    33.3%

    43.2%

    Total

    Count

    40

    36

    46

    3

    125

    % within Feeling of burnout

    100.0%

    100.0%

    100.0%

    100.0%

    100.0%

    4.5: Shift work system

    4.5.1: Circadian Rhythm

    Figure 4.7

    It was observed that within the call centre industry there is a need for a 24hr running business. Hence to be able to deal with this system, shift work should be implemented. However it has been noted that the shift work system is designed according to other countries working hours. Therefore, the agents work on a non-standard shift system which usually varies such as 10am-7pm/ 11am-8pm/ 5pm-2am. Through the literature review it has been discussed that shift work has an effect on the CR of an individual. So it was important to know whether the agents have ever heard about it. The above pie chart illustrates the results. 74% of the respondents did not know about the CR whereas 26% of the respondents have either read or heard about it briefly. None of them had a concise knowledge of the subject

    4.5.2: Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder

    Figure 4.8

    CR Sleep Disorder results in one of the factors illustrated in the above bar chart such as insomnia sleep loss and sleep deprivation. Insomnia was not a major problem among the agents as 84.8% answered ‘No' while 14.4 % ‘Yes'. Sleep loss was considered to be a major issue as 75.2% of the respondents complained of sleep loss due to shift work. Sleep deprivation was a result of rotary shift which means that some agents complained that they do not have a fixed shift. Sometimes if they have been doing for instance a shift 5pm-2am, next day they might be starting a shift at 10am-7pm. However, results for sleep deprivation shows that opinion differs as 50.4% said Yes and 49.6% said No, because this rotary shift system is rare and applied only when there are backups and when deadline are not respected.

    The Pearson Correlation below was made with respect to the knowledge of agents about CR and the different CRSD.

    Table VIII Correlations

    Circadian Rhythm

    Sleep deprivation ( CRSD)

    Insomnia (CRSD)

    Sleep loss

    Circadian Rhythm

    Pearson Correlation

    1

    .050

    -.039

    .176*

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .582

    .667

    .050

    N

    125

    125

    125

    125

    Sleep deprivation ( CRSD)

    Pearson Correlation

    .050

    1

    .088

    .171

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .582

    .330

    .056

    N

    125

    125

    125

    125

    Insomnia (CRSD)

    Pearson Correlation

    -.039

    .088

    1

    -.028

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .667

    .330

    .754

    N

    125

    125

    125

    125

    Sleep loss

    Pearson Correlation

    .176*

    .171

    -.028

    1

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .050

    .056

    .754

    N

    125

    125

    125

    125

    Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

    The different CRSD was analysed and it was observed that there is a positive relationship between knowledge about CR and sleep loss (r= 0.176). Since the Pearson's r value is closer to 0, this means that there is a weak relationship between these two variables. A change in knowledge about CR is not correlated with changes in sleep loss variable. Furthermore, the p> 0.05 (0.50) confirms that there is no statistical significant correlation between these two. The same applies to the relationship between knowledge about CR and Sleep deprivation.

    4.5.3 Intake of stimulants

    Figure 4.9

    To be able to concentrate and work properly, B.Charbotel (2008) argued that many agents use drugs to relieve sleeping problems after/ during a shift. The result above shows that intake of caffeine is more popular among agents representing 58% of the respondents, followed by 32% agents who take sleeping pills and about 10% used stimulants.

    4.5.4: Frequency of intake

    Figure 4.10

    With respect to what they intake to relieve sleeping problems the frequency of intake was also analysed. A simple count was made and the frequency of intake was divided into occasionally, frequently and rarely.

    Ø 29 agents take caffeine occasionally and 44 take it frequently. This represents the high level of consumption of caffeine to be able to cope with their shift.

    Ø 19 agents take sleeping pills occasionally, 5 frequently and about 16 agents take them rarely. They argued that if sleeping pills are taken frequently, over time they will become addict to those drugs.

    Ø The frequency of intake of stimulants was less compared to sleeping pills and caffeine. Only 2 agents take them occasionally, 3 frequently and 7 rarely.

    4.6: Social life

    4.6.1: Work-life balance

    Figure 4.11

    The present section asked different questions with respect to social life of the agents. The result from the survey is illustrated in the pie chart. 28% of the agents agreed with the statement that the number of working hours helped them to maintain a balance between work and personal life as they argued that their shift ends up earlier than others and they had enough time to balance both. However, 42% of the respondents strongly disagreed with the statement as firstly the number of working hours only allowed them to go back home to have some sleep and wake up to come to work. These agents are mainly those starting their shift at 11am or 5pm.

    4.6.2: Family responsibilities

    Figure 4.12

    Shift work causes a major problem for the family of the agents as 50% of the respondent agreed with this statement. As mention above, agents said that they were at home to get some sleep and wake up to go back to work. Most of them are unable to dedicate some time to their family, to go out with them or are even absent on special events because of their work. 31 % disagreed since they are relatively young and family responsibilities are not a major issue for them. The number of working hours was not a burden as the most important was that they were able to get some money by themselves.

    Literature has shown that women are more prone to face work-family conflict. Hence to test whether this statement is true or false for this study, a direct relationship was analysed whether female were facing family problems due to work shift as compared to male. The result is illustrated in the table below:

    Table IX Work-family Conflict * Gender of Respondent Crosstabulation

    Gender of Respondent

    Total

    Male

    Female

    Work-family Conflict

    agree

    Count

    5

    15

    20

    % within Gender of Respondent

    11.1%

    18.8%

    16.0%

    strongly agree

    Count

    20

    42

    62

    % within Gender of Respondent

    44.4%

    52.5%

    49.6%

    disagree

    Count

    18

    21

    39

    % within Gender of Respondent

    40.0%

    26.3%

    31.2%

    strongly disagree

    Count

    2

    2

    4

    % within Gender of Respondent

    4.4%

    2.5%

    3.2%

    Total

    Count

    45

    80

    125

    % within Gender of Respondent

    100.0%

    100.0%

    100.0%

    Out of the 125 respondents, 42 Female i.e. 53% strongly agree that they face family conflict due to shift work while 20 Male (45%) strongly agree that they have family conflict. Thus it can be concluded that Female respondents, were more likely to have work-family conflicts than Male respondents. It can also be noted that 40% of Male respondents disagree with the statement that shift work cause work-family conflict and only 27% of the Female respondent also disagree. However, going through the cross-tabulation table, it can be observed that there is a direct relationship between work-family conflict and gender especially among female respondents.

    4.6.3: Social Commitment and Leisure

    Figure 4.13

    The shift schedule most of the time make it difficult to organise social commitments and have some leisure time. The above chart shows the opinion of the respondents: 61.6% of the agents agreed with this statement as they argued that working in call centres is not an easy task especially the numerous working hours, days or even the fact of working on public holidays. Hence it is difficult for them to indulge themselves in any social activities and have some leisure time. They further argued that even when they are given a day off, they use that time to have some rest and be with their family. They are deprived of external social life and rely mainly on the social life they have at work among colleagues. Once again those who disagreed (20.8% of the respondent) are mainly those involved in the morning shift or those who are on ‘campaign' which allowed them to work only 5 days a week.

    4.6.4: Work-family conflict

    Figure 4.14

    Work-family conflict has been considered as an external factor that can have an impact on the well-being of an agent and also of the performance. However this statement was taken from researches made on call centres. Hence a question was asked to the agents and 46.4% disagreed with that statement as they do not face family conflict due to their work and this in turn does not impact on their concentration and performance.

    Table X Correlations

    Work-family Conflict

    WFC-Impact on performance/ concentration

    Work-family Conflict

    Pearson Correlation

    1

    .021

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .820

    N

    125

    125

    WFC-Impact on performance/ concentration

    Pearson Correlation

    .021

    1

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .820

    N

    125

    125

    4.7: Health problems

    4.7.1: Causes of stress and stress level

    Figure 4.15

    The call centre environment is often referred as a stressful one. It was important to analyse the level of stress and their causes. The respondents were asked to rate their level of job stress and from the results above, 29 agents rated their stress level as severe. They linked that with the volume of work they were expected to do during their shift. Concerning the stress caused by the volume of work, 11 agents suffered from moderate level of stress, 5 suffered from extreme stress and only 1 suffered from mild stress.

    The nature of responsibilities was also among the major causes of stress among call centre agents. However compared to volume of work, only 7 agents suffered from severe stress level while 20 agents complained of moderate stress level.

    Physical environment can also be a contributing factor to job stress. The above results show that only a few agents complained of stress due to physical environment. 8 agents rated their stress level as moderate and 6 agents rated as severe.

    Apart from the three factors mentioned, some agents related their stress level to other factors. They were asked to specify but none of them did. The bar chart shows that most of them complained of moderate stress level because of other factors either internal or external to the work.

    4.7.2: Occupational health problems

    Sleep loss

    Symptoms

    Sometimes

    (%)

    Frequently (%)

    Never

    (%)

    Angry or irritable

    65.6%

    5.6%

    28.8%

    Tired upon awakening

    73.4%

    22.4%

    4%

    Low motivation

    57.6%

    21.6%

    20.8%

    Loss of concentration

    54.4%

    20.8%

    24.8%

    Impaired performance

    51.2%

    7.2%

    41.6%

    Occupational Stress

    Digestive disorder

    37.6%

    3.2%

    59.2%

    Depressed

    28%

    8%

    64%

    Back pain

    61.6%

    31.2%

    7.2%

    Ophthalmic Migraine

    55.2%

    37.6%

    7.2%

    Musculoskeletal disorders

    51.2%

    40%

    8.8%

    Visual Fatigue

    52.8%

    39.2%

    8%

    Table XI

    The above table gives the percentage of the number of agents suffering from different health problems due to poor ergonomic conditions, lighting systems and sleep loss related to shift work system. The different symptoms related to sleep loss have been illustrated in the table and it can be observed that 74% of the respondents said that they sometimes feel tired upon awakening. 66% reply that they feel angry and irritable while 58%, 55% and 52% argued they experience low motivation, loss of concentration and impaired performance.

    With respect to occupational stress, the majority of the respondents (62%) said that they suffered from back pain and 52% from musculoskeletal disorders. 56% suffered from ophthalmic migraine and 53% from visual fatigue. The different percentages have been obtained according to the data collected in connection with the number of respondents suffering from these symptoms either ‘sometimes', ‘frequently' or never.

    Below are a set of correlations made to determine the relationship between the symptoms illustrated in the above table and their different causes as per the questions asked in the questionnaire.

    Table XII Correlations

    Condition of chair

    Back pain

    Musculoskeletal Disorder

    Condition of chair

    Pearson Correlation

    1

    .355**

    .296**

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .000

    .001

    N

    125

    125

    125

    Back pain

    Pearson Correlation

    .355**

    1

    .619**

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .000

    .000

    N

    125

    125

    125

    Musculoskeletal Disorder

    Pearson Correlation

    .296**

    .619**

    1

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .001

    .000

    N

    125

    125

    125

    *. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

    The analysis of the correlation matrix indicates that there is a strong relationship between the condition of the chair provided to the agents and whether or not they suffered from back pain (r=.35), since the p-value is less than 0.01 ( p=0.001). Hence the correlation is significant.

    Table XII Correlations

    Lighting system

    Position of VDU ,keyboard and mouse

    Ophthalmic migraine

  • isual Fatigue

  • Lighting system

    Pearson Correlation

    1

    .352**

    .353**

    .370**

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .000

    .000

    .000

    N

    125

    125

    125

    125

    Position of VDU ,keyboard and mouse

    Pearson Correlation

    .352**

    1

    .300**

    .218*

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .000

    .001

    .015

    N

    125

    125

    125

    125

    Ophthalmic migraine

    Pearson Correlation

    .353**

    .300**

    1

    .726**

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .000

    .001

    .000

    N

    125

    125

    125

    125

    Visual Fatigue

    Pearson Correlation

    .370**

    .218*

    .726**

    1

    Sig. (2-tailed)

    .000

    .015

    .000

    N

    125

    125

    125

    125

    *. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

    . Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).

    The above correlation matrix shows different relationship between conditions of the lighting system, the position of the VDU with respect to occupational ill-health. It can be observed that the few relationships are very strong. The strongest relationship is between the general condition of the lighting system, luminance of the screen, glare and whether or not agent were suffering from visual fatigue (r=.37). The p is less than 0.01 (p=0.001) hence correlation is significant.

    There was also a strong relationship between position of VDU and whether or not agents suffered from ophthalmic migraine (r=.30). With a p-value which is less than 0.01, the correlation is significant.

    CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION

    5.1 Demographic Profile

    During the whole survey and in the analysis of the data collection within the call centre industry, it was observed that internal factors were dominant compared to external factors when identifying their impact on well-being and performance of agents. While analysing the demographic profile section within the questionnaire, it was concluded that there were more female agents than male. Most of the respondents were between 18 and 25 years showing a relatively young working force within this sector. 83% of the agents had Higher School Certificate as highest education level and were working for less than one year. The results confirms the findings of previous researches that call centres employs mainly a young working force coming out of college just after the Higher School Certificate and have been working as agents not more than 1 Year (Bhiwajee et al 2009).

    5.2 Gender and opinion on work environment

    The first hypothesis issued by the chi-square test (r= 9.20 and p > 0.05) implies that the agents attitudes and opinion towards working environment are not significantly associated with gender. However, the cross tabulation demonstrates that there is a small variation by gender when taking into consideration whether respondents ‘agree' or ‘disagree' with the statement that their working environment can be defined as secured and compassionate. The variation shows that male respondents had a more positive opinion compared to female respondents. The results can be supported by the fact that within the target population, the majority of the respondents were female. The findings from the cross tabulation can be taken into consideration and somehow confirm the hypothesis put forward by Kumara et al (2010) that male respondents have a more positive work-related attitude compared to female but the hypothesis is not supported in the study.

    Holman (2002) has defined the call centre as an ‘electronic sweet shop' due to the nature of the work which is tiresome, monotonous, high demanding and agents have no autonomy over one's work. The opinion of the respondents about the working environment as seen in Table 3 indicated that the majority gave a neutral answer to that question. They prefer not to give their opinion on the overall but when it comes to the statement whether they agree with the statement put forward by Holman (2002), it was observed that opinion varies with gender. A cross tabulation was made and it was clear that Female respondents (57%) strongly agree with this statement while the majority of the Male respondents (38%) disagree with this statement. No association was made between other factors such as amount of compensation, training and the use of one's skills and abilities when respondent replied to the question on their description of work with respect to literature. The respondents had more or less the same opinion with respect to salary and training and there were no significant variation with gender.

    5.3 Physical Environment and Occupational Health

    Physical environment was analysed and relationship was made with respect to different health problems such as back pain, musculoskeletal disorder, ophthalmic migraine and visual fatigue. It was concluded that most agents complained of back pain and there was a strong relationship with the condition of the chair provided to the agent (r=0.35 and p< 0.01). It was also observed that provision of inappropriate lighting system, poor luminance of screen and presence of glare is a major cause of visual fatigue and ophthalmic migraine (r= 0.37 and r= 0.30). The relationship between physical environment and well-being, confirms research by Mc Guire (2009) that provision of poor physical conditions might lead to health problems. Charbotel (2008) also confirms in her research that musculoskeletal disorder and visual fatigue were often reported among call centre agents but did not make any relationship with the physical environment.

    However, even if the agents were provided with proper physical conditions to work, they still complain that they suffered from musculoskeletal disorder or back pain. This is because through different lectures such as Industrial Ergonomics, it was observed that many workers did not adopt proper working postures. Moreover, working posture is not the only problem but sitting for prolonged periods and extended work in the same posture are major causes of MSD'S and back pain.

    5.4 Personality traits and level of Control

    One of the objectives of the study was to check whether there was a relationship between personality traits and level of control. The results obtained proved that there were no significant association between the two variables (r= 13.4 and p> 0.05). However, data that has been collected represented in the cross tabulation (Table I) shows that many agents with the personality trait “openness to new experience” have relatively low control over their work. This relationship might be linked to the fact that many agents argued that they were not given adequate opportunities for professional growth within the organisation. Many agents have written shorts notes at the end of the questionnaire provided to them and favouritism was clearly pointed out. One of the respondents clearly pointed out that the organisation politics was unfair with respect to promotion and professional growth due to the system of favouritism and non recognition of the level of effort.

    The results can support the findings of Sawyer et al 2009 with respect to personality trait and performance. They argued that there were no significant association between performance and personality traits. However, those who were open to new experience showed poor performance. In their research, they further analysed different relationships between personality traits and absenteeism and turnover. In the present research these two variables were not taken into consideration. More emphasis was laid on power of agents with different personality traits to have control over their working environment.

    Sung et al 2009 also analysed the relationship between the Big Five Factor of personality and performance. In their study, they came to the conclusion that there is a strong relationship between personality trait openness to new experience and performance. They argued that workers with high openness to new experience will be more motivated and will inevitably increase their performance at work.

    5.5 Burnout and personality traits

    The study did not support the hypothesis that there might be an association between feeling of burnout and personality traits. It was seen that there were no significant association between personality traits and feeling of burnout among agents. As mentioned through the literature review, not all employees experience burnout as this vary according to the different personality traits that each individual possess and that personality plays an important role in the development of burnout. Moreover, it was found that level of control over one's work can develop burnout among agents. The result from the cross tabulation (Table x) shows that agents who have low control over their work (53%) feel burnout from their work. The results confirm the findings of Sawyer et al 2009 when analysing the relationship between burnout and locus of control.

    5.6 CR and CRSD

    It was observed through the hypothesis that there were no significant correlation between knowledge of CR and its related CRSD. It was concluded that even if agents had no knowledge of what CR is all about, they experience at least one of the CRSD. It was observed that most of them suffered from sleep loss which is associated with shift work. The shift systems that most call centre adopts are non standard shifts for example 10 am - 7pm or 5pm - 2 am. Agents argued that it is difficult for them to have a normal sleep after a shift and they often turn to stimulants or sleeping pills. Table 7.2 illustrates the different problems that agents encounter due to lack of sleep. The study confirm what literature has said as most of the agents have replied that they suffer from impaired performance, loss of concentration and they feel irritable and angry due to sleep loss.

    5.7 Work-family conflict and gender

    Number of working hours was a major issue when taking WLB into consideration. Most of the agents said that they were not able to have a normal family and social life. Shift work unable them to spend time with their family especially during important events or get involve in social activities such as ‘clubbing' or having fun with friends. Guerts et al (2008) argued that for most employees balancing work and family is very challenging and failures in this filed often can lead to conflicts. A cross tabulation was made between work-family conflict and gender. The results showed that Female respondents were more likely to face work-family conflict mainly due to the shift system of work. A relationship between work-family conflict and marital status demonstrate that the majority of the agents who are single are likely to face family problems. This confirms the findings of Karatepe et al 2006 that work-family conflicts are not restricted to those who are married with or without children but also single parents and single individuals. It does not involve only men since with time there has been an increase in the number of women entering the working force. However, work-family conflict has no significant relationship with loss in concentration or impaired performance (r=0.20 and p> 0.05). The findings of this study proved that even if the Female respondents have shown to face work-family conflict compared to Male respondents, there were no significant difference in gender with respect to the impact of the conflicts on concentration and performance. The majority of the respondents irrespective to their gender disagree with the statement.

    5.8 External Factors

    After the pilot testing, the questionnaire has been amended as it was observed from the beginning that external factors such as financial problems and government laws were completely ignored by the respondents. They do not face severe financial problem that will have an impact on their well-being and performance and they are not even aware of the laws that protect their Safety and Health (OSHA 2005) or their rights as employees (Employee Rights Act 2008). Hence due to lack of information and time, external factors have been less treated.

    CHAPTER 6 Recommendation and conclusion

    The new Occupational Safety and Health Act 2005 make provision for how to cater and promote health, safety and welfare in working environments. The law makes health, safety and welfare provision not only for workers in the private and public sectors but also for expatriates, self-employed and guest employees. Indeed, one of the main objectives of this act is to reinforce, consolidate and update the legislation on safety and health at work to match the changes in the working conditions of employees brought by new technologies, plants and equipments as well as new hazards. As per section 5 of OSHA05 the employer has general duties as follows:

    5. General Duties

    1. Every employer shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the safety, health and welfare at work of all his employees.
    2. The employer shall, so far as is reasonably practicable, in particular
      1. provide and maintain a working environment;
      2. provide and maintain any plant or system of work;
      3. maintain any place of work under his control, including the means of access to, or egress from it, that is safe and without risks to health;
        1. ensure that use, handling, storage or transport of articles or substances is safe and withoutrisks to health;
        2. provide and maintain adequate facilities and arrangements for the welfare at work of his employees;
        3. provide information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure the safety and health at work of his employees;
        4. ensure that any person not in his employment is not exposed to any risk to his safety or health.
    3. Every employer shall consult representatives of his employees who sit on the Safety and Health Committee with a view to the making and maintenance of arrangements, which will enable him and his employees to cooperate effectively in promoting and developing measures to ensure the safety and health at work of the employees, and in checking the effectiveness of such measures.

    After a thorough investigation of the problem has been made and results obtained and analysed, the following recommendations have been made concerning the factors affecting agent's well-being and performance taking into account the different provision made under the OSHA05

    6.1 Solutions to nature of the work

    In Chapter 4, figure 4.1 clearly shows that with respect to nature of work in call centres, opinion of respondents varied. The majority agree that call centre work was monotonous, tiresome, high demanding, stressful and they were usually referred as emotional labour. It is known that the Human Resource Department has a crucial role to provide support to employees' well-being within the organisation. Hence the following corrective actions should be taken at management level:

    • Management need to implement job enlargement and enrichment strategies by maximising job control by restricting excessive call scripting that limit what employees should say to customers. Reducing the level of scripting, getting agents involvement and participation in job design and setting of organisations' targets and objectives will tighten employee relationship with the organisation and reduce employee stress.
    • Work load with respect to the number of call can be alleviated by the introduction of more sophisticated call handling requirements such as decreasing the number of call per day, increasing the duration of the call and high skill customer interactions. This will lead to higher work motivation and better performance.
    • Making employees more autonomous will allow them to have better control over their emotions. This situation will help the agents to reduce emotional dissonance between what they really feel and what they expressed and lead to better employee well-being.
    • Fostering a positive work environment will encourage agents to be more productive and effective but also to achieve organisational success. Hence, management should adopt a more participative management style that is getting agents involve as much as possible.
    • Reviewing remuneration schemes by the implementation of the cafeteria-style benefits plan where the agents are given the chance to select a benefit package according to their needs. However, before the implementation of this benefit package, employer should first respond to employees wants. In addition to their basic salary, bonuses, increment, medical benefits, insurance and allowances will influence employee's motivation to perform more in their tasks and enhance well-being.
    • Finally, psychology training and emotional management programs can be provided to enhance employee well-being by reducing employees' job stress.

    6.2 SOLUTIONS TO PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

    It has been prove that a pleasant and agreeable physical environment can be a useful instrument to reduce stress and enhance employee well-being and occupational health. Hence appropriate control measure should be implemented with respect to the findings illustrated in figure 4.2 and in Table XIII

    First of all, it has been noted that despite adopting good working postures, workers may suffer from musculoskeletal disorders from extended work in the same posture or from sitting still for prolonged periods. Hence the agents should be informed how to change their working position frequently throughout the day:

    • Adjusting the chair and backrest so that the worker is more at ease to avoid slouching and adopting poor postures in the chair.
    • Adopting frequent stretching of fingers, hands, arms, and torso to allow blood circulation.
    • Encouraging the agents to take regular short breaks to stand up and walk around for a few minutes every 20 minutes or so.

    However, management should see whether the chair provided to the agents are in good condition and repair. The basic parts of the chair such as back rest, seat and armrest are important elements to be considered for a safe and creative workstation:

    • Provision of a chair with adjustable backrest so that there is no pressure on the backs of the legs and feet are flat on the floor or on the foot rest provided.
    • The backrest should be in line with the S-Shape of the spine and provide adequate lumbar support. The backrest height should range from 48 to 63 cm high, while the backrestwidth should range from 35 to 48 cm wide. The backrest angle should be range from 103 to 112 degrees from the horizontal and the armrest height should range from 20 to 24 cm.
    • The chair height should be appropriate for the agent and the work surface height. However if agents are tall, and feet do no rest flat on the floor, foot rest should be provided to them
    • When purchasing chairs, management should see that they have wheels or castors which are suitable for the floor surface.
    • Chair is adjustable from sitting position and that the upholstery is a breathable fabric.

    Armrests, if provided, should be soft, allow relaxation of the shoulders and elbows to be close to the body. If the armrests cannot be properly adjusted, or if the worker feels that they interfere with the workstation and the amount of space, he/she may remove them or stop using them. Adjustable armrests may be positioned such that they support the lower arm and allow the upper arm to be close to the torso within a 90 to 120 degrees range.

    It has been found that there is a strong relationship between the position of the VDU and employees suffering from ophthalmic migraine and a relationship between lighting system and visual fatigue. Therefore appropriate control measure should be implemented such as:

    • The VDU should be position in such a way that it is at eye level and equipped with and adjustable screen position, adjustable brightness and contrast. To prevent reflections from screen and anti-glare device should be provided. Employers should ensure that VDU are located at right angle to windows.
    • The luminaires or other forms of lighting may be arranged in rows and strategically located so as to follow a parallel path to the user's line of sight when facing the VDU.
    • Filters may be used on lights and the use of indirect or shielded lighting must be adopted where possible to avoid intense or excessive levels of brightness or uneven lighting in the field of vision. Lamps must have glare shields to direct light away from the line of sight.
    • Non-reflective surfaces for desktops, mouse, and other items in the immediate vision must be ensured. Equipment and furniture may also be relocated so as to provide sufficient level of attenuation and reflection of light based on their location in the office.
    • Screen/monitor must be regularly dusted and cleaned to avoid dust accumulation forming layers of dust on the screen that can contribute to glare.
    • Glare filters fixed onto the surface of the screen/monitor may help to reduce glare; however, the level of lighting in the office must be sufficient to ensure adequate screen visibility. As such, overhead lights equipped with louvers/”egg-crates” may be used to re-direct lighting.
    • Ensure that wall colour is neutral and not too bright.
    • The inclination of the monitor may be adjusted to control the level of reflection and lighting on the screen. This is especially useful in reducing the level of reflection from overhead lights.
    • In terms of contrast for screen visibility and characters, the computer monitor may be set for dark characters against a light background; these are less affected by reflections than light characters on a dark background.
    • Ceiling fluorescent lights are oriented lengthwise to the sides of the VDU and that the general room lighting is uniform and slightly dimmer than usual office lighting

    6.3 Solutions to health and social effects of shift work

    From the results in figure 4.7 and 4.8 respectively it was found that shift work was a major issue in call centre. The effect of shift work on the Circadian Rhythm of agents and this variation in turn was the major cause of Circadian Rhythm Sleeping Disorder. CRSD especially lack of sleep has proved to have an impact both the well-being and performance of the agents. Moreover, sleep loss was not the only issue as shift work also causes family conflicts, difficulties to maintain a normal social life and hobbies and leisure activities. Below is a set of recommendation that management can adopt to minimise both the health and social effects of shift work.

    1. Safe procedure

    Change in shift rosters/ schedule has proved to have an adverse effect on working and social lives of agents can. Management and employees should work in close collaboration to find solutions to control the health and social effect of shift work. Shift schedules should be developed and agreed by both the management and employees. Before any shift schedules is introduced it is important to identify the need for change to the existing shift system, the benefits and problems encountered by employees from the current shift. Moreover, if there has been mutual agreement between management and employees, appropriate information about the health and safety effects of shift work must be provided.

    2. Length of shifts and working hours

    The recommended number of working hours as per section 14 of the Employment Rights Act 2008 shall consist of 8 hours and may begin on any day of the week. However, a worker working on a shift work system may be required to work in excess but there should be a mutual agreement between the employer and employee on the number of hours of work to be performed.

    Night Shift

    Night shift is more frequent in call centres. Since it is difficult to remove the night shift system and because they work in collaboration with foreign companies, proper control measures should be adopted. As mentioned above in section 14 of the ERA08 night shifts also should not exceed the prescribed 8 hours.

    Taking into account the circadian rhythm, it has been proved that the least activities happen at night, hence it is important to review the amount of work allocated to night shift agents and ensure that it is kept to the minimum. When scheduling night shift, management should make arrangements that there are enough agents working to prevent that any employee is not overloaded with work which will increase the stress.

    Breaks during shifts

    Planning of adequate and regular breaks usually two consecutive pauses of 15 minutes and meal break of 30 minutes are essential. Employers should encourage agents to take meal breaks time appropriately and not shorten to be able to complete their work and finish early. Moreover, it is vital to inform the agents the importance of the meal break rather than only smoking and going back to work. Appropriate meal will help to reduce digestive problem resulting from shift work. Canteen facilities should be provided with hot and nutritious meals and proper facilities for those who want to reheat their own food.

    Rest days

    During shift scheduling, rest days should be well planned. The ERA08 make provision for rest day. Section14 (5) clearly mention that workers should be entitles to two nights full sleep in every period of 7 consecutive days. The rosters should be design in such a way that the agents have at least twice a month a full or a half weekend free. However, shift schedule should be designed in such a way that work on weekends is to the minimum.

    Health assessment

    Health assessments of employees should be carried out to evaluate the effects of shift work on their health. It can be design is such a way that that there is either individual medical examination or general health assessment of the whole working force involve in shift work. However, any health assessment or medical examination should be done only when employees have been given proper information why it is done and whether they agree to participate. The health assessment of employees will take into account the effects on health, the nature of the work and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

    The organisation can appoint an occupational physician to perform the health assessment or medical examination of it can be to the expense of the agent to choose their own physician and issue a certificate of fitness to undertake shift work. For workers who are not fit to undertake shift work, management should find appropriate alternate duty for the employee. Moreover, appropriate training program can be design to inform and educate agents about what can be done to reduce some effects of shift work.

    Welfare Facilities

    Apart from the safety and health of workers at work, employer has the duty ensure welfare. Shift work does not allow agents to maintain hobbies or leisure activities and difficulties to meet family commitments. Different groups can be organised at work taking into account different interest such as support teams or organise fun day where different sports teams can be formed. Management can also sponsor employee sports leagues such as football league or volleyball league which will be accessible for both male and female.

    Since work cause difficulties to meet family commitments, management can organise event bringing employee family members together to have fun for one day. Workshops can be organised on communication and conflict resolution to help employees to deal with work-family conflict but also on time management on how they can plan family activities around their time off.

    Dealing with stress

    Stress was also found to be a major problem among call centre agents. Figure 4.15 shows that the majority has either moderate or severe stress level. Hence it is important that management take the appropriate measures to deal with stress at the workplace. Once the existence of stress has been recognized and the stressors identified, action to deal with stress should be undertaken. If the main cause is a misfit between the demands of the environment and the individual's ability, corrective measures may be taken, either by adjusting external demands to fits the individual or by reinforcing the individual's ability to cope, or both.

    The ideal solution to combat stress is to prevent its occurrence. This may be achieved by tackling the core or the problem-the cause. However, very often there are many causes and the elimination of all stressors is not possible. That is why priority should be given to the elimination of the maximum number of causes. As this cannot always be achieved in the short term, it is generally agreed that the improvement of the worker's ability to cope with stress is a valuable strategy in the process of combating stress.

    Action on the worker

    Ø The preventive approach: better recruitment of workers, counselling of workers on ways of coping with stress and workers education

    Ø The curative approach, this is medical treatment of the sick worker, treatment for diseases like depression can be started.

    Ø Training programmes on relaxation techniques to help the worker cope with stress: Benson's method (Yoga, Tai Chi, Transcendental Meditation etc).

    Ø General support programmes: recreational activities, exercises amongst others

    Introducing a stress policy

    A stress policy will help employers demonstrate that the enterprise recognizes that stress is a serious issue and that it is committed to combating the problem. It will help both managers and employees to assess their responsibilities and the sources of help and information available. The stress policy should include the description of the symptoms of stress and stress-related illness, the responsibilities of both the organisation and employees for managing stress, relevant information regarding stress - related issues such as Employee Assistance Programme on Stress and finally a guidance for carrying out a risk assessment. It is important to note that risk assessment is an important tool for the management of health and safety at the workplace.

    Management review

    All the recommendation made above pertaining to the different problems identified within this study should be reviewed on a regular basis either once or twice a year. Risk assessment of the working environment done by the employer should be recorded and will be an essential document for the review process.

    Conclusion

    The evidence from this research gave a clear indication that there were no major differences between working in a call centre in Mauritius or in another country. As in other researches, the most common factors that were analysed are: the nature of work, the physical environment, shift work and stress and their respective effects on well-being and performance. What I have been able to conclude during this study, was that the stressful nature of the work and shift work was the main concern for call centres agents in Mauritius. The stressful nature of work was linked to the volume of work they were given and their salary. The work is already challenging and agents are self-motivated and ready to put the maximum effort to achieve objectives given to them as they know that at the end of the month they will be rewarded for the effort. In fact things are otherwise, the agents should attain all the objectives but are never fairly rewarded. There are frequent delays in payment of salaries, many mistakes in pay slips almost every month or they are simply paid less than what was proposed during recruitment. I personally think that management should not only take proper measures to address and improve working conditions and working environment relation to well-being and performance but they should abide their statutory duties under the law. For example, section 21 (1) of the ERA08 clearly stipulates that employer should pay remuneration to a worker at monthly intervals. So far most of the call centres in Mauritius was given high status as they were reputed to pay high remuneration to the agents until recently with the case of Infinity which proved the contrary. I firmly believe that this problem was present for quite a long time but the fact that trade unionism is absent in call centre industry, there was a fear to voice out their opinion and fight for their rights. Hence agents either remained silent and continue to work or simply moved out of the organisation a contributory factor for the high turnover rate in this sector. But I think that Infinity employees are considered as role models and that many other agents will follow their steps to fight for their rights. The effect of remuneration system on call centres agent's well-being and as a contributory factor to the high turnover rate can be an interesting topic for further research.

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