Call-handlers' working conditions and their subjective experience of work: a transversal study.
ABSTRACT The present study sought to describe call-center working conditions and call-handlers' subjective experience of their work.
A transversal study was performed in companies followed by the 47 occupational physicians taking part. A dedicated questionnaire included one part on working conditions (work-station organization, task types, work schedules, and controls) and another on the perception of working conditions. Psychosocial risk factors were explored by three dimensions of the Karasek questionnaire, decision latitude, psychological demands and social support. A descriptive stage characterized the population and quantified the frequency of the various types of work organization, working conditions and perception. Certain working conditions data were crossed with perception data.
The total sample comprised 2,130 call-handlers from around 100 different companies. The population was 71.9% female, with a mean age of 32.4 years. The general educational level was high, with 1,443 (68.2%) of call-handlers having at least 2 years' higher education; 1,937 of the workers (91.2%) had permanent work contracts. Some working situations were found to be associated with low decision latitude and high psychological demands: i.e., where the schedule (full-time or part-time) was imposed, where the call-handlers had not chosen to work in a call-center, or where they received prior warning of controls. Moreover, the rate of low decision latitude and high psychological demands increased with seniority in the job. The rate of low decision latitude increased with the size of the company and was higher when call duration was imposed and when the call-handlers handled only incoming calls. The rate of high psychological demands was higher when call-handlers handled both incoming and outgoing calls.
This study confirmed the high rate of psychosocial constraints for call-handlers and identified work situations at risk.