By Charina Clarisse Echaluce
Access to basic health services and information would soon be provided to over a million call center agents, as they are at risk of many serious health problems.
The Department of Health (DOH) has inked a partnership with Johnson and Johnson (J&J) in addressing the health challenges of call center agents, estimated to have reached a total of 1.3 million nationwide in 2016.
“Due to the invaluable contribution of the Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) employees to the country’s economy, the Department of Health enters into partnership with J & J,” Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial said.
“Additionally, the BPO industry is said to be among the fastest growing sectors in the Philippines. These BPO employees represent a significant portion of our country’s workforce today, thus it is imperative that we address every health risk that they face in their work including lack of sleep, job-related stress which they try to counteract with unhealthy lifestyles, among others,” she stated.
Ubial explained the said risk factors could result in serious health conditions.
“These are all risk factors that can lead to serious health conditions, such as respiratory tract infections, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and mental health diseases,” she noted.
Ubial cited the International Labor Organization Asia-Pacific Working Paper Series featured a study entitled, “Business Process Outsourcing in the Philippines: Challenges for Decent Work” which was conducted by Lorenza Errighi, Charles Bodwell and Sameer Khatiwada in December 2016.
“The study referred to a study by a certain Amante in 2010 that found high levels of stress common in the BPO sector, particularly in contact centers. It further said that on the average, call center agents entertained 78 calls each per day that could go up to 100 calls on a busy day. Agents had to respond to at least 91 percent of these calls within 22 seconds, and then were given five to six minutes to address clients’ requests,” the paper disclosed, said Ubial.
Health problems often encountered by BPO employees are headache, fatigue, eye strain, chest and back pain and voice problems.
“Aside from these, a contributing factor is that, since most of the country’s BPO operations served American and European clients, employees had to work night shifts because of the time zone difference. Night work can cause disruptions in employees’ work-life balance and affect their psychological well-being. Another is harassment from irate clients, which was pointed as the prime cause of stress by BPO employees,” the DOH chief added.
It was disclosed that the same paper said the BPO sector had a higher incidence of HIV/AIDS than other sectors; citing a 2010 study entitled “Lifestyle and Reproductive Health Issues of Young Professionals in Metro Manila and Metro Cebu,” conducted by the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI). The study showed that “Philippine workers in contact centers, compared to workers in other sectors, faced a higher probability of exposure to HIV/AIDS; the stress they experienced in the workplace, among other factors, could encourage risky sexual behavior.”
“Another study cited was an ILO-funded study by the Department of Psychology, Ateneo de Manila University validated the prevalence of risky behaviors among contact center workers, including early sexual activity, infrequent condom use and promiscuity,” Ubial further stated, citing “Melgar et al., 2009.”
Tags: Access to health services info for 1.3-M call center agents, BPO industry, Department of Health, health services, International Labor Organization, Johnson and Johnson, Manila Bulletin, risk factors, study