Call centres grapple with high attrition rates
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Call centres grapple with high attrition rates

Monday, 30 June 2003, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Amid growing opposition to outsourcing technology jobs to Indian firms, the local back office services providers are also battling with a serious issue back home - high attrition levels.

According to a study conducted last year, some of the larger and more established call centres in India are experiencing a 40 percent attrition rate, compared to the global industry average of 28 percent.

Although lower than the attrition rates of 70 to 120 percent in the U.S., the situation in India's money spinning sector is cause for worry.

Many employees are quitting because of the odd hours, high stress and the resultant health problems.

Take, for instance, the case of Amosha Lyngdoh, 27, till recently a call centre executive. After two years of tedious yet demanding night shifts spent servicing clients in the U.S., and irregular food habits, her body gave up.

"I blacked out constantly. My migraine problem got worse and I didn't feel like eating a thing. I had to quit," Lyngdoh told IANS.

This is no isolated case.

Sushmita Krishnan, another call centre executive, says: "We have eight and a half hour shifts. The most stressful are the 9.30 p.m.-6 a.m. and the 4.30 p.m.-2.30 a.m. ones."

Besides having to rotate her shift schedules every two months, there is also the tedium and stress associated with the job.

"Once you are logged in, you can't fool around or take breaks. You have to work continuously with a few short scheduled time-outs to go to the bathroom or grab a quick bite."

And there are "performance inspectors" who ensure that there is no laxity. The high stress and irregular hours are taking their toll on many of the mostly just-out-of-college employees.

Nutritionists and doctors say there has been a dramatic increase in call centre employees coming to them with problems like hair loss, ear infections from contaminated head phones, ulcers and digestion problems, piles and sleeplessness.

And the only long-term solution they can suggest is to quit.

According to Jitendra Nagpal, a medical practitioner, because of working stressful night shifts where they are paid to be alert and efficient, problems like mild depression and chronic fatigue are common.

"Most of them, because of the nature of their job, withdraw into their shells and become uncommunicative couch potatoes after work hours," he said.

Achal Bhagat, a psychiatrist with New Delhi-based Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, agrees that while these jobs may be lucrative, there is little job satisfaction.

"Call centres need to change certain aspects of their job profile in order to retain executives. There should be yoga classes, stress management classes, longer breaks," Bhagat told IANS.

The high attrition rate is also attributed to the fact that most call centre executives do not see their jobs as a career.

For Richa Singh, an executive with GE's call centre, the reason for her present choice of career is clear -- money.

"I want to save up for an education abroad and this is the easiest way to earn it. It is not very demanding, I get great perks and since I perform reasonably well I get a raise every three months.

"But this is not what I plan to do for the rest of my life."

Fortunately for the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, people are slowly waking up to these problems.

The intention is to promote the BPO sector as a professional career option with good opportunities, rather than as a mere first-stop-after-college job, says Suren Singh Rasaily, head of Planetworkz, a BPO training firm.

"Night-time work does create real challenges on the personal, physiological and social fronts," said Aadesh Goyal, executive vice president of Hughes BPO services.

"Many a time the youngsters eat junk food and, worse still, at wrong times because of the very nature of their work. Companies need to tell employees about food habits at the time of their joining work.

"It should become part of the induction process, like telling them about growth opportunities in the industry. A multidisciplinary approach is required," noted Goyal.

Agrees Prashant Sankaran, chief executive officer of the Digital Globalsoft India Technical Call Centre: "We need to create awareness about the industry like some companies do by inviting parents to visit call centres and see for themselves what kind of work their children are doing."
Source: IANS
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