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Introduction On Stress Todays age is called The Age of Anxiety and this century is called The Century

of Stress. Today vast majorities of people are in a state of Stress. Their fast-paced lifestyle
demands that they are raring to go always and are always under pressure to perform.
This pressure usually leads to Stress. Stress can be due to various reasons. And Stress in
many cases causes Tension, Depression, Anxiety, etc.
A lot of research has been conducted into stress over the last hundred years. Some
theories about it are now settled and accepted; others are still being researched and debated.
Hans Selye was one of the founding fathers of research on stress. He stated in 1956 that
Stress is not necessarily something bad it all depends on how we take it. The stress of
exhilarating, creative successful that of failure, humiliation or infection is detrimental. Since
then, a great deal of further research has been conducted on the subject, and new ideas have
come to light.
Stress is now viewed as a "bad thing", with a range of harmful biochemical and longterm effects. These effects have rarely been observed in positive situations. Stress is that
stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed
the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize. In short, it is what
we feel when we think we have lost control over events. There are very many proven skills
that we can use to manage stress. These help us to remain calm and effective in high-pressure
situations, and help us avoid the problems of long term stress.
Stress is something that occurs all the time and affects everyone one way or another at
least some of the time. Stress can be a good thing. It can be a source of motivation to help get
something done or help one to react quickly to a potentially dangerous situation.

What Is Stress?
It isnt easy to find a generally acceptable definition of stress. The word with
different people takes different meanings be it professionals, psychologists, doctors,
engineers, management consultants, all use the word in their own distinctive ways.
Management consultants talk in terms of organizational challenges, psychologists in terms
of human behaviour and doctors in terms of psychological mechanisms.
The word stress is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a state of affair
involving demand on physical or mental energy". A condition or circumstance (not
always adverse), which can disturb the normal physical and mental health of an
individual. In medical parlance 'stress' is defined as a perturbation of the bodys homeostasis.
Stress is the "wear and tear" our bodies experience as we adjust to our continually
changing environment; it has physical and emotional effects on us and can create
positive or negative feelings. As a positive influence, stress can help compel us to
action; it can result in a new awareness and an exciting new perspective. As a negative
influence, it can result in feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which in turn
can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high
blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. With the death of a loved one, the birth of a
child, a job promotion, or a new relationship, we experience stress as we read just
our lives. In so adjusting to different circumstances, stress will help or hinder us depending
on how we react to it.
Stress is a fact of life. But too much stress can break down a person's physical,
mental, and emotional health. Planning can help people to manage stress in their lives. They
must begin to make choices that support their values and develop a personal plan to take
charge of their lives.

Types Of Stress EUSTRESS - Eustress is a type of short-term stress that provides immediate strength.
Eustress arises at points of increased physical activity, enthusiasm, and creativity. Eustress
is a positive stress that arises when motivation and inspiration are needed. A gymnast
experiences eustress before a competition.
DISTRESS - Distress is a negative stress brought about by constant readjustments or
alterations in a routine. Distress creates feelings of discomfort and unfamiliarity.
There are two types of distress.

Acute stress is an intense stress that arrives and disappears quickly. Acute stress is the
most common form of stress. It comes from demands and pressures of the recent past
and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. Acute stress is thrilling and
exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting. Because it is short term, acute stress
doesn't have enough time to do the extensive damage associated with long-term stress.
Acute stress can crop up in anyone's life, and it is highly treatable and manageable.


Chronic stress is a prolonged stress that exists for weeks, months, or even years.
Someone who is constantly relocating or changing jobs may experience distress. Chronic
stress destroys bodies, minds and lives. It wreaks havoc through long-term attrition. It's
the stress of poverty, of dysfunctional families, of being trapped in an unhappy marriage
or in a despised job or career

HYPERSTRESS - Hyper stress occurs when an individual is pushed beyond what he or

she can handle. Hyper stress results from being overloaded or overworked. When someone
is hyper stressed, even little things can trigger a strong emotional response. A Wall Street
trader is likely to experience hyper stress.
HYPOSTRESS - Hypo stress is the opposite of hyper stress. Hypo stress occurs when an
individual is bored or unchallenged. People who experience hypo stress are often restless
and uninspired. A factory worker who performs repetitive tasks might experience hypo

Effects Of Stress The human bodys reaction to stress is natural. It results from the need to resist a
stressful situation. For example, when a person is nervous, there is an increase in his/her
pulse rate. This is a fight or flight response. However, things can go out of control if too
much stress is present. The person can have a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Too much
of stress can tell upon a persons health. If neglected, it can lead to serious health disorders at
a later stage.

Physical Effects :

Increased heart rate and blood pressure

Sudden increase or decrease in weight (change in appetite)

Frequent headaches, fatigue, and respiratory Problems

Nervous weakness ( biting nails, too much sweating)


Reduced immunity to common colds and flu

Ulcers and weak digestive system

Psychological Affects :

Difficulty in concentrating

Unable to spend leisure time productively

Always anxious

Bad decision making

Mood swings

Increased usage of food, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs

Developing fears and phobias

Feeling out of control and confused

Strategies For Coping With Stress After understanding the sources of stress and the effects of stress on individuals, let us
discuss some strategies to fight stress.
Strategies to Fight Stress
Some of the important strategies for managers to fight stress are prioritizing and
delegating work, laughing a lot, exercising regularly, practicing relaxation techniques,
maintaining a good balanced diet, and having a good nights sleep.
Prioritize work
Multi-tasking is the buzzword these days. An individual requires special skills to
perform multiple tasks simultaneously. One way to minimize stress while multi-tasking is to
plan, prioritize, and perform. Planning involves preparing a list of activities that need to be
performed. This involves considering the time factor. Prioritizing involves ranking the
activities based on their importance and performing these activities in that order. Prioritizing
activities each day is the simplest way to tackle stress. The next step is to schedule time for
tasks depending on the priorities. For instance, a person may have to attend a community
meeting and an official party. He/she may schedule time for both activities by attending the
official party first and then the community meeting.
Delegate work
Some individuals prefer doing all the work themselves. This adds to their stress. They
should learn to delegate routine work to others. For instance, a manager can delegate the
work of preparing a report on a project to a subordinate.
Laughter is a good de-stressor. An individual can relax and de-stress by watching a
humorous movie, reading comics, etc. A sense of humor allows an individual to perceive and
appreciate the imbalances of life and provides moments of delight.
A day without laughter is a day wasted for life. This is very true. Laughter is the best
outlet for stress. It is a great stress buster. Laughter is a no cost, no side effect medicine.

Exercise is another good stress-buster. It keeps an individual physically and mentally

alert. When a person is nervous, tense, or angry, exercise is the best outlet for giving vents to
his/her emotions. Regular exercise lowers blood pressure, lowers pulse rate, boosts blood
circulation in the body, increases artery suppleness, lowers cholesterol, and reduces fatigue
and tension. These benefits help an individual to tackle the physiological changes that occur
during stress. Exercise should increase blood circulation to the heart.
The best strategy to reduce stress is to relax. Relaxation is not being idle. It is doing
what one wants to do, rather than what one should do. It is very important for a person to
schedule some time for relaxation. This relaxation time should disconnect the person from all
his/her tensions, worries. This is the time when the person rebuilds his/her energy levels.
Relaxation techniques vary from person to person.
A good balanced diet plays a vital role in reducing stress. A person tends to neglect diet
when under stress. This may lead to overeating or under-eating. This improper eating results
in a weak immune system and creates health problems. A well-balanced meal that is eaten on
time is very important to minimize stress.
Sleep is a weapon. During sleep, a person prepares himself/herself to face another day.
Stress makes a person sleepless or very sleepy. A stressed person may feel sleepy throughout
the day and awake during nights. On an average, everyone needs at least 7-8 hours of sleep
per day. Some may need more sleep or some less. After a good nights sleep, a person feels
fresh. An individual must adopt a bedtime routine that induces sleep like reading a book that
is soothing, and listening to music that is relaxing. One must go to bed at the same time every


Meditation is one of the most effective techniques in reducing and avoiding stress.
Regular meditation helps in stress reduction. It

enables one to control the thought process

enables one to take effective decisions

helps in physical and mental relaxation

Improves concentration

Meditation is a technique to achieve a thoughtless or mindless state. In this state, a

person has no thoughts. This kind of state thus acts a stress reliever and a great rejuvenator.
Yoga is another important stress reliever. Yoga has been tried and tested since ancient
times. According to Patanjali Maharishi, yoga is the cessation of mind. It is a state of nomind. Yoga is not for bodybuilding. It simply focuses on gentle postures that improve
circulation of blood to vital parts of the body. The increase in blood circulation rejuvenates
the organs and releases stress.
Maintaining work-life balance
Work-life balance means a harmonious balance of work and domestic life. It allows an
employee to fulfill all the roles in his/her life effectively and efficiently. Researches have
proved that employees are at their best when they are contented and motivated both at work
and at home.
Achieving a work-life balance is not as easy as it seems. In the corporate world, change
is constant and imminent. The impact of globalization has further fuelled these changes. The
corporate world signifies uncertainties, too many responsibilities, and long work hours. These
changes in the environment disturb the balance between domestic and work-life of
employees. The increasing competition and demands of society further aggravate the
situation. All this adds up to stress.

Importance of Work-life balance


The corporate world is realizing the importance of the work-life balance. Companies are
realizing the fact that the work-life balance of employees has a direct effect on the
productivity of their organizations. Exhibit 5 explains the various practices that companies
follow to maintain work-life balance.

The importance of work-life balance is due to the following reasons:

Changing social scene:
In todays world, maintaining work-life balance is the greatest challenge employees
face. Employees have realized that their personal lives have an effect on their work life.
Hence, they are striving hard to maintain the balance.
Changing work culture:
There is a shift in the organizational work culture. Todays work culture provides
flexible work hours, focus on results, and recognition of achievements. However, this has
made the workplace even more competitive as employees are expected to always give their
best, and this leads to stress.
Increased work time:
With globalization, organizations are working 365 days, 24 hours, and 7 days a week
irrespective of time zones. Businesses are focusing more and more on customer care. With
the coming of call centers, this focus has doubled. The technology has added to the speed of
work but the workload remains the same.
Dual income families:
The shift in attitudes, work styles, and cultures has disturbed the work-life balance.
Working mothers have major responsibilities of managing both home and work place. This
makes it all the more important for them to balance work and life. Organizations are helping
women by providing facilities like work from home, day care etc.

Benefits of Work-life Balance


Achieving a work-life balance benefits both employers and employees. While the
employers get the benefit of productive and active employees, the employees feel secure and
loyal. It also improves confidence, concentration, self-esteem, and loyalty among the
employees. The concept of work-life balance is still fresh in India. Indian IT companies are
probably the first ones to provide a fun-work environment. Some companies are now
investing in recreational facilities at the worksite.

Steps to achieve work-life balance:

To build up an awareness of the importance of work-life balance in employees,
companies should conduct regular workshops and programs on work-life balance.

The following measures have to be taken by employers:

Discourage employees from working late

Take a regular employee satisfaction survey that can identify the pitfalls in the work

Provide vacations and encourage employees to take breaks

Provide opportunities like work from home, flexi times

Stress Management 9

Every one wants stress-free life. Yet, stress is ubiquitous. Of course, it cannot be
controlled by more nutrients as the real cause of stress is anxiety or pressure which may
ultimately lead to the neglect or proper dietary habits. Stress refers to the circumstances that
threaten ones well being and thereby tax ones coping abilities.
Stress is inevitable part of modern life. Like Janus, stress has two faces. It is a good
servant, but a bad master. In other words, it can be ones best friend or worst enemy. A certain
amount of stress is necessary to achieve success. But, undue stress causes distress.
Stress is received by different people differently. If two people experience the same
amount or pressure, one may be healthy while the other is sick. This is so because our
personalities do influence the level of stress. The present days lifestyle breeds stress and
tension. When tension lasts long, depression sets in.
According to Dr. Raw Baum, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvanian bioenergetics analyst and
stress educator, Stress is our bodys bio-chemical reaction to how we live our lives. Stress
can develop into distress and disease through your personal adaptations to internal and
external environments.
Stress is the bodys reaction to the external demands placed upon it by the environment.
Stress can be either good or bad. Good stress creates the necessary excitement to perform an
activity. This type of stress is temporary and has no long-term effects on the body. Bad stress
creates an alarming reaction in the body. It affects the bodys immune system and has
detrimental affects on the body over a period.
There are many sources of stress for an individual. It can be family, friends, workplace,
superiors, and colleagues. The sources of stress for an individual should be identified. The
effects of stress may include minor symptoms like headache, irritability, loss of
concentration, loss of appetite to major symptoms like insomnia, amnesia, heart attack, ulcers
etc. Stress should be identified and treated in the early stages or it could result in a burnout. A
severe case or neglected case of stress leads to burnout. Exercise, diet, and rest play a vital
role in stress handling. A healthy person is better at handling stressful situations than an
unhealthy person.
A working person should learn to balance work and personal life to lead a happy life.
This work- life balance can be achieved by giving importance to both work and personal life.

Organizations should help their employees achieve work-life balance, as this has an effect on
the productivity of the organizations.
Spirituality at the workplace has become a necessity in todays world. The practice of
spirituality at the workplace enables an individual to deal with stressful situations. It provides
an individual with the strength to face unforeseen situations without panic. Spirituality helps
a manager to deal with stress internally instead of looking for external solutions.
Action Points
Managers should:

Identify sources of stress and their effects on you.

Adopt a de-stressing routine like going for a solitary walk at the end of the day.

Spend time with family, friends.

Make time for vacations.

Practice relaxation methods like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga.

Sleep for at least 6-8 hours.

Plan, prioritize, and delegate work.

Try to maintain a work-life balance.

Managers should not:

Ignore symptoms like frequent headaches, coughs, and colds.

Take on too may responsibilities or demands that are outside your capabilities.

Use drugs, tobacco, alcohol to handle stress.

Use self-medication.

Wait for deadlines to approach.

Stress At Workplace 11

Job stress is a consequence of two key ingredients: a high level of job demands and
little control over ones work.

Workplace Stress
Workplace stress is the harmful physical and emotional response that occurs when there is a
poor match between job demands and the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker.
Stress-related disorders encompass a broad array of conditions, including psychological
disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder) and other types of
emotional strain (e.g., dissatisfaction, fatigue, tension, etc.), maladaptive behaviors (e.g.,
aggression, substance abuse), and cognitive impairment (e.g., concentration and memory
problems). In turn, these conditions may lead to poor work performance or even injury. Job
stress is also associated with various biological reactions that may lead ultimately to
compromised health, such as cardiovascular disease.
Stress is a prevalent and costly problem in today's workplace. About one-third of workers
report high levels of stress. One-quarter of employees view their jobs as the number one
stressor in their lives. Three-quarters of employees believe the worker has more on-the-job
stress than a generation ago. Evidence also suggests that stress is the major cause of turnover
in organizations.
Causes of Workplace Stress
Job stress results from the interaction of the worker and the conditions of work. Views differ
on the importance of worker characteristics versus working conditions as the primary cause
of job stress. The differing viewpoints suggest different ways to prevent stress at work.
According to one school of thought, differences in individual characteristics such as
personality and coping skills are most important in predicting whether certain job conditions
will result in stress-in other words, what is stressful for one person may not be a problem for
someone else. This viewpoint leads to prevention strategies that focus on workers and ways
to help them cope with demanding job conditions. Although the importance of individual
differences cannot be ignored, scientific evidence suggests that certain working conditions
are stressful to most people. Such evidence argues for a greater emphasis on working

conditions as the key source of job stress, and for job redesign as a primary prevention
Signs of Workplace Stress
Mood and sleep disturbances, upset stomach and headache, and disturbed relationships with
family; friends and girlfriends or boyfriends are examples of stress-related problems. The
effects of job stress on chronic diseases are more difficult to see because chronic diseases
take a long time to develop and can be influenced by many factors other than stress.
Nonetheless, evidence is rapidly accumulating to suggest that stress plays an important role in
several types of chronic health problems-especially cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal
disorders, and psychological disorders.
A combination of organizational change and stress management is often the most useful
approach for preventing stress at work.
How to Change the Organization to Prevent Job Stress

Ensure that the workload is in line with workers' capabilities and resources.

Design jobs to provide meaning, stimulation, and opportunities for workers to use
their skills.

Clearly define workers' roles and responsibilities.

Give workers opportunities to participate in decisions and actions affecting their jobs.

Improve communications-reduce uncertainty about career development and future

employment prospects.

Provide opportunities for social interaction among workers.

Establish work schedules that are compatible with demands and responsibilities
outside the job.

Discrimination inside the workplace. (e.g. nationality and language )


Reduce your stress

1. Job analysis: - We have all experienced that appalling sense of having far too much work
to do and too little time to do it in. We can choose to ignore this, and work unreasonably long
hours to stay on top of our workload. The risks here are that we become exhausted, that we
have so much to do that we do a poor quality job and that we neglect other areas of our life.
Each of these can lead to intense stress.
The alternative is to work more intelligently, by focusing on the things that are important for
job success and reducing the time we spend on low priority tasks. Job Analysis is the first
step in doing this.

The first of the action-oriented skills that we look at is Job Analysis. Job Analysis is a key
technique for managing job overload an important source of stress.
To do an excellent job, you need to fully understand what is expected of you. While this may
seem obvious, in the hurly-burly of a new, fast-moving, high-pressure role, it is oftentimes
something that is easy to overlook.
By understanding the priorities in your job, and what constitutes success within it, you can
focus on these activities and minimize work on other tasks as much as possible. This helps
you get the greatest return from the work you do, and keep your workload under control.
Job Analysis is a useful technique for getting a firm grip on what really is important in your
job so that you are able to perform excellently. It helps you to cut through clutter and
distraction to get to the heart of what you need to do.
2. Rational & positive thinking: You are thinking negatively when you fear the future, put yourself down, criticize yourself
for errors, doubt your abilities, or expect failure. Negative thinking damages confidence,
harms performance and paralyzes mental skills.
Unfortunately, negative thoughts tend to flit into our consciousness, do their damage and flit
back out again, with their significance having barely been noticed. Since we barely realize
that they were there, we do not challenge them properly, which means that they can be
completely incorrect and wrong.
Thought Awareness is the process by which you observe your thoughts and become aware of
what is going through your head.

One approach to it is to observe your "stream of consciousness" as you think about the thing
you're trying to achieve which is stressful. Do not suppress any thoughts. Instead, just let
them run their course while you watch them, and write them down on our free worksheet as
they occur. Then let them go.
Another more general approach to Thought Awareness comes with logging stress in your
Stress Diary. When you analyze your diary at the end of the period, you should be able to see
the most common and the most damaging thoughts. Tackle these as a priority using the
techniques below.
Here are some typical negative thoughts you might experience when preparing to give a
major presentation:

Fear about the quality of your performance or of problems that may interfere with it;

Worry about how the audience (especially important people in it like your boss) or the
press may react to you;

Dwelling on the negative consequences of a poor performance; or

Self-criticism over a less-than-perfect rehearsal.

Thought awareness is the first step in the process of managing negative thoughts, as you
cannot manage thoughts that you are unaware of.
Rational Thinking
The next step in dealing with negative thinking is to challenge the negative thoughts that you
identified using the Thought Awareness technique. Look at every thought you wrote down
and challenge it rationally. Ask yourself whether the thought is reasonable. What evidence is
there for and against the thought? Would your colleagues and mentors agree or disagree with
Looking at the examples, the following challenges could be made to the negative thoughts we
identified earlier:

Feelings of inadequacy: Have you trained yourself as well as you reasonably should
have? Do you have the experience and resources you need to make the presentation?

Have you planned, prepared and rehearsed enough? If you have done all of these,
you've done as much as you can to give a good performance.

Worries about performance during rehearsal: If some of your practice was less
than perfect, then remind yourself that the purpose of the practice is to identify areas
for improvement, so that these can be sorted out before the performance.

Problems with issues outside your control: Have you identified the risks of these
things happening, and have you taken steps to reduce the likelihood of them
happening or their impact if they do? What will you do if they occur? And what do
you need others to do for you?

Worry about other people's reactions: If you have prepared well, and you do the
best you can, then you should be satisfied. If you perform as well as you reasonably
can, then fair people are likely to respond well. If people are not fair, the best thing to
do is ignore their comments and rise above them.

When you challenge negative thoughts rationally, you should be able to see quickly whether
the thoughts are wrong or whether they have some substance to them. Where there is some
substance, take appropriate action. However, make sure that your negative thoughts are
genuinely important to achieving your goals, and don't just reflect a lack of experience, which
everyone has to go through at some stage.
Positive Thinking & Opportunity Seeking
By now, you should already be feeling more positive. The final step is to prepare rational,
positive thoughts and affirmations to counter any remaining negativity. It can also be useful
to look at the situation and see if there are any useful opportunities that are offered by it.
By basing your affirmations on the clear, rational assessments of facts that you made using
Rational Thinking, you can use them to undo the damage that negative thinking may have
done to your self-confidence.

Problems during practice: "I have learned from my rehearsals. This has put me in a
position where I can deliver a great performance. I am going to perform well and
enjoy the event."


Worries about performance: "I have prepared well and rehearsed thoroughly. I am
well positioned to give an excellent performance."

Problems issues outside your control: "I have thought through everything that might
reasonably happen and have planned how I can handle all likely contingencies. I am
very well placed to react flexibly to events."

Worry about other people's reaction: "Fair people will react well to a good
performance. I will rise above any unfair criticism in a mature and professional way."

If appropriate, write these affirmations down on your worksheet so that you can use them
when you need them.
As well as allowing you to structure useful affirmations, part of Positive Thinking is to look
at opportunities that the situation might offer to you. In the examples above, successfully
overcoming the situations causing the original negative thinking will open up opportunities.
You will acquire new skills, you will be seen as someone who can handle difficult challenges,
and you may open up new career opportunities.


The Call Center Industry There has been some dispute amongst researchers as to whether it is appropriate to
refer to such a thing as the call center industry. As Bain and Taylor point out, despite
similarities in the integration of computer and telephone technologies, centers differ in
relation to a number of important variablessize, industrial sector and market, complexity
and length of call cycle time, nature of operations (inbound, outbound or combined), the
nature and effectiveness of representative institutions including trade unions, and
management styles and priorities. To this list of variables, Callaghan and Thompson would
add the degree of product complexity and variability and the depth of knowledge required to
deal with the service interaction. Bain and Taylor argue that it is more appropriate to use the
term sector, as call Centers are found across a wide range of industries and may be similar
primarily in terms of their core technologies. They do note, however, that there is a
professional literature and a collective identity that is maintained and developed through
conferences and forums. Belt, Richardson and Webster (2000) agree that call centers are not
an 'industry' as the term is generally defined, but rather represent certain ways of delivering
various services using the telephone and computer technologies across traditional industry
boundaries. However, these authors provide three strong reasons defending the practice of
referring to call centers as an industry:
First, the call center community often defines itself as an industry, with numerous
national and international call center conferences and workshops taking place each year,
industry journals and call center forums organized at local levels.
Second, the labor force requirements of call centers are often the same across sectors.
This means that many, though not all, call centers share a common labor pool.
Third, the organizational templates and technologies used tend to be very similar, regardless
of the sector.
To this one might add the remarkable similarities that international researchers have
found between technologies used, work practices and key issues including monitoring,
control, training, and labor demographics for workers in countries as diverse as Germany,
Japan, Australia, Greece, Canada, the US, the UK and the Netherlands.


Issues In Call-Center Industry For many employed in call center sector, daily experience is of repetitive, intensive
and stressful work, based upon Taylorist principles, which frequently results in employee
burnout. Brown characterizes work as repetitive brain strain. These descriptions are
hardly surprising, in a way, given that call centers are established by organizations to create
an environment in which work can be standardized to create relatively uniform and
repetitious activities so as to achieve economies of scale and consistent quality of customer
service. In other words, that workplaces are organized in ways that weaken employee
autonomy and enhance potential for management control, and a loss of control is generally
understood to be an important indicator of work-related stress.
There is almost universal consensus that call center work is stressful. Even in studies
that report the observation that some staff actually enjoys their work, mention of stress is still
the norm, and a significant portion of the call center literature is devoted to detailing the
sources of stress in call center work.
Four Key Stressors
- Can we get off the phone for a while?
The primary source of stress reported is inherent to the nature of the job: spending all
day on the phone dealing with people one after another, day after day, is difficult. Doing it
under constant pressure to keep call volumes up, with no time between calls to recover from
an awkward call or from customer rejection is even more difficult. And doing it with very
little authority or autonomy to rectify problems that arise is perhaps the most difficult of all.
Many studies report agents as wanting to just get off the phones.
Quality/Quantity Conflict
Typically, organizational rhetoric in inbound call centers is concerned with customer
care, or keeping customers happy (providing quality service), yet these goals are
juxtaposed with an ongoing pressure to keep call times down and call volumes up. Call
centers are rooted in contradictory tensions and structural paradoxes, and confront a number
of trades-offs on that basis. These set a context for attitudes towards the organization and can
impose conflicting role requirements on agents.

The third central stressor in call center work is its intensity. As Bain (2001) argues,
far from being either in terminal decline or on the wane, Taylorismin conjunction with a
range of other control mechanismsis not only alive, well and deeply embedded in the call
center labour process, but its malevolent influence appears to be spreading to previously
uncharted territory. There is widespread consensus that call centers are a new, and
particularly effective, manifestation of the increasingly capital intensive industrialization of
service sector work, and work performed in them is highly intensive and routine.
There is a fourth feature of some call center work that may engender stress:
performance targets. There are various types of targets, which may vary between inbound and
outbound centers. Inbound centers typically have targets for call duration, wrap time, and
daily call volume. Outbound centers often also have sales or completion targets, which are
closely monitored and upon which pay may be partially based. In addition, in some sectors,
inbound call centers are attempting to introduce the practice of cross selling, where agents
attempt to sell additional products to the customers who call in for another purpose. In these
centers, sales targets similar to those in outbound centers are often in place.
Other Health issues
The result of intense, stressful work may be an effect on workers health. There are
often high rates of absenteeism and sick leave reported in the literature, although there is
relatively little exploration of these issues, particularly when compared to turnover. Most
often, authors provide a brief list of known health issues.

Sleeping Disorders
No prizes for guessing the most severe ailment afflicting people working in Indian

call centers. Since this is a unique Indian problem, again, no solution appears in sight.
Obviously this affects first timers more severely, as they take time to acclimatize their
biological clocks, but even experienced people or managers are not able to completely escape
from it. Some call centers are looking at devising innovative mechanisms like flexible shifts
with sleeping arrangements in the office premises as possible solutions.
Digestive System Related Disorders

Working long and odd hours without any sleep, and eating food supplied by external
caterers everyday, has led to 41.9% of the respondents suffering from digestive problems.
Especially for the large number of girls working in the industry, the problem is even more
severe. Many call centers are now taking additional care to ensure their caterers supply
hygienic food; besides stipulating strict conditions to maintain the quality of the food they

In last year's survey, this was not among the top disorders, but this year it has climbed

up the chart, affecting nearly one-fourth of the respondents. Not surprising, since, as the
industry matures, the initial glitz and glamour wears away and the real problems come to the
fore. Not only are there several health related issues, but, on top of that, the gradual
realization that there is limited scope in developing a career owing to fewer growth
opportunities is increasing the frustration levels. Coupled with growing mental fatigue and
increasingly punishing physical environments, depression is the obvious end result. Some call
centers have now devised different stress management programs mainly to counter
depression. Severe Stomach Related ProblemsContinuing digestive problems lead to severe
stomach disorders like gastroenteritis, as endorsed by more than 24% of the respondents.
Even doctors in major cities agree-in recent times many of the patients with various stomach
ailments are from call centers.

Eyesight Problems
Globally call center industry employees are considered a high-risk group for eye-

related problems. While the quality of monitors might impact these disorders, sitting
continually without adequate breaks seems to be the truer reason. The number of people
affected seems to be on the rise-last year only 19% complained; this year it has gone up to
23%. At some point of time, this problem might also afflict the IT services industry, but for
the call center industry, no remedy seems to be in sight.

Ear Problems

More than 16% of the respondents inform that they have hearing problems. Again, no
surprises here, since a call center job involves taking calls throughout the shift, sitting with
headphones. While quality of headphones does make a difference, it would not be correct to
completely wish the problem away by thinking that changing headphones will solve it.

Some other Human Issues, in Call-Centers, which need Immediate Attention Personal
The young executives are getting more than five figure salaries per month in an early
age. They tend to develop certain bad habits such as alcohol, smoking etc. It is not easy to
identify such individuals. It is also very sensitive to talk to them. The professional counselors
can conduct group-counseling, workshops, educative film shows in order to create awareness
on effects of bad habits. Such actions will enable individuals to realize the importance of
good habits and they could seek one to one Counseling sessions to solve their problems.

Discipline and behavioral issues

Call centers provide excellent working environment, free food and transportation.

There is always a situation where individual or group of youngsters tend to commit mistakes
and abuse the freedom. They start behaving like in college campus where they have more
freedom. However, the call center executives have more responsibility and accountability,
they need to follow discipline and do well in the job. The most common behavior is misuse of
food, behave erratically in vans, and smoke in public places, misuse of telephones and other
resources of the company. The supervisors always concentrate on performance and achieving
targets. They do not have time or interest to go deep into these matters and find out the
reasons for such behavior.

Inter-personal relationship and friendship

Executives develop friendship quickly and sometime the friendship breaks and there

will be misunderstanding among the team members and naturally affects the team
performance. The supervisors and counselors can play a major role to sort out the
interpersonal relationship and develop team spirit. Healthy relationship among the team
members has always helped the team to out perform. When the relationship fails the
individuals will also break down mentally. They either absent for duties or fall ill or the

performance will come down. It is also true that due to misunderstanding and break in
friendship they change jobs quickly.

Love affair and marriages

Few of the boys and girls fall in love quickly. They maintain the healthy relationship,

behave in a matured manner, plan the future course of action and such persons have got
married with the consent of their parents. They work together in the same organization for
longer duration. There are instances, where lovers fall apart, start disliking, creating troubles
to each other and vitiating the atmosphere. They are immature, take instant decisions to break
or unite and sometimes go to an extent of damaging others reputation.

Absenteeism is very high in calls centers. Employees tend to be very irregular to the

duty due to various reasons. Professional counseling services to such irregular employees on
one to one basis will help to bring down absenteeism. Counselor can educate and explain the
importance of attending duties to earn salary and also to meet organizational goals. Each
individual are unique and the problem they face are also different in nature.

Higher education and part time jobs

It is possible to do higher education while working in BPO units. Few organizations

encourage and offer support services to pursue higher education. However, time management
by the executives is crucial to go forward in education as well as to maintain performance and
career growth. Programmes on time management, tips to study, tips to keep fit and such other
programmes can be offered. These steps would help to seek the loyalty of employees to
organizations and helps greatly for retention of employees. Organizations do not grant
permission to pursue part time jobs while working in BPO units. In order to make quick
money and to have options open to change jobs in future will drive employees to do part time
work. Human body does not permit to stretch beyond ones capacity. Executives need to take
sufficient rest in daytime so that energy levels are maintained.

Remedial Measures For Stress Management 23

Understanding that the Stress is a major concern for all Call-Center Employees, it is
a duty of HR-heads of Call-Centers to address it properly.
Some of the common signs and symptoms of stress
Although we all experience stress in different ways, there are certain signs that are
most frequently reported. These signs fall into two major categories; physical/behavioral
signs and emotional signs. If we become aware of our own stress symptoms, we will be more
effective in dealing with them sooner rather than later. What follows is a list of some of the
most experienced symptoms of stress.
The physical/behavioral symptoms include; muscular tension, muscle spasms and tics,
rapid heart beat, shortness of breath and high blood pressure, cold hands and feet, backaches,
headaches and neck aches, stomach problems, indigestion, irritable bowel and ulcers, feeling
fatigued, irritable, decreased ability to concentrate, insomnia and changes in eating behavior.
Since these physical symptoms may be related to physical problems, you should consult with
your medical doctor before you assume that your symptoms are purely stress-related.
The emotional symptoms include; anxiety in a variety of situations not limited to the
stressful situation, depression, hopelessness and a strong urge to cry without specific incident,
withdrawal from social interactions and avoidance of previously enjoyed activities,
powerlessness and decreased self esteem, hostility, anger and resentment, fears, phobias and
unwanted thoughts.
Learning to become more aware of your own stress symptoms is the first major step
in the stress management and healing process. It is often helpful to monitor your daily
symptoms in a stress diary where you match the stressful events with the symptom
experienced. For example; you made find that if you are stuck in early morning traffic you
may experience irritability and headaches. In this case it will be important to use these
symptoms as a cue that you have to begin managing that stress more effectively when it

Managing Stress 24

Since stress is an inevitable fact of life that we cant always prevent, our efforts need
to be focused on coping with stress more effectively. What follows is a description of a three
pronged approach to stress management which includes behavioral/practical techniques,
relaxation techniques and cognitive/thinking techniques.
The behavioral/practical approaches to stress management include exercise and eating
a healthy, balanced diet, which includes selections from the basic food groups. In addition, it
is recommended that one avoid the excessive use of alcohol, caffeine and sugar, which
contribute to fatigue and vulnerability to mood swings. It is also important to allow the body
to rest and replenish to help inoculate the body against future stress. Building this stress
resistance also includes scheduling time for leisure and pleasure, which provides for a more
balanced, fulfilling life. Anticipating and preparing for recurrent stressors by managing time,
setting priorities and limits, delegating responsibility, and not procrastinating are helpful
stress reducing strategies. These techniques are effective stress management tools because
their utilizationis within our control.
The relaxation approaches to stress management include a variety of techniques
designed to help you effectively manage the body/mind tension. Progressive muscle
relaxation is an active form of relaxation where you individually contract the major muscle
groups of your body for about five seconds and then you relax the individual muscle groups
for a five second holds. The contrast experienced by this exercise relieves muscle tension and
relaxes the body. Some of the more passive relaxation approaches include listening to music,
reading and using saunas and hot tubs to relieve tension. Techniques used to relax the mind
include meditation and visual imagery. Meditation teaches you how to clear the mind of
stressful and distracting thoughts by focusing the mental energy on positive coping thoughts.
Visual imagery is designed to help the individual visualize him/herself coping effectively
with a stressor that was previously experienced as overwhelming. The behavioral and
relaxation approaches described above are necessary but not sufficient conditions for stress
management. The third prong to stress management, the cognitive or thinking approach, is
essential to effective coping with stress.

The cognitive or thinking approaches are an integral part of coping effectively with
stress and now the primary focus of many stress management programs. Since it has been
determined that we can turn off the stress response by changing our threatening/dangerous

event appraisals to appraisals that help us view these events as manageable challenges, we
have a direct link to controlling the stress response. The first step in the cognitive approach is
to identify our thoughts or internal dialog that is negative, perfectionist, black and white, rigid
and demanding. In other words, you are more likely to experience stress if you believe that
you, the world and other people "should or must" behave in a manner consistent with your
demands and standards. For example, you are likely to experience stress if you believe that
the world and your life should be stress free and that you do not have the resources to handle
stress if it does occur. In addition, demands of perfection on yourself and on others important
to you, increases the chance of feeling stressed since these expectations are unrealistic and
rigid. After identifying your stress producing thoughts you are then able to move onto the
second step in the cognitive approach; recognizing the consequences of this negative, rigid
The motivation to change the stress-producing dialog comes from the determination
that there are serious consequences that result form these negative, rigid thoughts. When you
talk to yourself in a defeated, pessimistic or rigid way, you deny your ability to cope and are
not likely to manage situations effectively or meet goals you set. In addition, perfectionist
demands are experienced as appropriately unrealistic and contribute to a "why bother"
attitude. This attitude reduces the likelihood that you will address these demands since it is a
realistic fact that no one or nothing is ever perfect. Once you are convinced that the dialog is
negative and counterproductive, you are ready to move on to the third step in the cognitive
approach; challenging and replacing the negative internal dialog with a healthier, more
productive internal dialog.
This important step in the reappraisal process requires that you challenge your rigid
dialog by asking yourself a series of questions about that rigid dialog. For example, "Why
must I perform perfectly in order to believe I am a valuable human being?" In addition,
"Does that demand for perfection increase my anxiety and reduce the likelihood that I
perform well at all?" "What would I feel like and would I be more motivated if I changed my
demand for perfection to a desire to do well?" Another example of this reappraisal process
can be seen in the area of criticism and rejection.

Factors That Create A Stressful Call Center -


Stress in the Call Center will affect the agent, manager, director, or anyone in the call center
when they let stress gain control. When this happens, they lose self control and have the
feeling of being overwhelmed. The first step in gaining control is and identifying what the
stressors are and understanding the causes and effects. Stress is caused by many things. Time
pressures, high expectations, lack of communication, high call volume, inexperience, illprepared, to name a few. The effects are decreased productivity, anxiety, low morale, poor
customer service levels, and increased turnover. When faced with these stressors, training is
the tool to resolve the issues. You must go to your training programs and processes and ask
yourself if the training you are providing the call center employees delivers the tools required
for them to accomplish their goals without the negative stress. Approach dealing with the
stress in the Call Center with assertiveness and confidence. One of the most effective things I
have done, in my own call center experience, as well as seen in other call centers, is to have a
specific workshop covering stress. Let employees voice their specific stressors and develop
actions to overcome them and resolve what is inhibiting their performance. Their minds are
then clear and mentally prepared. It will then be motivated for training to make them a more
confident and capable call center employee.

Lack of communication
This is a call center disease that some call centers just gravitate to simply because

everyone is too busy with their job duties and with doing someone else's jobs that we simply
forget to communicate. Sounds harmless but if you don't address it could slowly but surely
drag down your center's morale, employees' self esteems, work life balance, job security,
employees' productivities, etc.

High volume
This one is a little tougher because the causes could be variety of different issues. The

more common symptom of high volume is poor workforce mgmt. Put, workforce team
needs to be very proactive in correctly forecasting your volume two weeks in advance
(within 98% of the actual volume) and be ready with a staffing analysis of how efficient
CSR schedules are by day for you. If this is every week from your workforce team, you will
be well aware of your holes every day for the next two weeks and you can make staffing
decisions before the day happens. If your workforce team is good, then you will better
prepare to handle spikes/lull in your volume.

Another symptom of high volume is poor attendance/retention - if you consistently

don't have the reps that you planned for, then you might as well stay home too. Issues like
these are harder to address because the root causes are never the same. You have to go the
employees and find out why they are not coming to work or why they are leaving you. Once
you have an idea of the root causes, then you and your team can creatively find solutions or
create new policies to address them.
High volume is a self feeding animal - if you don't get control of it, it will surely
brings down your operation. Your frontline supervisors will have to help out on the phones all
the time and they can't work with their CSRs. Employees are constantly going from one call
to the next without much breaks in between. Your boss is constantly on you for high ASAs
and Abandon %s, blah - the story goes on and on and the picture doesn't look pretty.
Common causes include understaffing, impossible service levels, inappropriate or
oppressive management style, mis-match between agent skills and job requirements, mismatch between the stated aims of the job and the actual work being done (e.g. a sales centre
that is swamped with technical service complaints), jobs that require no thought on the part of
the operator and that could/should be automated (directory enquiries, bank balance requests

Stress Buster Methods used in BPO

Handling the abuse


Agents handle an average of 110 calls a day, and 80 percent of the calls that come in
have some level of emotion. Usually a caller is calling in because they're frustrated, angry,
upset, concernedsomething has happened and they're not happy.
Therefore, it is crucial that agents and especially the call center manager note these
occurrences and become better prepared and informed on handling them for the sake of their
workers and their callers. In these situations the task should become how to handle this type
of emotional call rather than instantly labeling it "abusive" and not acceptable.
Job rotation
We instituted job sharing/intern program in our call center. Csrs who meet or exceed
job expectations are eligible to do a rotation for three months in other groups. Csrs work half
a day on the phones, the other half in the correspondence dept, or in the research dept, work
force management, or quality assurance. This breaks up their day, teaches them new skills, &
provides us with a pool of trained staff whenever we need it. Have a job rotation program that
alternate telephone staff to do administrative tasks to break up the day to day grind.
Sports activities
In our call center, what we followed recently is that we organised a sports week where
we asked the agents and their supervisours to organise and also take part in the same. This
has brought a change in their working performance as far as we can see. I personally feel that
you should organise something that will allow the agents change their daily routine and do
something routine.
Budget for activities
If employee turnover is a major problem, you may want to budget money for
employee activities / incentives. I have a activity commitee that plans birthday decorating,
holiday potlucks, contests, etc. Involve the staff to join and participate in the commitee.

Weekly employee focus group


Any employee can come to a weekly or bi weekly focus group with the call center
manager and human resource manager. Questions from the employees are posted publicly
and the date that the issues were addressed. Over time, i have seen focus groups that started
with very serious issues slowly evolve to sessions that become more like rap sessions - more
fun and less serious.
Monthly newsletter from the company
Yes, this is a time consuming endeavor but if done right and done consistently, could
be a great medium to communicate new/revised policies, reward employees/teams, train your
employees, and build strong team spirits.
Daily department huddle
Each team/department should be highly encouraged to have this quicky huddle daily
with their employees. This goes a long way in building that strong bond between employees
and supervisors and yes, you can also use this time to communicate.
Monthly letter from the boss
It could be from the vp of ops, or it could be from the ccm. The point is, the company
will have an opportunity every month to speak to the workforce.



o Organizational Behavior Stephen P. Robbins