Common Illnesses and Diseases of Call Center Agents and How to Combat It

Call center agents working graveyard shifts face serious health problems. According to the DOH, the lifestyle-related illnesses such as stroke, heart disease and cancer have risen at an alarming rate among call center workers.

The Reason?

According to the 2008 National Nutrition and Health Survey (NNHS), smoking does not just cause cancer and lung diseases but is also the number one cause of strokes and heart attacks. Smoking is estimated to have caused 50,000 deaths a year and caused more strokes and heart attacks than diabetes, hypertension, obesity and high cholesterol. (

The The Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) has pegged the turnover/attrition rate in the Call Centers Industry at 60 percent to 80 percent, the highest in the world. In some companies, it can go as high as 100 percent annually. A full-time call center agent stays in a contact center for an average of 22 months, while part-time agents stay for an even shorter period of 10 months.

The high attrition rate may be attributed primarily to health concerns. According to the International Labor Organization, 42.6 percent of Filipino call center agents suffer from sleep disorders, fatigue, eye strain, neck, shoulder and back pains and voice problems. Other reports cite odd hours, irate clients, heavy workloads and other demands as driving BPO workers to early burnout. (

Here are the common illness a call center agent could get when exposed to BPO industry and some remedy to counter it.

1. High Blood Pressure

Working in a hectic schedules, stress from difficult and rude customers, lack of sleep, little to no exercise, drinking and smoking abuse. These are the common components why the blood pressure starts to sky rocket.

Remedy: Eat healthy foods. Get more fruits, vegetable, whole-grains and potassium rich food which can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Reduce your comsumption salty and fatty food, oh yes and I mean frenchfries, burgers, pork liempo, fried chicken, etc. If you are overweight lose a few pounds and do a regular physical activity. Limit alcohol intake and don't smoke. Manage your stress and practice healthy coping techniques such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing. Getting enough sleep would also help.

2. Respiratory problems

Too much humidity and cold brought by the air conditioned room plus carpeted floors makes it prone for agents to get respiratory problems such as pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis, and allergy. On some cases, agents shares the same stations or they have no permanent station or working cubicles which makes them more susceptible to any communicable diseases.

Remedy: Early detection is key to prevent the condition to get worst and others from being infected. Getting medical attention, drink plenty of water or fresh juices and rest should be enough to overcome this illness. Wear comfortable and warm clothes to protect you from cold.

3. Acoustic shock

Acoustic shock used to describe the symptoms a person may experience after hearing an unexpected, loud sound via a telephone. Whether it's the shouting and cursing screams from rude callers or static noises and electrical feedback coming from headsets call center agents are prone to this type of disorder.

Remedy: Try to lower down the volume of the headset when taking in calls and adjust it accordingly and never set it to the maximum. When hearing loud noises remove the headset from your ear immediately.

4. Voice loss

Talking over the phone for a long period of time could lead to dry and sore throat due to lack of moisture from drinking little water. In some cases, the strain in your vocal can produce inflammation of the larynx, swelling of the vocal chords, and ulceration on the lips.

Remedy: Drink plenty of water and make sure that you have enough rest. Do not strain the vocal chords further if you have this condition, it could get worst and prolong the recovery.

5. Ulcer

Due to the busy schedule and adhering to scheduled lunch and breaks, the inability to eat on time could lead to ulcer.

Remedy: Make sure that you eat on time if not atleast try to eat little meals in between shift or during breaks.

6. Carpal tunnels syndrome

It occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the palm of the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. Since most of the time agents spends a large amount of time in front of the computer they are more prone. It could affect teh fingers that would lead to numbness of the hand.

Remedy: Avoid repetitive stress, work modification through the use of ergonomic equipment such as wrist rest and mouse pad, and taking proper breaks. Eat food rich in omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins help to prevent CTS.

7. Lung cancer

Smoking causes lung cancer and most agents resolve to smoking when relieving their stress or when bored during small break or just to past time. Long term exposure to tobacco could lead to lung problems and in severe cases lung cancer.

Remedy: Stop smoking. Period.

8. Urinary tract infection

Both men and women are prone to suffer from UTI because of little or no time to go on peepee break. Agents tends to address first their clients and sometimes forget to go on bio breaks thus resolving to UTI.

Remedy: Wear diaper... kidding, just be aware of your breaks and plan to unload on each breaks or lunch break.

9. Depression/Anxiety

When you lost the chance to have a little freedom to relax because your leave was not approved. When you didn't meet the metrics or facing a lot of objections from a rude customer leading to unhappiness and worry. Depression is a very serious matter that needs attention.

Remedy: Try to do activities that is relaxing like swimming, yoga, sports, or meditation. It helps a lot to calm you inner self.

10. Insomnia

It is a sleep disorder in which there is an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired. The inability to sleep on the normal time could lead to insomnia. Especially when one have no choice but to follow the tight working shift schedule. This could affect the body biological clock as the normal sleeping pattern are lost.

Remedy: Do not drink too much caffeine before going to sleep. Turn off appliances like TV or radio. Remove computers inside your bedroom to prevent constant checking of status and notifications from your FB or Twitter accounts.

Some other illness were Anemia and Gall Bladder diseases but they are related to lack of sleep, iron deficiency and sunlight, and obesity. We need to take care of our health because it is the source of our wealth! Taking vitamin C and other supplement is good but nothing beats complete rest, exercise, and healthy diet. God Bless!



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