Stress And Psychological Distress In Call Centers

August 27, 2014

In Management & Organizational Performance

stress in call centers

Fatigue, stress, anxiety, irritability, burn out, are some of the difficulties that company employees are facing. Let’s measure their span, reasons and the solutions to be applied.


In 2011, A.Marchand and M.É Blanc published a study on the psychological distress of Canadian employees. Their research was conducted over a period of 8 years among a sample of 5 500 employees from different Canadian organizations. The results show that within that period of time:

  • 46.4% of employees have had 1 episode of psychological distress
  • 23.5% of employees have had more than 1 episode
  • 10.6% of employees have had 3 or more episodes

Key finding: the employees most affected by episodes of psychological distress were in call centers.

Another study conducted in France by Barbara Chabonel et al. (2008) among 2000 call center managers and employees further supports the previous conclusions. At first, their research revealed that over a period of 12 months, 60% of employees had taken sick leaves and 24% were medicated with psychoactive substances. Then, during the same time period, 39.4% of employees showed psychological distress symptoms and 8.3% found themselves in a severe situation of psychological distress.

The symptoms observed by these researchers are:

  • Visual fatigue (77,3% of employees)
  • Auditory fatigue (50% of employees)
  • Speech fatigue or disturbance (47% of employees)

These disturbing numbers require us to look at the active stressors that are present in call centers:

  • Heavy workload
  • Sustained work pace
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Lack of control over the job
  • Emotional discrepancy (the relation between feelings and blurred actions)
  • Competitive environment
  • Being faced with losing a client


Simon Grégoire and Lisa Lachance (2014) remind us that to remediate these issues, the solutions need to take into consideration the emotions, the sensations, the actions and the environment. The MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction) program or Attentive Presence is a proven method that is often used to improve stress management.

New technologies can also help to reduce stressors present in companies. They can increase communication and bring a feeling of belonging and recognition.

It is essential for the wellbeing of the employees to allow them to measure the role they have in a company, to celebrate their successes. Recognition, motivation and reward platforms have found that the core challenge for each organization is to adopt recognition as a daily routine.

To curb the stress related to repetitive tasks, gamification has also proven its worth. Fun motivating games drive employees to challenge themselves to achieve their objectives: motivation campaigns, health and safety campaigns, games, quizzes, progression indexes…

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