Getting call center agents in better shape

Katherine Visconti
Several Philippine call centers are investing in their workers' health to boost productivity and profits

LONG HOURS. Many call center agents lead unhealthy lives.

MANILA, Philippines – The Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP) wants call center workers to become active in fitness programs to keep not only themselves, but the businesses they sustain, healthy. 


The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is on board, as its environment control division chief Nelia Granadillos said, call center agents are exposed to a host of potential work-related stress that can affect their health.


She cited the “extreme cold” in their offices and most importantly the long hours they spend seated behind computers. 


No less than the American Cancer Society found that sitting too much will likely shorten your life. Over the course of the 14-year study cited in CNN and conducted on over 100,000 adults, 40% of women and 20% of men were more likely to die if they had sat down for more than 6 hours a day.


Yet physical exercise was found to actually decrease the risk of contracting some cancers, heart disease, and diabetes, according to multiple health experts cited in USA Today


At a press conference announcing the 4th call center fitness program, CCAP executive director Jojo Uligan puts the number of call center agents who are physically active after work at only 20%-30%. He said ideally they would increase that to 80% of the work force. 


Sam White, Senior Director for Human Resources at Automatic Data Processing (ADP), said many industries suffer the same problems. “It’s not an industry issue but more of a dietary issue across the nation.” But he did point out that since many call center workers are relatively young they need to be educated about healthy lifestyle choices.

IN UNISON. From left to right, ADP's Sam White, CCAP's Jojo Uligan and Chris Sports' Arleen Lindo agree about prioritizing physical fitness for call center workers at a press conference announcing their fitness program for 2012. This involves a call center wide olympics with basketball, badminton, table tennis, billiards and darts.

He said the median worker’s age at ADP is 26-27. Uligan said looking at the profile of the industry, most workers are 23-24 years old. 

“When you have a workforce at that age, there’s a certain level of maturity that has to develop,” said White. “If you choose to work in an environment that has a night shift you have to have the maturity to say that you cannot live 2 lives, because that’s going to contribute to health issues,” he added.

He said there was a crucial need for workers to eat and sleep properly.

Attrition rate

Given the high rate of workers moving from one call center to another, it may come as no surprise that the entire Contact Center Association of the Philippines is behind a call center fitness program. 

Uligan said the industry attrition rate was 18%-20% in 2011. White pointed out that the figure represents those who leave the call center industry all together, but some companies can hit 50 to 70% turn over in workforce because of employees moving around within the industry. 

White said ADP aims for a low 15%-20% cumulative attrition rate, since the HR services they offer require heavy training, meaning it’s important to retain employees and keep them healthy. 

Other leaders in the call center industry agree that fitness is a worthwhile business expense. 

Since the average call center worker is young, in demand, and a key breadwinner, an investment in health would benefit not just their companies but their families as well. –

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