The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Demand call to stress

The investment count is climbing, new companies are setting up shop and more jobs are being created. The attrition rate is rising, the fatigue factor is growing and the health hazards are on a high.

The outsourcing boom is already taking a toll on the critical component of human resources in the fledgling IT enabled services (ITES) industry, primarily call centres.

'The job offers me decent money, but the stress involved is unbearable. I don't know how long I will be able to cope with the pressure,' says a 20-something employee of a leading international call centre.

Night shifts, daily targets, prying eyes of team leaders, regular performance monitoring and the potential threat of being pushed into training mode are turning call centres into pressure cookers. Complaints range from the physical to the psychological, from backache to depression, eye problems to frustration.

'People think they can't cope and that's why they drop out. Attrition rate in the city has crossed the comfortable 30 per cent mark in the past 12 months,' says Sunny Bhattacharya of Technable Solutions, which runs both voice and non-voice courses for aspiring employees of the ITES industry.

Over 4,000 people, of the 7,000-odd workforce in the ITES sector, are engaged in more than 10 call centres in the city. The average age-group is 19 to 25, with another 5,000 jobs expected to be created in the next 18 months.

While Technable's Bhattacharya blames the stress factor as the prime reason for the rise in attrition from 15 to 20 per cent just a year ago, Kiran Karnik of Nasscom points out that 'a vast majority' has remained in the industry even after quitting one particular organisation.

'Rise in attrition rate is a concern, but I think it has more to do with growth in the industry and availability of opportunities,' said the president of the apex body of IT and ITES companies in the country.

Karnik, however, admitted that a call centre job, like 'that of a wicket-keeper', is 'demanding' and so add-on training programmes could equip employees to handle stress.

Spokespersons of some of the call centres in the city said de-stressing of employees was becoming a priority. Besides counselling and special training programmes, they are also offering exciting sops, from regular outings to free entry into night clubs.

Linking the stress factor to work timings, Aditya Bajoria of Vishnu Solutions says: 'Working in night shifts is bound to create problems. But we try our best to minimise the impact by talking to them and giving them timely breaks.'

BNK e-Solutions, one of the first call centres in the city, also has its own ways of de-stressing employees. According to Suresh Menon, chief operating officer, the incidence of stress has been minimised by taking extra care of employees concerns.

'These days, people are talking about shifting from BPO to knowledge process outsourcing. Making that transition will not be easy if the companies fail to help their employees in tackling these problems,' sums up IT secretary G. D. Gautama.

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