Working In A Call Center Made Me Fat

Mary Murcott
Posted: 04/19/2010

Corporate health and wellness programs have become more and more important for organizations to implement as they help to cut the costs associated with poor employee health. Organizations have been seeing a rise of absenteeism because of poor employee health—additionally leading to loss of productivity and poor work quality. This case study, first published on Call Center IQ, cleverly outlines how easy it is for employees to fall into a stress trap, but employers can take simple steps to help employees reach better health alternatives.

Working in a call center made me fat. Yes that’s right.

Let me preface this article by telling you I have worn many hats, including former CIO of Budget Group. In comparison to the job at Budget, the call center job was arguably more stressful.

As a call center leader, with the stresses of running the center, I relied on my "drug of choice" to make me feel better. That drug was chocolate! Add fine wines and no exercise and you have the recipe for an overweight leader.

So what did I do? I stopped drinking wine and started exercising. You guessed it! I promptly dropped 70 pounds!

The "Chicken and the Egg" Argument

Does working in a call center make you fat, or does the call center attract an individual who likes a sedentary life?

The truth is human beings were not meant to sit at computers for eight hours a day. While the days of hunting and gathering are long over, having a healthy life and a healthy call center is a matter of choice.

It is a series of choices we make as individuals and as managers of the call center culture we choose to create. So why are we making call center management decisions that don't encourage call center health? Our current environments don’t make it easy for us to keep the pounds off.

In a study on sedentary workers, The World Health Organization and a company called Atlas Ergonomics studied 913 call center representatives. What they found was a higher total daily sitting time was associated with a 68 percent increase in the odds of having a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25.6. Through the research they were able to make the correlation between obesity in the call center and developing Repetitive Strain Injuries. The research also showed a correlation between obesity and personal injury. Thirdly, data showed that discomfort increased as BMI increased. This includes lower back pain, discomfort in the elbows, hands and wrist.*



I. The "Fat Argument" About the Lack of Call Center Health

Suffice it to say that the call center environment is loaded with stress. It is why we adrenaline-junkies love them. We love the complexity, the challenge and the change of working in a call center environment. Complexity, challenge and change in the call center always came served with a helping of my beloved chocolate.

(Sorry dear call center staff—the vending machines are now out of the snickers bars….. because of me!)

II. The Call Center "Sedentary Lifestyle" argument

You’ve got to admit, if you are the type of person who really likes to be active, how attractive is a job where you must be in your seat all the time to answer calls or emails? So, I think there is some validity to this argument as well.

But dear readers stop and think! It does have to be this way—the call center can promote a health lifestyle.

Call Center Health is Call Center Wealth

I was recently at a conference where Healthways, a disease management company, overviewed the design of their new call center. What a different perspective they had on functional design! They did not put in a fitness center, because they saw fitness as a lifestyle and not a destination. But here is what they do to promote call center health:

Healthways spent 18 months custom designing a healthy workstation.

Workstations in the call center are not in linear formats, thereby forcing more walking by way of their non-linear layout.

  • No fryers for food allowed in their call centers
  • No smoking is allowed within 100 feet of the property line
  • Fruit and vegetable stands are made available near the call center subsidizing local farmers market
  • Walking meetings are held outside of the call center
  • Free fitness classes for call center representatives
  • A "4 Square" ball game is embedded in the carpets where call center management and call center representatives can have meetings while exercising

With my renewed outlook on call center health I have great new teams, easy access to food and CHOCOLATE.

So, I think call centers can make you fat if you let them.

In conclusion be healthy and promote call center health. Choose chocolate in moderation. Take this lesson from me. Let’s toast to good health in the call center.

Drastic changes within the organization related to the promotion of employee health need not be a budget-killer. Simple steps and adjustments to diet, non-monetary corporate wellness programs will work just fine. Leading a healthier life will significantly show results by feeling more energized, productive and engaged…all of which are great benefits individually and organizationally.

*Research from Wellsphere.com,

Mary Murcott
Posted: 04/19/2010

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