Photo: Facebook Page of BPO Career Hub
With high salaries, quick promotions and waves of benefit packages, are BPO workers really happy with their jobs? Jaime M. Ragos reports in this article the findings of a very interesting study on happiness measures of workers in the BPO industry.
BPO workers, such as call center agents, are said to be highly paid, given various benefits by their companies. But are they happy in their workplaces?
To find the answer to this question, the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP), with Dr. Socorro M. Rodriguez as researcher and Dr. Nimfa B. Ogena as co-researcher, conducted the research study Health and Social Policy Issues of BPO Workers in the Philippines: Is Happiness at Work Attainable?. The study looked into the health and social life of BPO workers and proposed policy recommendations for them to have productive, healthy, and happy lives.
Online questions included: How would you describe your current state of health? In your current work, how happy/unhappy are you in this company? Which problem(s) arising from BPO industry need to be addressed at present by the government?
Based on the responses, the top three reasons why respondents joined the BPO workforce are: high salary (77%), gain experience (65%), and benefits package (64%).
Respondents of the online survey totalled 698 BPO workers: 51 percent were from NCR, 21 percent from Cebu, 15 percent from Davao, and 13 percent from North Luzon. Majority of them were employed in call centers and the rest were into non-voice services such as back office, software development, medical transcription, and engineering.
To validate the online responses of BPO workers, the researchers conducted separate FGDs for BPO supervisors and BPO workers in selected five sites.
Common health problems of BPO workers
The study revealed that majority of the BPO respondents were of “average health” (50%) and “healthier than average” (25%).
According to Dr. Rodriguez, BPO workers who are of “average health” are those who are not afflicted with serious diseases, don’t have hypertension, diabetes, and other diseases, and do not need to be hospitalized for treatment. But they sometimes suffer from headaches, cough, and other minor ailments due to smoking and lack of sleep.
Meanwhile, BPO workers who are “healthier than average” are those who do not suffer from any ailments. Since most of the BPO workers are very young, they don’t easily get tired, catch cough, or suffer from headache and other minor ailments.
The most common current health problems as cited by the BPO respondets include colds and cough, fever and flu, and asthma resulting from too much smoking. Other health complaints include headache, migraine, insomnia as a result of difficulty in having daytime sleep, and hypertension due to unhealthy diet, among others.
Meanwhile, top social problems identified in the FGDs include lack of quality time with family and friends, addiction to alcohol and smoking, and marital problems. According to the respondents, they would rather sleep or rest during leisure time.
So, are BPO workers happy at work?
The study showed that happiness at work is positively influenced by the importance given by a BPO worker on job productivity in the workplace and the mean number of hours of uninterrupted sleep.
What makes BPO workers happy
Many of the BPO workers are very young and fresh college graduates. Their state of happiness rests on financial, medical, and social factors, the study revealed. However, they are likely to leave their current BPO employer in the next 12 months for higher salary offered by other BPO companies, especially if they experience fatigue and stress due to overtime at their current work. Their work activities are constantly monitored by strict supervisors, respondents said.
The online survey was conducted in selected BPO companies in NCR, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and the research instrument was developed in collaboration with the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP). Seven BPO companies participated in the research, three from NCR, two from Luzon, one from Cebu, and another one from Davao. Respondents were selected by HR managers.
The study also conducted a multi-sectoral forum held last September 2013 at the Pearl Hotel in Manila participated in by government, academe, and representatives of BPO companies. The forum resulted in several policy recommendations and program interventions including: review of current health and safety guidelines for the BPO industry, technical assistance from appropriate government agencies, positioning of Filipinos competitively through training that allows for career development within the BPO industry, and the use of Philippine unit chrono questionnaire tools to identify workers who are really fit to work at night.
Although there have been social, health programs, and policies that the government implemented to protect BPO workers, not all are complied with by BPO companies, the study revealed.
What will make BPO workers really happy, the study emphasized, is when the government pushes for BPO companies’ compliance with standards and programs, and tripartism during consultations.