Working Time Flexibilities: A Paradox in Call Centres?

National Institute of Labour Studies Inc.
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Bulletin of Labour, 2010, 36 (2), pp. 178 - 193
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Call centres are a source of job growth in many parts of the world. Jobs in call centres are a manifestation of the opportunities offered by ICT together with the internal restructuring of organisations, to reduce costs and to achieve efficiencies. Extensive research has been conducted on the labour process in call centres, with findings suggesting that the work is demanding and high-pressured, entailing continuous operations with shift work being the norm, repetition and extensive monitoring and control. Moreover, call centres often have many female operatives, linked to non-standard work arrangements and the provision of emotional skills. Two features of call centres that are generally understated in the literature are their flat organisational structures and the use of team structures as a form of work organisation. There are often formal and informal mechanisms that could support flexible working arrangements, especially in the context of work-life balance issues. In this article we examine the impact of call centre work on work-life balance. Given the evidence of a high pressure work environment, we explore the types of working time arrangements in call centres, how working hours are determined, and the impact of these hours on work-life balance. Findings derived from a survey of 500 call centre operatives across 10 call centre workplaces and focus group interviews suggest that, despite the intensive and regulated work regimes that there is flexibility available in terms of adjusting working time arrangements to support non work responsibilities. A reconciliation of these developments is considered.
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