Occupational voice demands and their impact on the call-centre industry

Hazlett, D. E.; Duffy, O. M.; Moorhead, S. A.
January 2009
BMC Public Health;2009, Vol. 9, p1
Academic Journal
Background: Within the last decade there has been a growth in the call-centre industry in the UK, with a growing awareness of the voice as an important tool for successful communication. Occupational voice problems such as occupational dysphonia, in a business which relies on healthy, effective voice as the primary professional communication tool, may threaten working ability and occupational health and safety of workers. While previous studies of telephone call-agents have reported a range of voice symptoms and functional vocal health problems, there have been no studies investigating the use and impact of vocal performance in the communication industry within the UK. This study aims to address a significant gap in the evidence-base of occupational health and safety research. The objectives of the study are: 1. to investigate the work context and vocal communication demands for call-agents; 2. to evaluate call-agents' vocal health, awareness and performance; and 3. to identify key risks and training needs for employees and employers within call-centres. Methods and design: This is an occupational epidemiological study, which plans to recruit callcentres throughout the UK and Ireland. Data collection will consist of three components: 1. interviews with managers from each participating call-centre to assess their communication and training needs; 2. an online biopsychosocial questionnaire will be administered to investigate the work environment and vocal demands of call-agents; and 3. voice acoustic measurements of a random sample of participants using the Multi-dimensional Voice Program (MDVP). Qualitative content analysis from the interviews will identify underlying themes and issues. A multivariate analysis approach will be adopted using Structural Equation Modelling (SEM), to develop voice measurement models in determining the construct validity of potential factors contributing to occupational dysphonia. Quantitative data will be analysed using SPSS version 15. Ethical approval is granted for this study from the School of Communication, University of Ulster. Discussion: The results from this study will provide the missing element of voice-based evidence, by appraising the interactional dimensions of vocal health and communicative performance. This information will be used to inform training for call-agents and to contribute to health policies within the workplace, in order to enhance vocal health.


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