Under pressure

Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure – that burns a building down

Lines which were sung by the irrepressible and legendary Freddie Mercury. We all feel under pressure at times; an observation as true today as when the song was recorded way back in 1981.

At the moment we’re feeling under extra pressure at the Call Centre. This is because our management have been gradually applying pressure in two areas.

The first pressure point concerns our average call times. Management have decreed that an acceptable monthly average is under three minutes per call. Every month a chart is produced to show everyone’s average, this is passed around before being pinned to the wall. Usually there are comments beneath the chart imploring people to get their call times below three minutes. It’s almost as if the place is a Soviet era factory: Brothers, Sisters, Comrades! Next month we must all produce more tractors than ever. We must all work harder for the benefit of the motherland.

This chart makes me hugely angry. Simply because it is a statistical abomination. At present we take calls for about 10 different businesses on about 5 different computer systems. As each business varies so do the calls. For some businesses the calls are more in depth, whilst for others the calls are overwhelmingly short and sweet. Depending on when we work and what businesses we are taking calls for this has a big effect on our overall average. As management have also been experimenting with people taking calls for one business at a time the figures have been even more skewed than usual. Yet when the overall average is produced none of this is taken into account, so people who have the most calls for the complex and involved businesses are unfairly penalised.

Normally this is just an annoyance, but recently managements comments have gone beyond implorations and have become a bit more menacing. The latest being that anyone with an average over three minutes will be expected to come up with ‘ideas about how to reduce their call times.’

The second area of pressure is over the time we arrive at work. Management have been issuing memos for the past few months about how they expect us to be logged on and ready to take calls at our start time. This involves being sat at our desks for at least 10-15 minutes  before we are due to start as we must first log into a minimum of five systems, all with different passwords.

I’m no expert on employment law, but compelling us to work at least 10-15 minutes without pay each day seems slightly wrong. Thankfully most people have been ignoring this however, management have shown they will not give up on it promising to discuss it on an individual basis.

The issue was also raised in my induction last week (I have been there over a year, but for some reason the firm have decided to do all our inductions now including one for someone who has been there over 10 years!). The analogy the manager used was a shop. ow would we feel they asked if we arrived at a shop at the opening time and all the staff were waiting at the door. I kept quiet though the obvious answer would be that this doesn’t happen as the staff will be contracted to arrive and start work before the shop opened.

The analogy I would prefer to use is one of theft. I sell my labour on a contract basis for an agreed hourly rate. If you compel me to provide my labour for free then this is theft pure and simple.

Yet still they apply the pressure.



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