Where’s my headset?


I thought I’d post this piece I wrote about just one of the many small annoyances which make working in a call centre even harder than it has to be – headset swiping.

For a call-centre worker the headset is the most essential piece of kit much like a marines rifle.. “This is my headset there are many like it..” Officially, in the call centre, we were all individualy issued with our own headset which we were entrusted with the care of. I never got round to naming my headset, but, well, it was mine and I looked after it, neatly wrapping the lead around the headpiece and placing it snugly in my drawer at the end of each shift .

For much of my time in the call centre this arrangement continued untroubled, but  as the busier Christmas periods approached headsets would start to vanish. The call centre bulging at the seams with temps dragged in off the street outside (and then spat out with a P45 just before Christmas) the problem was always there is never enough headsets to go on all these extra heads as the company was just too miserley to buy any more. This led to desperate agents rifling  through drawers for other peoples headsets, often with the encouragement of management who just want to get you on the phone as quick as possible.

Predictably, before very long, things would degenerate into a never-ending cycle. For example I arrived one Monday morning, full of enthusiasm as usual, only to find my headset was missing from my drawer. At my managers suggestion promptly stole a headset and a connector unit from someone elses drawer in another desk. When that person eventually came in to find they had no headset they would then have to steal someone elses. the cycle would continue. Annoying.

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5 thoughts on “Where’s my headset?

  1. Like this! I bet they will not let you take your headset out of the building either….Have you ever been told that you have to pay £70.00 for your headset if its lost or damaged – I was once told this by the company that run the call centres for NHS Direct – Conduit. Utter gobshites they are…love the blog- keep up the good work.

  2. We don’t even have our ‘own’ headset. It’s first come first serve. Some are too quiet, some are uncomfortable, some have a mute button, some have one that doesn’t work, it’s ridiculous.

    I like the Full Metal Jacket reference. It’s the second I’ve seen recently comparing a call centre to being a soldier. I’d never thought about it before. It’s an interesting idea. Both make you sacrifice your autonomy and morals (well, to a certain extent. I feel that way slightly at least).

    • That sounds like a total nightmare to me. The thing which gets me is that the headset is an, if not the, essential piece of kit in a call-centre yet many places seem content to spend as little as possible on them. I mean how can you do your job effectively if you can’t hear callers?

      Thankfully my current place has a more enlightened approach. My headset recently broke so I approached a team leader and after filling out a small slip saying what was wrong with it (one earpiece kept cutting out) I was given a brand-new one complete with spare ear-muff things and even an impressively titled ‘hygeine kit’ consisting of some wet wipes.

      I agree too about the similarity between the sacrifice of autonomy and morals. One of the things I felt most keenly in the call centre – and which I know some colleagues really felt was the immorality of some of what we had to do such as the lies and half-truths we had to tell customers. The whole structure of the place was even built upon a morally ambiguous deception – essentially we were pretending to be from whatever organisation flashed up on the screen of our phones. As for autonomy that speaks for itself! The thing about full metal jacket too was the de-humanising experience of the environment right from the opening scene when the recruits were having their heads shaved – erasing their individuality – there are certain parallels I think to the way in which the call centre is an environment in which the individual spirit is discouraged and standardisation held as the ideal.

  3. So did anyone ever come up with a workable (yet affordable) solution for headset theft/loss prevention where you all worked?

    • No – the thing was it was encouraged by management. If your headset was gone they’d tell you to just take someone else’s. I think this was because their priority was getting you on the phones ASAP. The simple solution would have been just to have enough headsets, or for the managers to have some spares.

      Another place I did work at didn’t have that problem, but the issue there was with cables and leads – the headsets (kept in your own individual box in a cupboard) were connected via a thing with volume control. When these leads and units broke, or were missing the thing to do was to snatch them from the nearest vacant desk (by this point you’d logged in and some desks – like ones next to your friends – were much nicer than others – so you didn’t just shift desks). Anyway, when a person coming on shift (people did all sorts of patterns so there were always people coming on shift) sat at that desk they’d then have to find another free desk where they could snatch the required equipment and so on.

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