According to a paper published in the Philippine Journal of Ophthalmology in 2008, the length of time that call center workers spend in front of the computer strongly correlates with the severity of eye problems they may be experiencing.
In the same vein, call center workers who use headphones all day and are exposed to unexpected noises often develop a variety of ear problems related to acoustic shock disorder.
Knowing what these eye and ear problems are and ways to alleviate them is an important step towards helping your staff stay healthy and in top condition.
Eye Strain and Vision Problems
One of the top eye-related complaints among call center workers is eye strain or tired eyes. After more than four hours of using the computer, they experience soreness and heaviness of the eyes. Other symptoms mentioned by outsourcing workers include double vision, difficulty in focusing from near to distance or vice-versa, headache, and redness.
In most cases, the eyes become dry. The tear ducts are irritated, which leads to involuntary tearing to lubricate the eyes and relieve the pain. If the eyes were too dry and could not produce tears, then a drop or two of artificial tears might help.
Based on a study on computer users who worked 6 hours a day, researchers suggested that taking short breaks frequently may relieve symptoms of eye strain.
The call-center agents were allowed a one-hour break and two 15-minute breaks… Regular short breaks relieve the eyes from a stationary position which can lead to eye fatigue. The study also recommended looking out of the window at a distant object to help relieve accommodation. In a room without a view, looking at objects reflected in a mirror helps to alleviate eye strain because the viewing distance is doubled in a mirror. A similar recommendation is strongly suggested by the authors of this study for call-center agents.
Another suggestion is to use curved monitors. It seems computer users reported a higher pain score for staring at a flat monitor compared to a 1000R curved monitor, which fits the normal human field of view. Looking at the monitor at a 14-degree angle or higher is also recommended.
Other tips for managing eye problems in the workplace include supplying computer chairs with adjustable heights and strong backrest support. Also, provide lighting that produce between 180 and 460 lux levels of brightness. Make sure the overhead lights will reduce glare and not reflect back at the employee’s eyes.
Ear and Hearing Problems
Loud and sudden noises, such as static caused by mobile phone interference or the sound of a caller dropping the phone, can cause acoustic shock injury among outsourcing workers. The constant stream of calls and the screaming from angry callers can also wreak damage to one’s ear drums.
A study on acoustic shock injury among call center workers in Australia revealed that more than 80% reported feeling pain in their ears, followed by tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Some people reported loss of balance, dizziness, headaches, and, in severe cases, vertigo.
Another study found out that long-term exposure to noise levels of 80 decibels or more can cause hearing problems among call center workers. Researchers suggested that supplying your outsourcing staff with good headsets and training them on how to use them correctly might help in reducing the incidence of aural health issues. Many modern headsets have noise canceling and sound compression features that will surely help your staff.