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Appl Ergon. 1992 Feb;23(1):29-34.

Operator stress and monitoring practices.

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  • 1Senior Consultant, Management Sciences Consulting, Bell Canada, Montreal, Canada.


This study attempted to identify the major sources of work-related stress among telephone operators, with special emphasis on computer monitoring and telephone surveillance. A cross-sectional random sample of over 700 telephone operators participated in a questionnaire survey (response rate = 88%). The survey included items designed to measure perceived stress, management practices, specific job stressors and monitoring preferences. Call-time pressure items were most strongly linked to job stress by operators, with 70% reporting that difficulty in serving a customer well and still keeping call-time down contributed to their feelings of stress to a large or very large extent. About 55% of operators reported that telephone monitoring contributed to their feelings of job stress. If given the opportunity, 44% of operators stated they would prefer not to be monitored by telephone at all, while 23% stated they would prefer some monitoring; 33% had no preference. The setting of inappropriate individual-call-time objectives, which may be consistently unachievable for some operators and which create conflict between management demands for quantity and quality and also between workers values concerning quality and productivity demands, appears to be the most stress-inducing aspect of the job. In terms of telephone surveillance, the issues of timeliness and specificity of feedback appear to be less important than call-time pressure.

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