Outsourced jobs that make you smoke and drink

Indians may have taken over three-quarters of the world’s call-center
jobs, but they’ve also taken on the stresses of those jobs: weight
gain, depression, boredom and, often, relationship troubles.

Worse,
for the legions in India busy helping Americans reboot their hard
drives or refinance their mortgages, the problems are often more
severe, both because of cultural differences and because the work, by
virtue of time differences with the U.S., largely takes place at night.

"There
are a lot of pressures on people. The jobs are very stressful and not
very creative," said Karuna Baskar, a director of 1to1help.net, a
Bangalore-based counseling service that was contracted by 27 mainly
information technology and call-center offices in India to work with
troubled employees.

As more and more Indians spend their nights
drinking too many colas, trying to sound like Americans and dealing
with impatient clients on the other end of the phone line, "it’s very
clearly showing up in health problems and also tiredness and
irritability," Baskar said. "At work and with their families, they’re
more irritable than they should be, and that’s affecting their
relationships." [Link]

Yes, many young Indians are becoming more irritable. Meanwhile, the young Americans who used to have those call-center jobs are becoming very polite. They’re always saying "please" and "thank you," as in "Please may I have my job back" and "Thank you for considering my application."

Other call-center workers end up packing on weight
when they trade home-cooked meals with family, still a staple in India,
for a diet of fast food, often the only thing available when they
arrive home looking for dinner at 3 a.m. or breakfast at 8 p.m. [Link]

Meanwhile, the young Americans who used to have those call-center jobs are eating more home-cooked meals, having moved back in with Mom and Dad. They’ve got more time to exercise, more time to mow the lawn and wash the car.

In
India, drinking, smoking and drug use are still relatively rare,
especially among women. But call-center workers are taking up the
habits with disturbing zeal, researchers say, either to cope with
stress or to project an air of hip modernity.

A study last year
in the Indian Journal of Sleep Medicine found that 40 percent of
call-center workers surveyed smoked, compared with 7 percent of a
control group, and 36 percent had more than two alcoholic drinks a
week, against 2 percent of the control group. [Link]

Meanwhile, the young Americans who used to have those call-center jobs have given up smoking. It’s too expensive. They’ve also stopped drinking, aside from an occasional swig, whenever Dad forgets to lock the liquor cabinet.

Photo by dgrobinson

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If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

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