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March 2021

3 hygiene problems you face working in a call centre 

Written by Nathalie Leblond
Workplace Hygiene

Wondering how to ensure that your call centre personnel don’t get sick this winter or during the third wave? Read our latest blog to find out what the 3 main hygiene issues are in call centres, and the essential hygiene precautions you can take to keep call centre agents safe.

Call centres - or contact centres - can be large or small, and involve a number of employees being the first point of contact - usually telephonic - for companies and services. They often employ large numbers of people working in close proximity to one another, in shifts, during which they are talking almost constantly. All of this combined means that as far as workplaces are concerned, call centres have more than their fair share of hygiene challenges to negotiate. And even more so during the Coronavirus pandemic.  

This view is backed up by the Research director of the National Association of Call Centres, who stated that call centres have a greater risk of exposure to Coronavirus for employees due to tight spaces, shared equipment, and people moving for shifts.

So lets take a look at those risks, and how best to mitigate them so that you can keep staff healthy this winter.

There are 3 main hygiene problems employees face when working in a call centre: 

As the experts in hygiene, these are the three biggest risks that we have identified in call centres:  

1. Poor indoor air quality, increasing the risk of infection:

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) now recognises that Coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person via aerosols in the air.  These aerosols are released during talking, coughing, sneezing and regular breathing. Though the Coronavirus is still thought to spread primarily through respiratory droplets passed from person to person, the CDC is recognizing that airborne transmission is also a threat since small particles can linger in the air for minutes to hours, be inhaled, and lead to an infection.

This means that indoor environments which house large numbers of employees - such as call centres - which do not have suitable ventilation and air purification strategies in place run an increased risk of spreading illnesses such as the Coronavirus. 'Shared air' is a real hygiene risk.  

When the Minister of Health and Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition issued their directive under the Disaster Management Act Regulations to clarify the extent and conditions upon which call centres may operate during the lockdown, it included “ ensuring that there is proper ventilation”

Whilst it is essential that preventative measures such as handwashing, surface disinfecting, social  distancing and good ventilation remain in place to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus, the growing importance of indoor air quality cannot be ignored, and proper ventilation is not actually  enough anymore.  

We recommend that any business that has a number of employees sharing an indoor space for an entire day invest in an air purification solution, such as the InspireAir72 or the VIRUSKILLER. An effective air purification solution can break the chain of airborne transmission and help you create a safer indoor environment. Installing high-quality air purifiers can help you to protect people in busy indoor environments like a call centre by removing harmful pathogens from the air, so that employees breathe clean air.

2. Inadequate headset hygiene, increasing the risk of infection:

Call centre workers may wear headsets to operate a computer and listen and talk to the callers at the same time. There are many different types of headsets and they could be for both or just one ear, may sit outside the ear (resting on the outer ear) or plug into the actual earhole itself.

Some employers operate a pool of headsets where workers put them in a box at the end of the day and pick any one out of there when they return to work. This system creates a serious risk of infections being passed around the workplace, as droplets that are generated when employees speak are deposited onto the headset. Not to mention the possibility of passing on an ear infection. 

It was for this exact reason that the Minister of Health and Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition’s directive also included a clause to specify that employees do not share any equipment, such as headsets.

Even headsets that are not shared should be cleaned regularly and thoroughly, and we recommend investing in a regular techno hygiene service for your call centre equipment.  Regular techno hygiene treatments will remove grime, stains, dust and other debris, ensuring your expensive call centre equipment is not only hygienic but also lasts longer.

3. Shift working and hot-desking, increasing the risk of infection

Call centres are often run on a 24 hour basis, with employees working shifts. This means that when you're not at  "your" desk, someone else is. Whilst hot-desking may be the norm, it's also a hot topic because it comes down to sharing your personal space with a stranger. And these days, that comes with a hygiene risk, because who knows if the person sharing your desk sanitised their hands before they sat down.  We've written more about this in our previous blog post "To hot-desk or not to hot-desk".

If it simply cannot be avoided, then desks and office equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised before the next shift arrives, as directed by the Minister of Health and Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition. They included a clause to specify that all surfaces and equipment in a call centre must be cleaned and disinfected before the start of a new shift and at least every four hours.

Professional Hygiene Solutions from Initial: 

Initial can assist you with ensuring that your call centre meets the government requirements for a safe workspace. Not only can we provide you with air purification solutions like the InspireAir72 and the VIRUSKILLER, we also have a range of cleaning products that are proven to work against the Coronavirus and which can be purchased from us directly. In addition we can provide you with regular techno hygiene services to ensure that headsets, keyboards, monitors etc stay hygienic and clean.

Contact Initial today to discuss how to keep your call centre staff productive and healthy, and don't forget to download your Office Hand Hygiene Posters.

Contact the Initial team to discuss your hygiene requirements

Nathalie Leblond

Nathalie Leblond

I joined Rentokil Initial South Africa in 2004 as the PA to the MD, and after 6 months maternity leave I re-joined the Company in 2009 as the Marketing Co-ordinator for Rentokil. I'm now the Marketing Communication Manager for Rentokil Initial. I'm still terrified of cockroaches (Americana's only!) but the rest of the creepy crawlies we deal with don't really bug me (see what I did there?), so I guess I'm in the right industry! I am passionate about what we do here at Rentokil Initial and also write for our Hygiene Blog, which can be found at www.initial.co.za. Life outside of Rentokil mostly revolves around my daughter, who has just turned eleven, and my husband (who is a bit older). I love living in Cape Town and wouldn't trade living here for anywhere else in the world.

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