Virtually There: The Evolution of Call Centres
Call centres were one of the most rapidly growing forms of employment in Britain in the late 1990s and also one of the most controversial, having attracted negative press coverage for the stressful 'pressure-cooker' working conditions which applied in some of the larger and more highly-regimented centres.
Reports had also focused on staff recruitment and retention difficulties experienced in local call centre 'hot spots'. Many of these problems appeared to be associated with having large numbers of workers concentrated together in one location.
However, technological developments means that such concentrations are no longer really necessary for many functions. The combination of high-speed digital telephone networks and sophisticated software and switching technology which underlie modern computer telephony integration means that calls can be re-routed seamlessly to any point. Using this technology, remotely based agents can in effect be managed exactly as if they were physically together in a call centre.
The virtual call centre, as this development is known, opens up many opportunities for flexible management of variable workloads, including facilitating the transfer of work to other time-zones, outsourcing or the use of teleworkers. It is the potential for teleworking in call centre work that forms the main focus of this study.
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