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Clare Hudson
Clare Hudson
  • 1 Minute Read
  • 21st March 2011

Once Industrial Space, Now Office Space

Call centres are continuing to crop up everywhere and if you haven’t worked in one yourself, chances are you know someone who has. Are these phone filled rooms of call centre staff taking and making enquiries, the modern day equivalent of the factory production line?

The BBC recently said, “More than one in every hundred British employees now works in a telephone call-centre”, which makes up 3.5 % of the UK workforce. The LSE research shows that there are now more people working in call centres than in the coal, steel and car industries combined.

The India Mill factory in Lancashire, built in 1867 and once, the tallest and most expensive building in the country, has now become home to call centre office space rather than the industrial tools and machinery of its past. The repurposing of buildings into office space is becoming increasingly common as the call/ contact centre industry expands.

Author and Cambridge University Graduate Matt Thorne wrote a book ‘Eight Minutes Idle’ which draws on his experiences of having worked in a call centre. He says, "More people have worked in call centres than in the mining industry, and I researched that in 1998”. Today, only 8% of the UK economy’s jobs are in the manufacturing sector as opposed to 40% straight after WW2.

Sue Fernie- Lecturer in Employment relations and Organisational Behaviour said, "People used to work in factories on assembly lines. People used to talk about the tyranny of the assembly line. But it is a Sunday school picnic compared to what we find in a call-centre”.

After University, I worked in a call centre in Hull for 6 months. I had a pre determined script and had to listen to members of the public yell at me down the phone each day. This was commonplace for everyone who worked there; many who had been there for much longer. Long term, it can’t be great for your health.

Despite the negative connotations, call centres have become a vitally important source of jobs in the UK and around a third of call centre staff now have a university degree. Universities have even started offering MSC courses in contact centre management. Average pay for workers is also said to be increasing.

Ann-Marie Stagg,Chairwoman of the Contact Centre Managers' Association said, "Most people that come in see it as suiting their hours or go in there for a couple of years before they move on. What takes some people by surprise is that there is a career path and you can move from the call centre into different parts of the business."