MANILA, Philippines—From now on, the call center workforce in Metro Manila will learn to have more “sex” in their daily lives. But this kind of “sex,” health and labor officials clarify, stands for “stress-free, eating right, and exercise.”
The Department of Health and the Department of Labor and Employment announced a joint project of theirs alongside other groups that is aimed at promoting healthy lifestyle among call center agents, majority of whom smoke, drink and lack sleep.
Called “iCare Healthy Lifestyle Office Caravan Project,” the initiative involves the deployment of teams from the DOH to at least 30 call center companies in the capital to hold risk assessments, health talks and workshops that will teach workers how to engage in healthy living for at least three months.
“We will conduct a 30-minute health talk about the problems of call center agents, which is stress, lack of physical activity, unhealthy diet and smoking and drinking. We will touch on all of these,” said Dr. Ethelyn Nieto, former health undersecretary and now chair of the project’s technical working group.
To ensure that the project is sustainable, the health department will return to these companies after every three months. “Then, it will now be the [employers] who will sustain the lifestyle of their agents,” she said.
Nieto noted that call center workers are the second-largest class of wage earners in the country. The booming industry has about 680,000 workers nationwide. But for this year, the project will cover only 200,000 call center agents in Metro Manila.
“We will expand [later] to Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao,” she added.
Assistant Health Secretary Eric Tayag said the health department decided to implement the project first in Metro Manila because 70 percent of the total call center industry is in the capital.
While call center workers enjoy relatively bigger salaries, many of them are at risk for cardio-vascular diseases, diabetes, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease because of their unhealthy lifestyle, noted Tayag.
Majority work in graveyard shifts and they also smoke and drink to compensate for such ungodly work hours.
“We will introduce ‘sex’—stress-free, eat the right food and exercise,” said Tayag. “There will be DOH teams that will go to them…. We will coordinate with the company’s human resource.”
Prior to the launching of the project, a study was conducted analyzing the bioelectrical impedance or body composition of some 1,500 call center agents. Based on the findings, 60 percent of them had higher metabolic age compared with their chronological age.
Nieto said many call center agents are also exposed to high levels of stress, which is a risk factor for hypertension. “So through this project, we will teach them how to relieve stress as well as how to eat right and exercise,” she said.
“We would want to change their lifestyle but we’ll just teach them how to do it. It’s not about dictating to them. It’s up to them if they think they should live a healthy lifestyle,” she added.
The project is in partnership with DOLE’s Occupational Health and Safety Center, the Business Processing Association of the Philippines and the Call Center Association of the Philippines, among others.