A book review for a lazy Sunday. A book about working in a call center! We get to know the story on the other side of pesky calls.
Working the Phones leads us through the various circles of hell that is the modern call centre. We begin with the experience of starting in the call centre. Here we are introduced to a regimented work environment based on zero hours contracts in which workers can be sacked on the spot for offences. In what makes painful reading Woodcock describes the monitoring of work, what he calls ‘computerised Taylorism’, after the Taylorist organisation of the production line. Each call is recorded and can be played back to check infractions and failures. These recordings form a source of anxiety and guilt, a record of success and failure that generates a culture of confession and contrition, if you want to keep your job. The emotional costs of call centre work come to the fore. These include the costs of trying to ‘smile down the phone’, to project positive emotion, to improvise on pre-scripted encounters to ensure the human touch, and the exhortations of managers in ‘buzz sessions’ to enjoy what is obviously soul crushing work.