A dramatic increase in the number of Human Immuno-deficiency Virus / Acquired Immuno-deficiency Syndrome (HIV / AIDS) cases was seen in the last quarter of 2009 and first few months of 2010. Confirmed cases rose from 528 in 2008 to an alarming 709 cases last year. In November 2009 alone, the number of cases went as high as 80. According to the Department of Health (DOH), majority of the HIV infected individuals are sex workers, homosexuals, drug addicts and call center agents.
The escalating number of HIV cases in the Philippine BPO service provider industry, especially in call centers is just one of the many health threats that BPO workers encounter. Ever since the start of the industry in the Philippines, it was already linked with health problems due to its nature. Among other common health problems include stress, physical pains and sleep deprivation among others.
Truth be told, the nature of Philippine BPO service jobs is unlike the nature of most jobs. Call centers for example require graveyard shift employees to cater the needs of US clients (US having entirely different time zone from the Philippines). This demand makes employees work during nights and cope with sleep at day– a totally abnormal situation for many. For a fact, sleep during the day is entirely different from having it at night causing bodily disorders for some. Sleep deprivation causes stress, weakening of the immune system and upset mental processes which results to confusion, loss of memory, mode shifts, and irritability. And these personal struggles could gravely affect one's social and family life.
Yes, it may be that BPO jobs in the Philippines pose health threats to employees but it is also noteworthy that any other job also has their own set of health-related and safety issues. Construction and hazardous industries workers, for example, are continuously exposed to danger while those in the armed forces are close to criminal elements that may endanger their lives and families. Fact is, danger and health risks can be anywhere and everywhere.
What makes the difference, however, is the way these threats are being addressed and the kind of preventive methods that company and individuals practice. Understanding these threats and devising ways to avoid them is very important as much as self-discipline and common sense.
Philippine BPO service provider companies can greatly help in the promotion of a healthy and safe workplace. Some companies today are studying ways to provide welfare facilities for their employees. Stress Debriefing programs, intensified health care benefits, regular medical check-ups, counseling programs and others can greatly help personal, health and mental burdens of workers. As for sexually-related issues, raising high ethical and moral standards in the company as well as installation of surveillance cameras can help avoid sexual encounters in the workplace thus, minimizing the possibilities of STDs among workers. Above all, maintaining a clean working environment is the most important.
The government should make necessary actions to promote health and safety in the rising Philippine BPO industry. A law that regulates workplace safety in companies should be made and ensure that every company complies with the standards. Another ideal act would be the conducting of regular inspections in work areas.
Still, nothing beats personal discipline and good hygiene to protect one's self from diseases and sickness that can be acquired in the workplace. A careful study and adjustment to the lifestyle of a BPO worker is very important. It is also helpful to talk the matter over with friends and family to limit their expectations. High ethical sensitivity is also significant to get rid of temptations. If absence is hard for you, then stick to partners that you personally know and practice same sex. Finally, one has to have a common sense to regulate his life regularly irregular situations. Get as much sleep as you can, cover your room's windows with blankets to make a night-like environment; eat healthy foods; healthy lifestyle and regular exercise. It is also best to submit yourself to a regular medical check-up to administrator medication if and when necessary.