Sick Days: A Call Center Agents Dilemma

As a general rule, most people don’t want to take time off work when they are ill. they’d rather just get one with it. Especially when their main symptom is a cough and sore throat.


Around about this time every year office bugs do their rounds; making a large proportion of the office staff snotty, and cough and yucky. It gives people sore throats, and causes issues with speech as a result. In most jobs this wouldn’t be an issue; you just grab some lemsip, dose yourself up, and crack on. So what happens when you work in a call center?

In a call center your voice is your job, without it you cannot work.

Yesterday I took my third sick day in three years, which I personally think is an extremely good sick rate (3 in 1095, or 1 in 364, or 0.27%). However before I made the decision to call in sick, I had the cell center agents dilemma.

The more people that call in sick, the higher the pressure for the remaining staff. This whole week I have been in, but other staff have been off sick as well. On one of the days I was in we were 12 people down (not all sick, some were off as holiday) but it mean the pressure mounted for the rest of us to pick up the pace. As always we managed. But for me, taking a day off sick isn’t as simple as taking a day off to rest up and get better.

I know I am letting my team down, I know that the calls I am not there to take still exist, so someone else will have to do them. I know I am letting my team manager down. I know I am not getting paid as well.

This is why the dilemma. There is zero protection for call center agents. If we’re becoming ill, we just get on with it. Because there is no paid sick leave for the first three days. So nobody takes preventative measures to ensure that they don’t become more ill. Because they don’t want to lose money.

Our company recently sent an email round which can be summarised as

“if you call in sick, don’t forget, you’re letting your team down”

I assume the idea was more to get staff to only call in sick if they really truly need to. But there’s no denying, there was a lot of grumbling about that being borderline bullying.

Personally I think if a bigger effort was made to lookout for the welfare of staff before they get ill, less would be inclined to take time off sick. I also think if a better effort was made to sort out the offices mouse problem, there would be less germs. We all know how the plague happened….

Computer mouse

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