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Burned out at my job

Lady Wolfshead

"Peace comes from within" - The Buddha
#1
I work in a modern-day sweatshop -- a call center. I'm lucky enough that it is unionized and well paid. But there are many things about it that are depressing, extremely stressful and dehumanizing.

I took the job 20 years ago (in a different department) because I wanted to work part-time (for reasons of mental and physical conditions, other work, and helping my husband, who has a visual disability with his job and/or schooling). I was lucky to get my job because 24 hours per week paid as much as my previous full-time salary.

How different things were back then. The pressure was so much less - the calls were slow at certain times of the day/week and we would chat or catch up with file work. We got monitored but not frequently - we were trusted to do a good job. We were not hassled about taking sick time (my sick days were always higher than average due to my conditions but it wasn't a concern and I do a good job). We were respected

20 years and and 3 positions later, I am at the end of my endurance. The pressure is unbelievable. We are monitored and evaluated to the point where it's ridiculous - almost every call is dissected and criticized and they record and watch our computer screens so they can see what we are doing every second of the call (calls are 30-40 minutes on average) and afterwards. Our calls and after-call work are timed and we are pressured to work fast but also get reprimanded for making mistakes. We are forbidden from applying for advancement or any other job if we are sick more than 3 times a year - also we get reprimanded. We are told off for being even 1 minute late from breaks. I am still part-time, but part-time staff are forced to take at least 4 full shifts per week. The calls are ALWAYS busy because they have calculated the staffing levels for each second of the day so that there are always people on hold. We have to follow a rigid script for much of the call, and our wording has to be exact. Believe me, there is more.

Also, the job itself is very stressful because the callers are stressed-out, in crisis and need immediate help. One mistake has big ramifications.

Despite this, I have nearly 100% client satisfaction (based on after-call surveys by an independent company). I am good at my job. Yet almost every day I fight wanting to call in sick, even when there is only an hour or two left in my shift. I am struggling with severe depression and anxiety and honestly I don't know how much is caused by my job. At times I don't mind it and I do feel proud of my work. But some days there is a lot of repetition and I just feel exhausted at the relentless parade of calls. I can't sleep at night. I have chronic health issues that are exacerbated by my job.

I am only 3 years from retirement (early retirement at 55, at which time I plan to get some training for a different work-from home job) but not sure I'm going to make it. Unfortunately, I cannot even take training or even long-term leave right now for financial reasons because my husband was forced into retirement by Covid and his pension is minimal. I do have a good pension but honestly I just want to cash it in and learn some other trade. I know I shouldn't do this! If I get to breaking point - which may happen soon, I'm going to ask my psychiatrist to write me off for a few weeks at least. I just don't know what to do. Ugh.
 

Kiwi2016

🦩 Now a flamingo, not a kiwi 🦩
Forum Pro
#2
I am so sorry that you are enduring so much stress as it sounds awful. And to be so watched I can't even imagine what that is like.

I experienced a toxic work environment so can relate to your situation.... I managed to hang on and negotiate retirement at 55 and 1 day...which allowed me to have my pension so was able to get certificate in a completely different field as with pension I am able to continue to survive financially on a much lower rate of pay and less stress.

I dont know if that is possible for you as 3 years is a long time in such an environment and no job is worth it but just thought would share. I think taking some time off can be helpful as I took 6 weeks medical leave which gave me time to regroup a bit.

sending you lots of *hugs
 

A_J_R

Well-Known Member
#3
I had a job I LOVED that turned so ugly and every day was a nightmare. I cried before work, and just being there was so agonizing and exhausting. After I gave my two week notice, the stress lifted, but I was so fatigued, I ended up missing one week of the last two, because I couldn't get out of bed. That how exhausted my body was dealing with that job. I'm so sorry you are going through this. I agree, three years can seem like an eternity. I don't have any solutions, but I feel for you, because I know going into a job like that can be taxing and even devastating. Maybe you can try tor that leave as suggested by kiwi2016?
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Peace comes from within" - The Buddha
#4
I am so sorry that you are enduring so much stress as it sounds awful. And to be so watched I can't even imagine what that is like.

I experienced a toxic work environment so can relate to your situation.... I managed to hang on and negotiate retirement at 55 and 1 day...which allowed me to have my pension so was able to get certificate in a completely different field as with pension I am able to continue to survive financially on a much lower rate of pay and less stress.

I dont know if that is possible for you as 3 years is a long time in such an environment and no job is worth it but just thought would share. I think taking some time off can be helpful as I took 6 weeks medical leave which gave me time to regroup a bit.

sending you lots of *hugs
Thanks so much for your response. Yes I think I will try to take some time off (hopefully several weeks) in another month when I have paid down our bills a bit. I'm so exhausted and sick I'm even doubting I can hang in for another month. We do have union protection so they can't actually fire us for being off sick, no matter how often, if we supply a doctor's note.

Also I need to be stoic and not let the pressure, at least from management, bother me. There is no direct interpersonal drama - it's all bureaucratic and form emails, such as the reprimands we get for being sick more than 3 times per year. Even most their criticism of our calls/statistics/etc have no real teeth in terms of what they can do to us. They can give us official warnings (which I've never had) for things like being late from breaks. But for things like mistakes, call times, etc they can only reprimand us and give pressure us to meet the goals. Basically I could delete their emails unread and simply say thanks for the feedback. If it can't get me fired, I need to not worry about it. My stats are within a reasonable range anyway.

The actual calls are a different thing. My psychiatrist has offered to write me a note saying I can only work 6 hour shifts, not 8 - so I might accept. Again because of the union, they have to honor these medical directives - and several of my coworkers with medical conditions use such notes.
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Peace comes from within" - The Buddha
#5
Thought I would write more about the calls themselves since they are part of the problem. They can be extremely repetitive or stressful. I get to the point after 4 or 5 hours where I don't think I can take another call. I've been in my job for 12 years and I'm just sick of it.

Of course since I had 4 sick occurrences last year I am not allowed to apply for other jobs. If I allow myself to think about that, I get suffused with rage.

Honestly my job is like the Dilbert cartoon where the evil human resources character designs a call center to be as awful as possible. One of the other characters says "if the staff take this number of calls per day, they will wish they were dead. I don't see how we can possibly make it more inhumane." And the evil characters says, "We can punish them for not being cheerful."
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Peace comes from within" - The Buddha
#6
I had a job I LOVED that turned so ugly and every day was a nightmare. I cried before work, and just being there was so agonizing and exhausting. After I gave my two week notice, the stress lifted, but I was so fatigued, I ended up missing one week of the last two, because I couldn't get out of bed. That how exhausted my body was dealing with that job. I'm so sorry you are going through this. I agree, three years can seem like an eternity. I don't have any solutions, but I feel for you, because I know going into a job like that can be taxing and even devastating. Maybe you can try tor that leave as suggested by kiwi2016?
Sorry that you went through this as well. I am just severely burnt out and I'm not sure that taking a few weeks off will change it, but I seem to have no other options. Story of my life.

Thanks for your response. It does help to share this stuff.
 

MosesY

Recovering Alcoholic
SF Supporter
#7
I would suggest writing out a budget if you don't have one, listing all your expenses, add food and gas and put in some money for misc. and maintenance on you car and then see if you can live on your husbands pension and your pension. If you can, retire now, sooner rather than later. See if you can minimize expenses, if you have credit card debt perhaps file bankruptcy.

I think that unfortunately due to the COVID virus and the times we are in your job situation is the norm for most people. Living with mental health problems only exacerbates the problem.
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Peace comes from within" - The Buddha
#9
I would suggest writing out a budget if you don't have one, listing all your expenses, add food and gas and put in some money for misc. and maintenance on you car and then see if you can live on your husbands pension and your pension. If you can, retire now, sooner rather than later. See if you can minimize expenses, if you have credit card debt perhaps file bankruptcy.

I think that unfortunately due to the COVID virus and the times we are in your job situation is the norm for most people. Living with mental health problems only exacerbates the problem.
Hi. Thanks for the reply *hug Unfortunately, I can't get my pension until I turn 55 (I'm 52). I've already done a budget and currently we couldn't meet our monthly expenses if I were to go on Long-term disability (LTD). This is partly because my hours were slashed during the first six months of Covid and the LTD amount is based on your previous year's earnings. I am trying to pay down our credit cards and may be able to go on LTD next fall or winter if I can hold on.

What I've decided to do currently is ask to go on short-term disability for several weeks. My next appointment with my psychiatrist is in 3 weeks. In the meantime I have used a few vacation days to reduce my days per week to 3. I should be able to handle that more easily.

I also paid for a subscription to an app for relaxation and meditation for my phone, and I'm hoping that will help me sleep better and experience less anxiety.
 

Movieaddict

Well-Known Member
#10
I think going out on STD is smart. I’m currently out on FMLA. Got 3.5 weeks fully paid using my vacation. If I wanted longer I could request STD. This time off has helped. I was burning out. I’ve been able to see a psychiatrist and get meds. Allowed for perspective.

Best to you!
 

MosesY

Recovering Alcoholic
SF Supporter
#11
Hi. Thanks for the reply *hug Unfortunately, I can't get my pension until I turn 55 (I'm 52). I've already done a budget and currently we couldn't meet our monthly expenses if I were to go on Long-term disability (LTD). This is partly because my hours were slashed during the first six months of Covid and the LTD amount is based on your previous year's earnings. I am trying to pay down our credit cards and may be able to go on LTD next fall or winter if I can hold on.

What I've decided to do currently is ask to go on short-term disability for several weeks. My next appointment with my psychiatrist is in 3 weeks. In the meantime I have used a few vacation days to reduce my days per week to 3. I should be able to handle that more easily.

I also paid for a subscription to an app for relaxation and meditation for my phone, and I'm hoping that will help me sleep better and experience less anxiety.
I think it is great that you are taking these steps to take care of yourself. Many people either don't know how to take care of themselves or are too far gone to know how to do it.
 

jxdama

Staff Alumni
#12
I work in a modern-day sweatshop -- a call center. I'm lucky enough that it is unionized and well paid. But there are many things about it that are depressing, extremely stressful and dehumanizing.

I took the job 20 years ago (in a different department) because I wanted to work part-time (for reasons of mental and physical conditions, other work, and helping my husband, who has a visual disability with his job and/or schooling). I was lucky to get my job because 24 hours per week paid as much as my previous full-time salary.

How different things were back then. The pressure was so much less - the calls were slow at certain times of the day/week and we would chat or catch up with file work. We got monitored but not frequently - we were trusted to do a good job. We were not hassled about taking sick time (my sick days were always higher than average due to my conditions but it wasn't a concern and I do a good job). We were respected

20 years and and 3 positions later, I am at the end of my endurance. The pressure is unbelievable. We are monitored and evaluated to the point where it's ridiculous - almost every call is dissected and criticized and they record and watch our computer screens so they can see what we are doing every second of the call (calls are 30-40 minutes on average) and afterwards. Our calls and after-call work are timed and we are pressured to work fast but also get reprimanded for making mistakes. We are forbidden from applying for advancement or any other job if we are sick more than 3 times a year - also we get reprimanded. We are told off for being even 1 minute late from breaks. I am still part-time, but part-time staff are forced to take at least 4 full shifts per week. The calls are ALWAYS busy because they have calculated the staffing levels for each second of the day so that there are always people on hold. We have to follow a rigid script for much of the call, and our wording has to be exact. Believe me, there is more.

Also, the job itself is very stressful because the callers are stressed-out, in crisis and need immediate help. One mistake has big ramifications.

Despite this, I have nearly 100% client satisfaction (based on after-call surveys by an independent company). I am good at my job. Yet almost every day I fight wanting to call in sick, even when there is only an hour or two left in my shift. I am struggling with severe depression and anxiety and honestly I don't know how much is caused by my job. At times I don't mind it and I do feel proud of my work. But some days there is a lot of repetition and I just feel exhausted at the relentless parade of calls. I can't sleep at night. I have chronic health issues that are exacerbated by my job.

I am only 3 years from retirement (early retirement at 55, at which time I plan to get some training for a different work-from home job) but not sure I'm going to make it. Unfortunately, I cannot even take training or even long-term leave right now for financial reasons because my husband was forced into retirement by Covid and his pension is minimal. I do have a good pension but honestly I just want to cash it in and learn some other trade. I know I shouldn't do this! If I get to breaking point - which may happen soon, I'm going to ask my psychiatrist to write me off for a few weeks at least. I just don't know what to do. Ugh.
I hope you make it. Tke one day at a time. I worked at a call center and i know just what you mean. The stress is incredible and the monitoring picks apart everything. We even had to raise our hands and ask permission to use the bathroom. Hang in there. One day at a time.
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Peace comes from within" - The Buddha
#13
I hope you make it. Tke one day at a time. I worked at a call center and i know just what you mean. The stress is incredible and the monitoring picks apart everything. We even had to raise our hands and ask permission to use the bathroom. Hang in there. One day at a time.
Thanks Jx. That's crazy you had to raise your hands to go to the bathroom. I'm lucky we do have union protection although for various reasons the union doesn't tend to get involved in most call centre or part-time staff issues.
 

Lady Wolfshead

"Peace comes from within" - The Buddha
#14
I think it is great that you are taking these steps to take care of yourself. Many people either don't know how to take care of themselves or are too far gone to know how to do it.
Yes. i fear the long term effects of untreated stress on the body. I hope I'm not going to get severe physical illness
 

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