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A Look Inside The UK’s First Contact Centre Boot Camp

A Cardiff contact centre is letting its staff swap ringtones for muscle tone thanks to the launch of an innovative new boot camp, the first of its kind in the UK.

With a study by experts at the University of Cambridge released last month claiming that sedentary office work can be more damaging for health than smoking, Firstsource Solutions is tackling the issue by enrolling employees on a 12 week fitness challenge.

The holistic programme, created by Cardiff based Operation Fitness and the Welsh Contact Centre Forum, is designed to get staff away from their desks and working together to become fitter, healthier, happier and more productive.

The 1200 employees at the Cardiff Bay based contact centre can be sat down for up to 10 hours per shift while dealing with customer queries. Firstsource, is a customer experience expert and global provider of customised BPM (Business Process Management) services with 23,000 employees across five countries. Their clients include brand such as Sky, giffgaff, BBC and Virgin Atlantic.

The new initiative will see them undergo a full body and diet analysis under the supervision of expert instructor Owen Phillips, a personal trainer who has trained alongside some of the world’s top professional boxers.  A detailed report will outline individuals’ body composition, muscle mass, fat percentage and obesity levels, analysing everything from whether they’re drinking enough water to if one side of the body is developed more than the other through typing or answering the phone.

Each team member will then receive tailored advice on the exercises they can do to become fitter, along with guidance on a grocery list of healthier foods to complement their more active lifestyle.

Kathryn Chivers, Firstsource Solutions vice president - sales, said: “Verbally and mentally, our staff are superstars in their activity levels, but the nature of a contact centre means all of this happens sat down at their desks.  Time and again we see staff who join us as their first job out of the education system seem surprised when they’re putting on weight, having previously been used to eating whatever they like and getting away with it.

“Throughout the course of an eight hour shift, the typical movements away from the desk can be to get a biscuit from the kitchen, to go to the loo or to go for a cigarette.  Anyone who’s worked in an office environment will know that the kitchen can be full of treats and we’ve already begun to offer free fruit as an alternative.  We know that a healthier workforce is a happier workforce which is why we’ve been so keen to pioneer and pay for this scheme.  We’re expecting brilliant results which can only help improve our business.”

Mark Jenkin, a team leader at Firstsource Solutions said: “Having broken my leg last year playing football and just coming back from injury, I’ve struggled and been unhappy with my weight and I felt I didn’t have the drive I once did.  I’ve been shelling out on a gym membership for the past six months but with personal trainers being so expensive, it can be difficult to keep up.  When I found out the programme was funded by Firstsource, this gave me the kick up the backside I needed.  

“Since I signed up, I’ve already started to ride to work and started eating right again. I now have the determination in me where I want to be happy with my fitness and general health again. My message to other people sat at their desks in contact centres who felt the way I did is don’t accept things the way they are, have the courage to change them and get up and keep moving. Anything is possible. I can’t thank Firstsource enough for such a brilliant opportunity and putting a spring in my step again.”

The employees will attend four bootcamp sessions at Cardiff & Vale College where they’ll be put through their paces by Owen Phillips. He said “All employees will be tracked and monitored throughout the 12 week period. Each individual will be provided a home/lunch time body weight exercise workout which they will need to perform every other day of the week to ensure they achieve results”.

Sandra Busby, managing director at Welsh Contact Centre Forum said: “Like any office based organisation, contact centres rely on rooms full of people being sat down for long periods.  Research tells us this isn’t good for our long-term health, but even in the short-term inactivity can lead to sickness absence which costs business time and money and causes disruption.  We’re determined that contact centres shouldn’t just be places where you can have a healthy career, but a healthy life.

“Firstsource is a great example of a really innovative business that values its staff and we’re sure that once the benefits are felt in productivity terms, we’re hoping other contact centres in Wales and the rest of the UK will follow their lead.”

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