'The petri dish and Russian roulette': working in UK contact centres during the Covid-19 pandemic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Downloads (Pure)


This article analyses the dynamic interaction of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease Covd-19, and its epidemiological characteristics, with an expansive conception of the contact centre labour process, integrating the contact centres' socially-constructed built environment with distinctive qualities of the social organisation of work. Based on an online survey conducted April-May 2020 of 2,226 call-handlers in, largely, the telecoms and financial services sectors, it provides compelling evidence of the risks facing workers from inter alia dense building occupancy, compromised social distancing, inadequate cleansing and sanitisation, heating ventilation and air conditioning systems and from the outcomes of management control systems. A crucial element in explaining widespread virus transmissibility lies in understanding how the broader political-economy that produced the dominant mass production contact centre paradigm is intertwined with its 'inner workings', leading to a 'business-as-usual' default that prioritised value-generating service continuity at the expense of any precautionary principle. The article contributes additionally by re-affirming the utility of labour process theory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-208
Number of pages24
JournalWork in the Global Economy
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2021


  • call/contact centres
  • Covid-19
  • occupational health and safety
  • labour process theory
  • work organisation
  • call centre workers


Dive into the research topics of ''The petri dish and Russian roulette': working in UK contact centres during the Covid-19 pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this