Customer service work can be bad for psychological health, regardless of whether it is face-to face or over the phone, as it typically involves being polite and friendly to customers or clients and having to suppress real feelings and emotions.
In research presented to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology, Dr Gail Kinman of the University of Bedfordshire found that emotional labour was linked to negative effects whether it was performed face-to-face or over the phone, and that the effects extended beyond the workplace into the home environment
The research was based on a questionnaire survey of 124 flight attendants and 122 telesales agents employed by a UK airline. Eight out of 10 participants were female.
Different aspects of emotional labour were measured (i.e. the extent to which employees fake and suppress emotions and the "emotional display rules" of the organisation) as well as psychological distress, job satisfaction and work-life conflict.
However, some evidence was also found that performing emotional labour during face-to-face interactions might potentially be more damaging to employee's wellbeing than performing it over the phone.
Dr Kinman said: "In order to improve employee wellbeing and job satisfaction, organisations need to recognise these risks and design and implement interventions to help employees manage their emotions more effectively".