Katawag Study

About the project

KATAWAG (meaning ‘on a call together’) worked with Business Processing Industry (BPO) employees in the Philippines to map key factors shaping workplace mental health and wellbeing and design an intervention. Within the BPO Industry, contact centre work is characterised by low autonomy, high emotional and productivity demands, and regular night shifts. This impacts employee wellbeing.

Katawag took a systems perspective and used an approach called participatory systems mapping. The project ran map building workshops with agents, supervisors, team leads and managers from three different worksites. Stress, anxiety and sleep issues were identified as key concerns, linked to factors like high workload, pressure to meet targets, and changing shift patterns. Stress and tiredness (caused in part by sleep issues) influenced quality of relationships at home and work, which affected motivation and performance. Some of these factors link together to form a circular chain of causal influences (a feedback loop).

The Katawag team constructed a system map. In the next workshop, employees discussed opportunities to intervene in this ‘system’ of workplace mental wellbeing. They noticed that supervisors occupy a critical position in the system, with significant power to interrupt detrimental feedback loops. They agreed the Katawag team should design a coaching programme to support supervisors.

The programme brought together supervisors to discuss mental wellbeing issues affecting their teams. They took these discussions back to their teams and worked together to develop plans to build a supportive team environment. The Katawag team piloted the programme in three different groups, using learning from the first wave to improve the next. Supervisors (and their team members) were positive about the sessions, suggesting potential to scale-up and evaluate for impact on employee mental wellbeing.

Next steps

The Katawag team is currently seeking funding for the next phase of the project; a full evaluation of the coaching programme for supervisors/team leaders.

About the team

Katawag is a collaboration between researchers at the University of Glasgow, Scotland and De La Salle University, Manila, Philippines. It was funded by MRC (MR/V004093/1) and supported by award EP/X528201/1. 

The Katawag team acknowledges the support of TaskUs and Smiles on Demand in facilitating fieldwork and also thanks all the contact centre employees who took part in the study.

Take part

In 2024, the Katawag project intends to run an evaluation and is interested in hearing from contact centre companies that would like to take part. Training would be provided free to your company in return for supporting the evaluation research. If you would like to know more about this opportunity or have any other questions about the project, please contact Kirstin Mitchell or Evangelia Demou.


De La Salle University, Philippines:

Prof. Nino Jose Mateo

Dr. Maria Guadalupe Salanga

Ms. Charisse Tan Llorin

Find out more about the Katawag project

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