Loughborough University
Silvia Ahmed Final thesis.pdf (7.24 MB)

An investigation of the effects of mental games as an intervention on perceived workload and objective productivity in call centre staff

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posted on 2022-07-05, 15:27 authored by Silvia Ahmed
Long sitting hours and fatigue are common in call centre work. Call centre work is associated with mental exhaustion and physical repercussions such as musculo-skeletal disorders, cardiac problems and hindrances in circadian cycles. The demanding nature of work reduces the autonomy to have flexible working which may lead to physical and mental stress for the employees. While there is some research on adding physical exercises to work routines, there is limited research on utilizing mental games to enhance wellbeing and productivity in the workplace for call centre employees. To address the issue of long sitting hours and the associated health problems in call centres in UK, this research was aimed at bringing flexible work changes, such as introducing mental games in the work breaks to observe outcome on factors such as objective productivity and perceived workload of call centre employees. Three studies were conducted to achieve this goal. As a part of the first study, an online questionnaire survey was sent to call centre employees (n=84) to explore their perception of mental fatigue at work and the extent of their willingness to take breaks and play mental games in those breaks. It was found that the employees were taking adequate breaks but found their work to be tiring and repetitive. Those employees with higher seated time (42%) had a greater urge to take a break as compared to those with shorter hours (37%). Employees who were willing to take breaks also had a greater urge to take a longer break (33% compared to 29% of those not willing to take additional breaks). Similarly, those employees who were seated longer (61% compared to 47%) and willing to take breaks (61% compared to 47%) thought that game playing could help increase productivity. They reported the thought that game playing contributed to mental alertness. As a follow up to the online survey study, employees (n=10) were interviewed to explore the factors contributing to fatigue/monotony in the workplace and the effect that mental game playing might have on perceived workload and objective productivity. Employees were not happy with the structured scheduled breaks. Games were thought to bring a change in scenery and a positive distraction to relieve stress regardless of their role in productivity increase. The main study included a game playing intervention (n=32). This study was conducted to observe the differences in perceived workload and objective productivity in relation to mental game playing during breaks at work. The results showed that perceived workload decreased in the middle of the intervention period for the game playing group, while it decreased in the end of the intervention period for the non-playing group. Similarly, objective productivity increased at the end of the intervention period for the playing group while it increased in the beginning of intervention period for the non-playing group. Both perceived workload and objective productivity scores of the intervention group was less across all weeks (average perceived workload= 41, average objective productivity = 37.7) compared to the comparison group (average perceived workload = 46.25, average objective productivity = 55.62) The final study attempted to understand the results of the game playing intervention study from the participant’s perspective and explore other work factors that could affect working conditions. This was achieved through conducting focus group discussions (n=15). Participants reported the increase in playing group productivity in week 4 because of the focus on improving their performance just before completion of the intervention. They reported the decrease in perceived workload in week 2 and week 3, as game playing being mentally accepted in these weeks. Employees also highlighted that working conditions, such as having to play games in the break schedules may help to improve working conditions for call centre employees. The findings of this PhD suggest the use of cognitive break activities as a possible strategy for organizations and professional bodies to improve objective productivity and perceived workload in the workplace. Further research in game playing in the workplace can help improve job design to bring improvement in objective productivity and perceived workload in call centres.


Abdul Wali Khan University, Mardan



  • Design and Creative Arts


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Loughborough University

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© Silvia Ahmed

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Loughborough University.


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Michael Fray ; Laurence Clift

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  • PhD

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  • Doctoral

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