Most call centre work kills your soul. Long hours in cramped close quarters doing repetitive work, fielding questions that you’ve answered a million times before, and maybe hocking products you know don’t work if you’re in sales. They’re the sweat shop of the computer age. I did that for two years followed by eight months of collections, which takes the idea of a soul-sucking job and gives it a Kafkaesque spin.

 

But I have friends, perhaps more adroit at finding the silver lining in the shit-cloud than I am, who managed to find the joy in what they were doing. These people confuse me and I secretly worried they were in a cult, or at least susceptible to cult-like manipulations, but no. They explained it in simple terms: When you’re surrounded by the right people, actually helping people, then even a call centre job can be rewarding.

 

I’ll have to take their word for it.

 

Empower Clinics (CBDT.C) and Tabula Rasa HealthCare have entered into a partnership for call centre services for Kai Care’s COVID-19 and influenza A/B at-home saliva test kit today, according to a press release. It sounds like it might be a test case for what my friends were talking about.

 

Before we get any deeper into these questions we should probably clear up who we’re talking about.

 

Empower Clinics is a health care company involved in providing body and mind wellness for patients using its clinics. They offer in person, digital and telemedicine care, have their own labs so they don’t need to outsource to expensive third parties, and their latest goals are to spread their digital presence across North America.

 

Kai Medical Laboratory is a diagnostics lab in Dallas. Empower acquired it on October 6, 2020, to help clients with their COVID-19 national testing programs. They offer direct-to-consumer products, including home DIY testing systems so people can avoid waiting in crowded doctor’s offices during a pandemic.

 

Tabula Rasa’s call centres aren’t exactly filled with worker drones pounding coffee while dreading getting back into the queue. It’s staffed by pharmacists and pharmacy techs, addressing customer questions about the test, including how to use it and read it afterwards. They’re providing their expertise and helping to change people’s minds about how reliable these kits can be.

 

Okay. That still sounds soul sucking. Nobody goes through more than a decade of post-secondary just to work at a call centre, even if you’re talking about medical stuff, but they probably don’t have to do it all day every day. Maybe just when they piss their boss off, or if TV medical dramas are any indication, probably only when they’re interns.

 

Part of what makes a job soul sucking is the existential dread that accompanies doing a repetitive task for no foreseeable, beneficial reason rather than the task itself and the inevitable paycheque. You become a cog in a large wheel pushing a vehicle going God knows where, steered by unknowable entities. You have no idea if what you’re doing helps people (or harms them), and the overall effect is reminiscent of Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus—doomed to push the same rock up the same hill everyday—forever.

 

There’s no rhyme or reason to the rock. It just is and so are you. So get pushing. That’s why I say what Empower’s doing here doesn’t meet the second criteria. Is it necessary work that helps people? The answer is yes.

“As flu season starts to pick up, differentiating COVID (and the potential strain variations) from flu will be immensely important, and potentially save lives. This is especially timely given the Delta variant is between 40 and 60 per cent more transmissible than the previous strains of COVID. TRHC’s MedWise HealthCare call centres, expertly staffed with pharmacists and other health care professionals will bring extra health care expertise and sensitivity to those customers or their providers who have questions or a need to discuss their results,” said Steven McAuley, chairman and chief executive officer of Empower.

What should be apparent is that this isn’t a company selling widgets nobody needs. Having an actual live doctor on the phone answering your questions can also work as a balm against the sea of fake news and intentional misinformation floating around out there. For those of us without medical degrees or jobs that involve a heavy amount of research, or the time to stay properly informed, having someone on-call to answer questions and relieve anxiety can be what we need to get us off the fence and doing the right thing. It’s a necessary service.

“Testing is the front line in keeping these contagions at bay. Knowing where and when these viruses are spreading gives us the power to contain and control and ultimately care for those around us. TRHC offers quality compliance for people to conveniently monitor and improve their health. Our partnership with TRHC works to meet those needs as more and more people access the Kai Care COVID-19 and influenza A/B at-home saliva test kit. We look forward to rolling out more Kai at-home tests in the coming weeks,” said Yoshi Tyler, Kai Medical Laboratory president.

Personally, I’m grateful to the healthcare practitioners on the front lines doing the work. Having a few behind the phone lines fighting back against the tides of anti-vaxers, anti-maskers and the rest of the assortment of conspiracy minded boneheads, while giving us the instructions we need on how to use at-home tests, seems like a welcome addition. It’s work that matters and that can’t be too soul sucking.

—Joseph Morton

Written By:

Joseph Morton

Joseph is a Vancouver-based author and journalist with both a communications degree and journalism diploma (and a few novels) under his belt. His joie de vivre is to spin difficult technical topics into more human-centric narratives. Buy him a coffee and he'll talk your ear off for hours about privacy issues, blockchain, cryptocurrency and martial arts. Don't talk to him if you're either a tomato, a bully, or if you're not a fan of either 1984 or Tender is the Night. No. You can still talk to him. Just be prepared to be told why you're wrong.

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Tags:
Health Science
Wellness
call centres
Camus
CBDT.C
Empower Clinics
existential dread
Kafka
KAI Medical Laboratory
Myth of Sisyphus
Tabula Rasa HealthCare
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