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Working conditions and health among female and male employees at a call center in Sweden
Linköping University, Department of Mechanical Engineering.
Department of Occupational Medicine, Sundsvall Hospital, Sundsvall, Sweden.
Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Academy at Gothenburg University, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Department for Work and Health, National Institute for Working Life, Stockholm, Sweden.
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2004 (English)In: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 46, no 1, 55-62 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: The call center industry is one of the most expansive labor market sectors in Sweden today. The purpose of this study was to investigate the working conditions and symptoms among employees at a call center in Sweden.

Methods: This study represents the cross-sectional baseline survey, which was part of a prospective cohort study. Fifty-seven call center workers were compared with a reference group of 1,459 professional computer users from other occupations. A questionnaire covered physical and psychosocial working conditions and symptoms during the last month. Structured observations in accordance with an ergonomic checklist were used to assess workstation design during the subject's ordinary work.

Results: The call center group had worked for a shorter time in their present tasks and spent longer continuous time in front of the computer than the reference group. There were deficiencies in workspace, keyboard- and input device placement. The subjects reported poor support from their immediate supervisor, low control and limited opportunities to influence their work. A higher proportion of the call center group reported musculoskeletal symptoms.

Conclusion: The call center operators were exposed to working conditions that in other studies have indicated an increased risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. The study also shows that young computer operators in the call center group with a short working career had a higher prevalence of neck- and upper extremity symptoms than older computer workers in other labor market sectors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2004. Vol. 46, no 1, 55-62 p.
Keyword [en]
call center, computer work, physical and psychosocial factors, symptoms
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13424DOI: 10.1002/ajim.20039OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-13424DiVA: diva2:20708
Available from: 2005-11-10 Created: 2005-11-10
In thesis
1. Call centre work: characteristics, physical, and psychosocial exposure, and health related outcomes
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Call centre work: characteristics, physical, and psychosocial exposure, and health related outcomes
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Call centres (CCs) are one of the most rapidly growing forms of workplaces in Sweden. The overall aim of this thesis was to describe work characteristics, physical and psychosocial exposures, and health related outcomes, for CC operators in selected CC in Sweden. The purpose was also to study the test-retest reliability and internal consistency of questions, and the inter-rater reliability of observations and measurements in studies of CCs.

This thesis is based on two projects, where study I was a cohort study and studies II-V were a cross-sectional survey. Fifty-seven CC operators were compared with a reference group of 1459 professional computer users from other occupations, study I, and 1183 operators (848 women and 335 men) (response rate 77%) from 28 CCs were studied in studies II-V . Questionnaires covering organisation and work characteristics, physical and psychosocial exposures, individual characteristics and symptoms during the previous month was used, studies I-V. Structured observations in accordance with an ergonomic checklist were used to assess workstation design during the subject’s ordinary work, study I and II.

Operators at external CCs spent longer time on customer calls and had less varied tasks. Additional remuneration, call logging and monitoring was more common at external CCs.

There were deficiencies in workspace, keyboard- and input device placement. External CCs showed somewhat more problems in the work environment compared with the internal CCs. The CC group spent longer continuous time in front of the computer than other professional computer users.

Emotional and cognitive demands and time pressure were reported considered high. Emotional demands and limited decision latitude were dominating features in CC work.

A higher proportion of the CC group reported musculoskeletal symptoms compared to other professional computer users. Three out of four operators reported symptoms in the Neck/shoulder or Arm/hand region, with no major differences between internal and external CCs. Comfort of the work environment showed the strongest association with symptoms in the Neck/shoulder or Arm/hand, in both types of CCs. Other exposures associated with symptoms in the Neck/shoulder or Arm/hand in either type of CC were: low complexity of work, long total time of customer calls per day, continuous computer work without a break, high psychological demands, low decision latitude, lack of social support from colleagues and lack of support from a supervisor. The thesis confirms previously suggested associations between unfavourable work characteristics and management, as well as poor physical and psychosocial environment, and musculoskeletal symptoms in computer-interactive tasks. Among operators at internal CCs, symptoms were particularly related to the nature of calls during work, whereas at external CCs critical exposures were the time spent seated with continuous computer work.

About half of the questions were classified as having fair to good or higher testretest reliability and can be recommended in further analyses. Other questions should be used with care. A majority of the variables on the ergonomic checklist are classified as having fair to good or higher inter-rater reliability.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institutionen för systemteknik, 2005
Series
Linköping Studies in Science and Technology. Dissertations, ISSN 0345-7524 ; 975
Keyword
Callcenter, fysisk och psykosocial exponering, hälsa
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-4705 (URN)91-7045-764-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2005-11-18, C3, Hus C, Campus Valla, Linköpings universitet, Linköping, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2005-11-10 Created: 2005-11-10 Last updated: 2009-03-06

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