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Musculoskeletal symptoms in relation to work exposures at call centre companies in Sweden
National Institute for Working Life, Department for Work and Health, Stockholm.
National Institute for Working Life, Department for Work and Health, Stockholm, Sweden.
National Institute for Working Life, Department for Work and Health, Stockholm, Sweden.
National Institute for Working Life, Department for Work and Health, Stockholm, Sweden.
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2008 (English)In: Work: A journal of Prevention, Assesment and rehabilitation, ISSN 1051-9815, E-ISSN 1875-9270, Vol. 30, no 2, 201-214 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Objectives: Call centres (CCs) are one of the most rapidly growing types of workplaces in Sweden. The purpose of the study was to assess associations between exposures at CC work and symptoms in the Neck/shoulders and Arm/hand. Comparisons were made between internal and external CCs. An internal CC is a department or separate unit within a larger company with another main core business, while an external CC is a free-standing company.

Methods: A cross-sectional study of a selected sample of CCs was conducted. A questionnaire, covering characteristics of work and management, physical and psychosocial exposures and symptoms during the last month, was answered by 1183 operators from 28 CCs.

Results: Three out of four operators reported pain or aches in one or more of the requested body regions, with no major difference between internal and external CC operators. Comfort of the work environment, showed the strongest association with symptoms in the Neck/shoulder and 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 supervisor.

Conclusions: The study is unique in that there are no previous studies focusing on a large variety of exposures specific to CC work, based on a large number of workers from different types of CCs. The study confirms previously suggested associations between unfavourable work characteristics and management, a poor physical and psychosocial environment, and musculoskeletal symptoms in computer-telephone interactive tasks. The nature of calls during work were related to symptoms of persons working in internal CCs, whereas the time spent seated and continuous computer work were related to symptoms of those in external CCs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 30, no 2, 201-214 p.
Keyword [en]
Call centre, work characteristics and management, physical exposure, psychosocial exposure, symptoms
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13428OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-13428DiVA: diva2:20712
Available from: 2005-11-10 Created: 2005-11-10 Last updated: 2017-12-13
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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