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Call centre work: characteristics, physical, and psychosocial exposure, and health related outcomes
Linköping University, Department of Mechanical Engineering. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
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 [en]
Callcenter, fysisk och psykosocial exponering, hälsa
National Category
Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-4705ISBN: 91-7045-764-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-4705DiVA: diva2:20713
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
List of papers
1. Working conditions and health among female and male employees at a call center in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Working conditions and health among female and male employees at a call center in 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.

Keyword
call center, computer work, physical and psychosocial factors, symptoms
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13424 (URN)10.1002/ajim.20039 (DOI)
Available from: 2005-11-10 Created: 2005-11-10
2. Reliability of a questionnaire and an ergonomic checklist for assessing working conditions and health at call centres
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reliability of a questionnaire and an ergonomic checklist for assessing working conditions and health at call centres
2006 (English)In: International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, ISSN 1080-3548, Vol. 12, no 1, 53-68 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background. The purpose was to study the test-retest reliability and internal consistency of questions in a questionnaire concerning working conditions and health and the inter-rater reliability of observations and measurements according to an ergonomic checklist.

Method. Fifty-seven operators participated in a retest questionnaire and 58 operators participated in an inter-observer test.

Results. The questions had fair to good or higher reliability in 142 of the total of 312. Twenty-seven of the total of 44 variables in the ergonomic checklist were classified as having fair to good or higher reliability.

Conclusions. About half of the questions had fair to good or higher reliability and can be recommended for further analyses. The majority of variables in the ergonomic checklist were classified as having fair to good or higher reliability. Low reliability does not necessarily indicate that the reliability of the test, per se, is low but may signify that the conditions measured vary over time or that the answers are aggregated in one part of the scale.

National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13425 (URN)
Available from: 2005-11-10 Created: 2005-11-10 Last updated: 2010-05-31
3. Working conditions in a selected sample of call centre companies in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Working conditions in a selected sample of call centre companies in Sweden
2008 (English)In: International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics, ISSN 1080-3548, E-ISSN 2376-9130, Vol. 14, no 2, 177-194 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background. Call centres (CCs) are among the most rapidly growing forms of workplaces in Sweden. The purpose of the study was to describe and compare working conditions between operators at internal and external CC companies and work tasks of different complexity.

Method. A questionnaire was answered by 1 183 operators, 848 women and 335 men, from 28 different CCs. The questionnaire covered background factors, employment, working hours and remuneration, call logging and monitoring, duties, computer work and workplace design during the previous month.

Results. Operators at external companies and operators with low-complexity work tasks were younger, more often employed by the hour and worked on a varying roster. They spent longer time on customer calls and had less varied tasks. Additional remuneration, call logging and monitoring were more common at external companies and among operators with low-complexity work tasks.

Conclusion. The working conditions varied between internal and external CCs. There was also a variation in working conditions between work tasks of different complexity. There were aspects of supervision style and organization of work at CCs, especially at external ones and those with low-complexity tasks that could introduce stress and lack of well being among the staff.

National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13426 (URN)
Available from: 2005-11-10 Created: 2005-11-10 Last updated: 2017-12-13
4. Psychosocial conditions, stress and energy in a selected sample of call centre companies in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Psychosocial conditions, stress and energy in a selected sample of call centre companies in Sweden
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2005 (English)In: Work & Stress, ISSN 0267-8373Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13427 (URN)
Available from: 2005-11-10 Created: 2005-11-10 Last updated: 2009-03-26
5. Musculoskeletal symptoms in relation to work exposures at call centre companies in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Musculoskeletal symptoms in relation to work exposures at call centre companies in 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.

Keyword
Call centre, work characteristics and management, physical exposure, psychosocial exposure, symptoms
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-13428 (URN)
Available from: 2005-11-10 Created: 2005-11-10 Last updated: 2017-12-13

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