Active Workplace Study

Reducing exposure to sedentary work and impacting Total Worker Health for call center employees.

Call center employees and a pedal stand

 

Sedentary behavior is related to health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal injury, and increased risk of all-cause mortality. Call center employees are among the most sedentary workers in the U.S. They sit for up to 83% of work hours and are more likely to be sedentary during non-work time than employees in other sedentary jobs.

This study includes organizational and individual components:

  • Organizational level methods focus on changing the work environment and culture through physical workplace alterations and by changing the ways that supervisors interact with employees.
  • Individual level strategies include increasing utilization of available equipment, recurring monthly safety and health activities, and changing employee health and safety behaviors.

Why is this important?

The purpose of this study is to determine how organizational and individual level interventions impact exposure to sedentary work and improve Total Worker Health in call center employees. 

Call center employees typically have a high level of exposure to sedentary work, and, on average, spend a higher percentage of their time sitting than any other occupational group. Prior research has found a high prevalence of obesity and high levels of musculoskeletal pain in call center employees. Preliminary data collection with study partners also shows that exposure to sedentary work has Total Worker Health implications. For example, self-reported sitting time at work was related to musculoskeletal pain and lower overall life-satisfaction.  

The results of this study could have implications for other professions. The number of sedentary jobs in the U.S. has increased steadily since the 1960s and there are currently over 30 million sedentary workers in the U.S. As the number of sedentary jobs in the U.S. continues to rise, effective methods to reduce sedentary behavior and exposure to sedentary work environments are increasingly important.

Has this worked before?

The intervention components used in the Active Workplace Study have been successfully implemented in previous projects and have been adapted and tailored for call center employees.  

Previous literature shows that using standing or active workstations reduces workplace sedentary time, reduces back pain and other musculoskeletal complaints, and increases light physical activity and overall caloric expenditure. Previous literature also shows that reduced sedentary time at work is related to improved mood, job satisfaction, and general well-being. This study aims to increase use of standing desks, and will add active workstation equipment to the environment to impact employee safety and health.

Individual behavior change tactics in the study include computer based training, and transfer of training via an evidence based intervention website where participants will self-monitor behaviors related to safety and health. These methods have been successful at helping participants change behavior in previous Total Worker Health studies like the SHIFT study, Be Super!, and SHIP.

How is this study funded?

Funding for this study is provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH;grant:U19OH010154) in the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center of Excellence.

Meet the research team

Brad Wipfli, PhD MPI
Steven Shea, PhD MPI
Kerri Winters-Stone, PhD Co-Investigator
Ginger Hanson, PhD Co-Investigator
Stephen Bao, PhD Consultant
Sara Wild, MPH Research Assistant

How can I participate?

We are currently looking to enlist call centers with employees willing to participate in intervention specific trainings and activities. Although employee involvement is crucial to the study, the interventions will not compromise the quality or quantity of work employees are able to accomplish. The findings of this research study will be valuable to your organization because they will help us better understand how we can impact the call center environment to improve worker health. Healthy employees are happier and more productive. In exchange for a few minutes of your employees time, we can work together to create a healthier workforce.

If you know of an organization that would be interested in participating, or would like additional information on our study, please contact the research team at wipflib@ohsu.edu.