Active Workplace Study

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

Photo of call-center workers in front of a computer and a photo of a pedal stand used in The Active Workplace Study

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Active Workplace toolkit is available to down on . The Active Workplace has been updated to implement in different industries that are trying to reduce sitting time at work. Organizations have access to download the complete toolkit user guide and program components.

Brad Wipfli, PhD Oregon Healthy Workforce Center
Brad Wipfli, PhD - MPI
Steve Shea, PhD  Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences
Steven Shea, PhD - MPI
 Kerri Winters-Stone, PhD - Co-Investigator Active Workplace Study
Kerri Winters-Stone, PhD - Co-Investigator
Ginger Hanson, PhD - Co-Investigator The Active Workplace Study
Ginger Hanson, PhD - Co-Investigator
Photo of Sara Wild, MPH - Research Associate of The Active Workplace Study
Sara Wild, MPH - Research Associate
  • Wipfli, B., Wild, S., Richardson, D., & Hammer, L. (In Press). Work as a Social Determinant of Health – a necessary foundation for occupational health and safety. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000002370
  • Wipfli, B., Wild, S., Donovan, C., Hanson, G. C., & Thosar, S. S. (2021). Sedentary work and physiological markers of health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health18(6), 3230.
  • Wipfli, B., Wild, S., Hanson, G. C., Shea, S. A., Winters-Stone, K., & Thosar, S. S. (2021). The active workplace study: Protocol for a randomized controlled trial with sedentary workers. Contemporary Clinical Trials103, 106311. Advance online publication.
  • Wipfli, B. & Wild, S. (2019). Sedentary Work and Measuring Physical Activity in Applied Sedentary Behavior Research. Society for Occupational Health Psychology Newsletter, Volume 21, 11-12,