About the Active Workplace Study
Why is this research important?
The purpose of this study is to evaluate how the Active Workplace intervention, which targets sedentary behavior among call center employees, improves the health, safety, and well-being of sedentary workers.
Call center employees typically sit for long periods of time, and, on average, spend a higher amount of their time sitting than any other occupational group. Prior research has found obesity and high levels of musculoskeletal pain to be common among call center employees. Preliminary data collection for the Active Workplace Study also shows that exposure to sedentary work affects employee well-being. For example, self-reported sitting time at work was related to lower overall life-satisfaction.
The results of this study could have implications for other professions. The number of sedentary jobs in the United States has increased steadily since the 1960s and there are currently over 30 million sedentary workers in the United States. As the number of sedentary jobs in the United States continues to rise, effective methods to reduce sedentary behavior and exposure to sedentary work environments are increasingly important.
What does the intervention involve?
The Active Workplace Study includes organizational and individual intervention components. The intervention prioritizes organizational changes and aims to create a work environment that supports safe and healthy choices.
At the organizational level, the study focuses on changing the work environment and culture through physical workplace alterations and by changing the ways that supervisors interact with employees. An example of a physical workplace alteration is introducing pedal stand active workstations, which give employees the option to engage in light physical activity while working.
At the individual level, the study promotes changes in health and safety behaviors among employees. This is accomplished through monthly health and safety activities, team competitions, incentives, personal support, and increasing the use of available equipment such as standing desks.
Have these intervention components 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 the number of calories used throughout the day. 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 as well as add active workstation equipment to the environment to impact employee safety and health.
Intervention methods that promote individual behavior change include monthly computer-based trainings and self-monitoring of behaviors related to safety and health. These methods have been successful at helping participants change behavior in previous Total Worker Health studies through the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center.
What is Total Worker Health®?
Total Worker Health is a concept developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It is defined as “Policies, programs, and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.” Occupational health and safety has traditionally focused on protecting workers from physical injury or illness. The Total Worker Health approach expands on traditional occupational health and safety to focus on the well-being, or quality of life, of the whole person.
The Active Workplace Study applies the Total Worker Health approach among call center employees.
How is this study funded?
Funding for this study is provided by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH; grant U19OH010154), and is part of the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center, a NIOSH Center of Excellence.
Meet the research team