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.
2008. Vol. 30, no 2, 201-214 p.