How's Your Workload?

Researchers are showing a renewed interest in studying workload factors and looking for efficient ways to evaluate it.

An exploratory study of workload factors that affect occupational health and safety found that inherent factors in the work of insurance agency customer service representatives can make their jobs exhausting and frustrating, although managers believe the constraints are a business necessity.

Five researchers at IRSST, the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauve en sante et en securite du travail, completed the 69-page study, which is titled "Exploratory Study to Identify Workload Factors that have an Impact on Health and Safety -- A Case Study in the Service Sector."

They found that the customer service representatives had a hard time finding information or making it consistent; they received varied and complex requests and work tasks; expectations were inconsistent; multi-tasking was common; and they received minimal daily feedback about their work.

These factors didn't necessarily produce work overload or underload, they concluded. "Rather it would appear, depending on the situations encountered and their cumulative effect over time, that the workers found themselves in inefficient situations that became a source of exhaustion and frustration for them," they noted in the study's abstract.

Researchers are showing a renewed interest in studying workload factors and looking for efficient ways to evaluate it, the researchers wrote. This single case study is useful because it "fits into a broader process aimed at conceptualizing the workload phenomenon holistically and in all its complexity. Many more case studies will be required to achieve that end," the authors added.

To read it, visit http://www.irsst.qc.ca/media/documents/PubIRSST/R-701.pdf.

This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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