More "variation" is one of the most popular notions of how work should be changed in order for fewer to be afflicted by strain-related complaints. At the same time, the research behind this notion is rather inadequate. One reason is that there is no generally accepted method for expressing "variation" in figures; another is that there have been few studies of the physiological effects of forms of variation other than breaks. The research is based on mathematical analyses of large data samples from the work context and on further theoretical development of methods of measurement previously proposed by researchers at CBF.
Greater physical variation in work is a commonly proposed measure against strain-related complaints in professions and organizations characterized by monotonous or repetitive work. Breaks, job rotation and job enlargement are examples of initiatives aimed at increasing variation.
There is sound physiological evidence that work which varies with regard to working postures and physical exertion is more beneficial than work which entails constant exertion and one position, but the epidemiology and intervention research provide limited empirical support for initiatives such as job rotation and increased breaks in the work context. One reason is that there is a lack of a unified array of measurement variables which represent different aspects of "variation". This in turn means that there are few studies which report the degree of the variation of strain in different professions.
The aim of the research in this framework project is to develop and apply methods of analysis for "variation" which can be used in long-term registers of physical activity, and to understand the performance of these methods and their capacity to mirror physiologically significant characteristics in the strain.
Studies of new measurements of the time-based pattern of muscle strain in the shoulders and their relation to pain
A study of how call-centre employees sit and stand throughout the working day
Svend Erik Mathiassen
Collaboration with researchers in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Holland, USA, Canada and Australia