Objectives: To (i) examine the association between fatigue, psychosocial work characteristics (job control, support, participation in decision making, psychological job demands), and physical work requirements on the one hand and work ability of employees with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) on the other, and (ii) determine the advice that health care professionals give to employees with RA on how to maintain their work ability.
Methods: Data were gathered from 78 employees with early RA (response = 99%) by telephone interviews and self-report questionnaires.
Results: Fatigue, lack of autonomy, low coworker/supervisor support, low participation in decision making, and high physical work requirements (i.e. using manual force) predicted low work ability. High psychological job demands, however, did not predict low work ability. The rheumatologist, occupational physician, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, and psychologist gave advice on how to cope with RA at work to 36, 30, 27, 26, and 17% of the employees, respectively. Advice was directed mainly at factors intrinsic to the employee. Employees expressed a positive attitude towards this advice.
Conclusions: Fatigue, lack of support, lack of autonomy, lack of participation in decision making, and using manual force at work (e.g. pushing and pulling) threaten the work ability of employees with RA. According to the employees with RA, involvement of health care professionals from different disciplines and the implementation of organizational and technical interventions would help them to tackle these threats.