Higher physical demands at work are associated with health outcomes such as discomfort, disorders and sick leave. Variations in work exposure patterns, introduced by multifunctional jobs and ergonomic interventions, bring confounders into the complex relation between occupational risks and musculoskeletal disorders. This study compared whole-body rating of perceived exertion (RPE), discomfort, ergonomic workplace analysis (EWA) and sick leave due to musculoskeletal disorders, among workers exposed to diversified work. The results showed that EWA performed by the observer differed from workers' ratings. There were no differences between groups of workers taking or not taking sick leave regarding RPE and discomfort at their current workstations. Workers significantly discriminated between progressive workload levels, and RPE scores for specific tasks were nonlinear during shifts. These differences might be associated with exposure variability. Thus, in the context of diversified work, the RPE scale seems more appropriate for evaluating acute effects of work variability.