Context specificity in the assessment of psychosocial risk at work: an empirical study on Italian call centre workers

Med Lav. Mar-Apr 2014;105(2):130-8.


Background: Following EU requirements, in recent years standard procedures for the assessment of work-related stress have been developed in Italy. However, while such standardization has facilitated the spread and use of these procedures, it has brought a lack of specificity in risk assessment.

Objectives: To exemplify a method for the assessment of work-related stress that was developed by the University of Milan to allow the definition of risk profiles tailored to the different organizational settings.

Methods: We examined risk factors for work-related stress in call centre operators employed by two separate Italian companies. At an early stage of the assessment procedure, we conducted a wide series of consultation and training activities that allowed the identification of context-specific risk factors and homogeneous groups, which fuelled the preparation of both the "objective" and the "subjective" evaluation instruments.

Results: Results obtained by means of the standardized "Effort-Reward Imbalance Questionnaire" and "Job Content Questionnaire", interpreted in the light of consultations with key organizational figures and individual interviews with employees, have allowed the detection of different risk profiles and priorities for intervention at both the group and the organizational levels.

Conclusions: Findings demonstrated the existence of both common and specific risk factors in the two companies, which would have remained undetected with the exclusive use of standardized approaches.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Occupational Health
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sampling Studies
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Workplace / psychology*