Improvements in musculoskeletal symptoms, mental workload and mental fatigue: Effects of a multicomponent ergonomic intervention among call center workers

Work. 2022;72(2):765-774. doi: 10.3233/WOR-213641.


Background: Call center workers are highly susceptible to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) as well as mental stress. Nonetheless, there has been a surprising paucity in the body of the research regarding interventions among call center workers.

Objective: The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effectiveness of a multicomponent ergonomic intervention program on mental workload, mental fatigue and WRMSDs of call center employees.

Method: A non-randomized interventional study with a single group pretest-posttest design was conducted among 84 call center workers of a private telecommunication company in the city of Tehran, Iran. At the baseline, data regarding WRMSDs prevalence, mental workload and mental fatigue were collected by means of standard Nordic, NASA-TLX and SOFI questionnaires, respectively. Then, subjects participated in a multifaceted intervention program including comprehensive office ergonomic training, work layout improvement, supervised on-site face to face visits, and provision of quality break time encompassing regular exercise program. Follow-up assessment was carried out after 6 months.

Results: After the intervention, prevalence of WMSDs in the neck (10%, P = 0.022), lower back (8.4%, P = 0.04), and knees (9.5%, P = 0.02) decreased significantly, while improvements in other body areas remained insignificant. Results also showed a significant decrease in overall score of mental demand (P = 0.000) as well as three of its subscales including performance (P = 0.02), effort (P = 0.001), and frustration (P = 0.025). Additionally, positive effect of the intervention was also observable on overall mental fatigue of call center workers (P = 0.016). As for its subscales, Lack of energy was reported to decrease meaningfully (P = 0.007) while lack of motivation did not change significantly (P = 0.240).

Conclusion: Although the primary focus of many ergonomic interventions has remained to measure physical outcomes of the work place, our findings show that multicomponent interventions are indeed capable of boosting cognitive aspects of the work as well. The future studies should consider investigating such outcomes.

Keywords: WRMSDs; mental demand; occupational fatigue; office work.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Call Centers*
  • Ergonomics / methods
  • Humans
  • Iran / epidemiology
  • Mental Fatigue / prevention & control
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Occupational Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases* / prevention & control