Stresses and strains associated with mobile IT-supported work: service technicians

Project No. IFA 1111

Status:

completed 11/2011

Aims:

Virtually all employees involved in mobile technical service work make extensive use of mobile information and communication technology (ICT). The use of devices as tools not only for completion of the core tasks but also for auxiliary purposes (e.g. vehicles) and for job documentation gives rise to a range of direct and indirect work-related health hazards. Indirect problems have become evident only now that these devices have been in use for some years. Complaints are raised concerning deficits in the organization of work and the growing isolation of mobile employees from the management personnel. Mental stresses are feared owing to a loss of orientation and excessive self-management demands.
Besides the provision of advice to companies on the organization of safe and low-stress workplaces, creation of a BGI/GUV-I is a priority objective.

Activities/Methods:

The study, which in the first phase is also to involve quantitative operationalization (statistically measurable values are to be formulated from hypotheses), is to deliver robust results on possible stresses, strains and safety hazards associated with IT-supported work.
The partner in industry (Deutsche Telekom, via the UKPT, the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the postal and telecommunications services) took the same view concerning the difficulties associated with the workplace situation, and provided access to objects of study in the field.
Observations in the field, specifically of workplaces and tasks, were conducted throughout Germany by the UKPT and the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the German Social Accident Insurance (IFA).
One-to-one interviews were also conducted with staff and management personnel; the interviews were exploratory in nature rather than being intended to test the hypothesis.
A questionnaire campaign was conducted throughout Germany on stresses, strains and safety hazards. For this purpose, a quality-assessed (validated) survey instrument on possible effects, including a work ability index, was used to test the hypothesis.
The results were interpreted statistically and the effects compared with those of reference groups.
In order to permit a substantiated assessment of a core ergonomic problem among the employees, a laboratory study was conducted of the luminance of mobile IT devices.
The results were presented in the form of a study report for the partners in industry, a number of specialist publications, and a BGI/GUV-I.

Results:

The study was able to identify problem areas in the relevant sources of stress of "work organization, working environment, social relationships, company conditions, and technology", and to define them more precisely than had been possible in the past.
Safety hazards, particularly those arising through the integration of mobile ICT in road vehicles, were identified, their legal aspects discussed, and addressed in practice by way of product tests and practical recommendations.
As a result, the partners in industry have at their disposal a range of areas by which they can improve the work situation. The information is being taken up by the companies. Practical implementation, such as the procurement of new work equipment based upon the results of the study, is to follow shortly.
Owing to the wide range of companies involved, it was possible for the results to be transferred in abstract form to a generic BGI/GUV-I for service technicians (i.e. the results obtained at the microlevel were applied on the mesolevel by the creation of intersubjectivity).

Last Update:

29-Mar-2012

Project

Financed by:
  • Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung e. V. (DGUV)
Research institution(s):
  • Institut für Arbeitsschutz der Deutschen Gesetzlichen Unfallversicherung (IFA)
  • Unfallkasse Post-Telekom
  • Deutsche Telekom
Branche(s):

-cross sectoral-

Type of hazard:

Gestaltung von Arbeit und Technik, Arbeitsbedingte Gesundheitsgefahren, Psychische Fehlbelastungen

Catchwords:

Ergonomie, Arbeitsmittel, Arbeitsplatzgestaltung

Description, key words:

mobile IT, technical service, field workers, usability, stress, work organization, mental stress, safety, ergonomics