The development and validation of the Office Work Screen

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Abstract

Background

The prevalence and costs to both employers and individuals of musculoskeletal disorders and associated psychosocial factors are well documented. There is increasing evidence that early identification is the key to the prevention of chronicity and sickness absence.

Aims

The study aimed to develop and validate a screening questionnaire, capturing relevant psychosocial issues and musculoskeletal symptoms, to measure work instability (WI) in office workers.

Methods

The staged methodology was based upon Rasch analysis and included item banking from existing Work Instability scales and analysis of new data from postal surveys. The criterion validity of the emerging scale was examined using vocational assessments by occupational physiotherapists.

Results

A 62-item questionnaire was returned by 153 employees from two different settings. The data were fitted to the Rasch model and 26 items were found to fit model expectations (chi-square P=0.07), satisfy strict requirements for unidimensionality and discriminate across expert defined levels of WI. Reliability was 0.9, indicating suitability for use at the individual level. Absence of item bias was shown for age, gender and if the individual had been off sick from work in the past 3 months, suggesting the scale is robust to variations in workforce composition and sickness absence rates.

Conclusions

The Office Work Screen is a short questionnaire incorporating both musculoskeletal symptoms and relevant psychosocial factors in one dimension. This new questionnaire may facilitate workforce screening, individual monitoring and proactive targeting of interventions (for example, vocational rehabilitation) to prevent or minimize sickness absence in office workers.

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