Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf

https://doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.4167 | Published online: 23 May 2024

Does job control contribute to differences in physician-certified sickness absence across office concepts? A mediation analysis in a nationally representative sample

by Borge RH, Johannessen HA, Fostervold KI, Nielsen MB

Objectives Several studies have found higher sickness absence in shared and open workspaces than in private offices, but little is known about why these differences occur. We propose and test job control as a potential mechanism underlying observed differences in the risk of physician-certified sickness absence between private offices and shared and open workspaces.

Methods We conducted a counterfactual mediation analysis using observational survey data from a nationally representative sample of Norwegian employees merged with prospective data from national registries (N=5512). The registry data included information about whether participants had any physician-certified sickness absence the year following the survey. Models were adjusted for age, sex, education level, occupation group, executive/leadership responsibility, and time spent on office work.

Results We found significantly higher sickness absence risk in conventional [risk ratio (RR) 1.12, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.01‒1.25] and non-territorial (RR 1.20, 95% 1.04‒1.37) open-plan and non-territorial shared-room offices (RR 1.29, 95% CI 1.13‒1.48) compared to private offices. Natural indirect effects due to job control were statistically significant in all contrasts and accounted for 19–34% of total effects depending on contrast.

Conclusions Findings were in line with hypothesized relationships and suggest that job control may be a mechanism underlying observed differences in sickness absence across office concepts. Future studies should continue to explore potential mechanisms linking shared and open workspaces to higher sickness absence and other unfavorable outcomes in the workplace, particularly with study designs that provide stronger basis for causal inference.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2011;37(5):376-382  2020;46(3):330-334  2023;49(3):222-230