Original article

Scand J Work Environ Health Online-first -article    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3907

Office design as a risk factor for disability retirement: A prospective registry study of Norwegian employees

by Nielsen MB, Emberland JS, Knardahl S

Objectives This aim of this study was to (i) examine differences in risk of subsequent disability retirement between employees working in cellular, shared, and open-plan offices and (ii) determine the contribution of gender, skill-level, work ability, medically certified sickness absence, leadership position, and personality traits (extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness) as confounders.

Methods Survey data on predictor variables combined with official objective registry data on disability retirement and sickness absence were extracted from a large Norwegian occupational cohort of office workers (N=6779, 53.5% women). Questionnaire data included the respondents’ office designs, comparing cellular, shared, and open-plan offices, demographic characteristics, workability, and personality factors. Objective data on disability retirement and medically certified sickness absence were extracted from the sickness and disability benefit register of the Norwegian Labor and Welfare Administration.

Results In the final fully adjusted model, employees working in shared [hazard rato (HR) 1.52, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08–2.16] and open-plan (HR 1.95, 95% CI 1.31–2.90) offices had significantly higher risk of subsequent disability retirement compared to employees in cellular offices. Gender, work ability, medically certified sickness absence, and conscientiousness had independent direct effects on risk of disability retirement.

Conclusion This study shows that open and shared workspace designs have detrimental effects by increasing risk of disability retirement among office workers, even when taking other known predictive factors into account.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2011;37(5):376-382  2016;42(6):490-499  2020;46(3):330-334