Association between mobile work and work ability: a longitudinal study under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Ines Berling*, Marlies Jöllenbeck, Tjorven Stamer, Elke Ochsmann

*Corresponding author for this work
5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: This study examines the effect of mobile work on work ability as direct predictor and as factor moderating workplace stressors and resources. Originally, the study focused on the effects of mobile work on work ability in a mobile test group compared to office workers. As the study period of 1 year collided with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions, we can now explore the association of mobile work and work ability before and during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This longitudinal, exploratory study took place in a medium-sized company in the social insurance sector in Germany. We used a mixed-methods design (online survey and focus group interviews) with two survey dates 1 year apart (T0: summer/autumn 2019 (before COVID-19 pandemic), T1: summer 2020 (during COVID-19 pandemic, after first strict lockdown)). Quantitative data, which are reported here, were collected by means of an online questionnaire, which includes questions on mobile work and validated measures for work-related stressors and resources and work ability. Non-parametric tests, regression analysis, and logistic regression models were used for data analysis. Results: The linked data set of both survey dates includes N = 102 persons (men: 37%, mean age: 41–50 years). Interestingly, we found an improvement in work ability over the course of the study (p = 0.007), although it included the first and most drastic COVID-19 restrictions in Germany. Before the pandemic, correlations between work ability and work-related stressors (e.g., work–privacy conflicts) and resources (e.g., sense of community) were evident. Some of these factors are moderated by mobile work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, mobile work was identified as independent factor for work ability. In addition, technology competence conviction gained importance as a personal resource in our cohort. Conclusions: Work ability can be influenced by many factors. Our study, which allowed for a comparison of work ability before and during COVID-19 pandemic, suggests that mobile work can be especially helpful to maintain work ability in times of change. Our findings support the notion that—under normal conditions—mobile work can influence work ability via work-related stressors and resources. In times of changes, it can have an independent effect on work ability. It must be assumed that the effects can be highly individual or context-specific.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
Volume95
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1401-1413
Number of pages13
ISSN0340-0131
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 08.2022

DFG Research Classification Scheme

  • 205-10 Toxicology, Occupational Medicine, Clinical Chemistry

Coronavirus related work

  • Research on SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19

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