Divya Sivaramakrishnan, Jillian Manner
Factors related to sedentary behaviour and physical activity in call centres during the COVID-19 pandemic
Other authors: Ruth Jepson, Graham Baker, Richard Parker, Andrew Stoddart, Scott Lloyd
Background: Contact centres have been identified as workplaces with high levels of sedentary behaviour and one in four members of staff regularly experience musculoskeletal problems. Stand Up for Health (SUH) is an intervention developed based on the socio-ecological model to target sedentary behaviour in contact centres.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way contact centres work, with employees working from home, and restrictions and hygiene measures in place on site. Contact centres now face different barriers and enablers to reducing sedentary behaviour and increasing physical activity. This study explores these factors with the view of refining the SUH programme theory and adapting the intervention accordingly.
Aim: To identify modifiable factors that would influence physical activity and sedentary behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic among contact centre employees in the UK.
Method: 64 interviews were conducted across 4 UK contact centres. An interview topic guide was developed to understand current barriers and enablers to sedentary behaviour and physical activity based on the socioecological model. Deductive coding was carried out using a codebook created by the analysis team, and thematic analysis is being used to identify themes in a sample of 33 transcripts.
Results: Analysis is in progress. Many staff felt they were sitting more, moving less and had poorer mental health since the UK-wide lockdown. Reduced social interaction, lack of motivation, anxieties related to COVID-19 and general lockdown restrictions presented significant barriers to physical activity. Barriers to sedentary behaviour included reductions in incidental movement while working (eg. meetings, chatting to colleagues) as well as a general lack of opportunities and need to leave the desk space (whether in office or at home). Working from home proved beneficial for some, who noted the ability to break up sitting by completing housework on breaks and spending more time with family (including being physically active).
Conclusion: This study will provide learnings on the barriers and enablers to sedentary behaviour and physical activity in this complex work and research environment of contact centres, during a time when working practices are shifting significantly.