Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Topeliuksenkatu 41 a A,
FIN-00250 Helsinki, Finland
Many studies on VDT work have shown that physical and mental well-being in computer-based office work is related to various characteristics of the work and the work environment, as well as of the individual using the computer. The majority of the studies in the '80s indicated that the complaints of discomfort in the eyes and in the musculoskeletal system, and the experience of stress, were associated with working with computers. The etiology of the problems is not clear, however. Especially studies in the '90s have shown the importance of psychosocial factors and the need for a systems approach for explaining the multifactorial relationships ( Smith and Cohen 1997). The balance model introduced by Smith and Sainfort ( 1989) provides a useful framework for examining the complex interaction of using computerized technology in an organization. The individual with his/her physical characteristics, perceptions and behavior is at the center of this model. The individual has access to available technologies when performing his/her specific work tasks. The task requirements also affect the skills and knowledge needed. The tasks are carried out in a work setting that comprises the physical and social environment. There is also an organizational structure that defines the nature and level of individual involvement, interaction and control. This framework of the balance model was utilized for examining stress and well-being of office workers in a large municipal organization. The aim was to analyze the extent to which perceived stress, disorders of the upper limbs, and visual strain were associated with characteristics of the work and of the organization, introduction of technological change, problems with the workstation, and experience in using computers.