Research/studies Injury prevention

Job flexibility, control and salary play a role in worker health and safety, researchers say

Photo: Tuncay GÜNDOĞDU/iStockphoto

Seattle — The way your job is structured, how much you’re paid and how flexible your schedule is are among the factors that could affect your health and workplace injury risk, according to the results of a recent study out of the University of Washington.

Researchers used 2002-2014 data from the General Social Survey to look for links among employment quality, self-rated health, mental health and workplace injuries. They found that:

  • Employees in “dead-end” jobs and “precarious” job holders, such as those on short-term contracts or with part-time hours, were more likely to report poor health – both physical and mental – as well as workplace injuries than people in more standard employment arrangements.
  • “Inflexible” skilled workers (those with “generally high-quality” jobs with long, inflexible hours) and gig workers reported worse mental health and more injuries than people in standard employment.
  • “Optimistic precarious” employees (including service workers with “high empowerment,” such as florists) reported similar health to people in standard job arrangements, despite “insecurity, low pay and irregular hours.”

Employees in this latter group “report high control over their schedules, opportunities to develop and involvement in decision-making,” a Sept. 26 press release from UW states.


“This research is part of a growing body of evidence that the work people do – and the way it is organized and paid for – is fundamental to producing not only wealth, but health,” Noah Seixas, study co-author and professor of environmental and occupational health at UW, said in the release. “Using policy and legal levers to influence how people are hired and treated at work can have profound effects on improving the health of workers and their communities.”

The study was published online Sept. 1 in The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences.

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