May 23, 2022

NIOSH Tool Allows Users to Measure, Assess Worker Well-Being

By Kay Bechtold

NASHVILLE, Tennessee (May 23, 2022)—On Monday morning at AIHce EXP 2022, NIOSH’s Chia-Chia Chang, MPH, MBA, introduced attendees to the agency’s Worker Well-Being Questionnaire, or WellBQ, a tool intended to assess the well-being of workers in several areas, including quality of working life, circumstances outside of work, and physical and mental health status. Chang, who is coordinator for partnership and new opportunity development for the Office of Total Worker Health (TWH) at NIOSH, described worker well-being as a multidimensional concept: many factors contribute to worker well-being, and well-being affects many things. As attention to worker well-being has increased in recent years, NIOSH sought to develop a more comprehensive definition of the concept as well as a way to measure it. The product of the agency’s initiative, the NIOSH WellBQ, was developed by NIOSH and researchers at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit organization focused on public policy challenges. As the nature of work continues to evolve in a world increasingly described as “VUCA”—a term Chang explained stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity—a measurement tool like the NIOSH WellBQ can help users understand workers’ well-being and determine interventions to improve it, particularly for vulnerable workers.

The team that developed the NIOSH WellBQ first completed a literature review of multidisciplinary research, searching for terms like “happiness” and “flourishing” in addition to “well-being.” Through their work, the team decided that worker well-being is a comprehensive concept, like the weather—no one thing can measure or describe it, Chang explained. The literature review informed the creation of a worker well-being framework, which comprises five “domains,” including work evaluation and experience; workplace policies and culture; workplace physical environment and safety climate; health status; and home, community, and society. People don’t work in a vacuum, Chang said, and these areas outside of work all relate to one another.

When it comes to putting the questionnaire into practice, Chang recommends using it in its entirety to ensure that the full concept of worker well-being is captured. Another reason to use the entire NIOSH WellBQ is that many parts of the tool were adopted from other instruments; therefore, permissions to use copyrighted pieces of the tool are only granted when using it in full. According to Chang, the data from the NIOSH WellBQ can be used to assess the impact of interventions and compare results between groups, including groups within the same workplace or across worker populations. She urged AIHce EXP attendees to use best practices in conducting the survey. For example, users should obtain the informed consent of worker participants, protect their privacy and confidentiality, and be sure to communicate the results of the questionnaire as well as actions that will be taken based on the outcome. Workers should be part of the planning and decision-making process around the use of the WellBQ tool, Chang said.

The NIOSH website features resources and frequently asked questions related to the WellBQ tool. A separate page provides resources to help users understand and optimize conditions that affect worker well-being. The questionnaire is freely available for download.

Kay Bechtold is managing editor of The Synergist.

View more Synergist coverage of the conference on the highlights page on AIHA’s website.