2.2 How to measure the work ability of employees: The Work Ability Index (WAI)

The WAI is a self-assessment tool that measures the work ability of the employees by considering their interaction with the environment in which they work. It can be used for individual employees and for groups of workers [4]. WAI can be sent via email to all workers of a sector and/or of a company. Results should be discussed together with all involved parties. Following an assessments of work ability of all employees, an evaluation can be made on the enterprise by identifying whether restrictions on work ability are imminent or in the future, to which environmental factors are related, and what needs to be done to eliminate barriers so as to support as well promote the health of those surveyed. The Work Ability Index (WAI) is composed of 7 sections:

Quick facts

  • Self-report assessment
  • 10-15 minutes completion time
  • No invasive or intrusive items
  • No adverse impact
  • Instantaneous scoring and reporting output
  • 1 Current work ability compared with the lifetime best
  • 2 Work ability in relation to the demands of the job
  • 3 Number of current diseases diagnosed by a physician
  • 4 Estimated work impairment due to diseases
  • 5 Sick leave during the past year (12 months)
  • 6 Own prognosis of work ability 2 years from now
  • 7 Mental resources
  • WAI TOTAL SCORE
  • 0 – 10
  • 1 – 5
  • 0 – 2
  • 1 – 6
  • 1 – 5
  • 1 – 7
  • 0 – 4
  • 7 – 49
The best possible rating on the index is 49 points and the worst is 7 points. A score of 49 points indicates maximum work ability whereas 7 points denote very poor work ability. It shall be noted that ‘poor work ability’ means that the demands of the work and the resources of the worker do not fit together; this may be because of adverse working conditions, limitations on the side of the worker, or both.

[4]Morschhäuser M., Sochert R., Healthy Work in an Ageing Europe – Strategies and Instruments for Prolonging Working Life, ENWHP, 2006
[5] Tuomi K., Ilmarinen J., Jankola A., Katajarinne L., Tulkki A. Work Ability Index, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, 1998

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