The Institute is characterized by the multidisciplinary nature of its research work and its close relation with industry. As major part of the research, a number of field studies and experiments are carried out each year on the basis of contracts made with government agencies, private enterprises and labour unions. Teamwork of the research staff from different disciplines is maintained throughout the research programmes. Particular care is given to effective workplace-level improvements for decent work and workplace. The research programmes are closely connected with training and information services of the Institute.
Institute composes of main research topics as follows:
Better job design and improving work and safety systems
Various aspects of job design are investigated mainly by the Research Division through field projects and laboratory experiments. Research projects are undertaken on adaptation to jobs, job analysis, assessment of workload and fatigue, work performance and safety and health effects of work and stress. A variety of physiological and psychological methods are applied, such as motion and time study, behavior analysis, assessment of muscular, visual and mental strains, questionnaires and other field methods. Polygraph techniques are frequently used to analyze heart rate, eye movement, muscle activities, electroencephalograms and other activities.
Detailed assessment of physical and mental workload, fatigue and monotony is carried out on various jobs. Examples include visual display unit operators, machine and plant operators, software designers, assembly line workers, traffic controllers, vehicle drivers, welfare and health care workers and others.
Special attention is paid to work-related health impairments such as low back pain and work-induced upper limb disorders. Visual fatigue and chronic fatigue of workers are also among important subjects of study. Systematic field research is being undertaken on effects of night and shift work. The aim is to establish appropriate work-rest schedules and other measures to facilitate adjustment and tolerance to shiftwork.
Improving the quality of working life in changing employment situations
Various social life aspects in industry and agriculture in relation to technological changes and employment structures are studied by the Research. Extensive field surveys are carried out on impacts of technological innovations and structural changes in employment, changing needs of workers for career and skills development and lifestyle patterns. In a systematic attempt, data are collected and analyzed on hours of work, working time arrangements and changes in daily time budget of day and shift workers. Various questionnaire and interview techniques are developed to cover various topics related to conditions of work and life of industrial workers and farmers.
Particular emphasis is placed on problems of aged workers, part-time workers and disabled workers in joint studies with staff members of other divisions. Conditions of small- and medium-sized enterprises undergoing rapid technological changes are of special interest. In collaboration with other research institutions, field studies in Japanese industries and abroad are carried out about humanized work systems and the effects of advanced information technologies on working relations.
In the area of working life of farmers, drastic changes in workforce structure and working life patterns in rural districts have been studied in various parts of the country. Research projects are being launched on effects of agricultural machines, impacts of part-time farming, measures to secure as well as recent changes in rural community development.