Workers' Health On the Line: A Digital Intervention to Address the Fundamental Causes of Disease in the Low-Wage Retail Sector

Project Summary: 

The researchers are conducting a randomized control trial (RCT) among people working in low-wage, precarious retail jobs to evaluate the impact of a new form of online organizing – facilitated discussion groups – on physical and emotional well-being, and health-related workplace engagement. Using a customized version of the mobile app WorkIt, developed as a resource for low-wage workers by the non-profit organization United for Respect, the researchers will test the relative effect of a facilitated discussion group compared to an online group that receives health-related information only. Results from this study will help to evaluate the utility of this form of online community for building a culture of health by fostering shared values (shifting mindsets and expectations, stimulating civic engagement, and cultivating a sense of community) and improving health outcomes among a vulnerable population.


Health & well-being: self-reported physical wellbeing; sleep (amount and quality); exercise (steps per day); psychological distress

Other: Sense of community; collective efficacy (participation in online petitions, filing complaints with an employer, reaching out to coworkers about work-related health issues); feelings of solidarity; generalized altruism


The researchers are using a randomized control trial (RCT) design, in which participants are randomly assigned to one online community of 200 participants each (accessed through a customized app), where each online community is in one of two experimental conditions: a relational facilitation condition or an information only condition. The researchers are complementing this with a mixed-methods observational study of the workplace discussion groups to explore relations between physical and emotional wellbeing and a) levels of online participation; b) changes in language use; and c) network positions in the discussion group.

Principal Investigators: 

Adam Reich, PhD

Hana Shepherd, PhD

Grant Start Date: 
April 2020
Award Amount & Duration: 

$513,650 & 36 months