An intervention study aimed at the management of burnout and engagement of university staff
Van Zittert, Johannes Petrus
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South African Tertiary Education Institutions (TEIs) are now faced with issues of globalisation, broadening access to higher education, changes in language policies, changes in government funding, an increased emphasis on technology, transformation, mergers, changing student profiles, high levels of student enrolment and increased competition (Wiese, van Heerden, & Jordaan, 2010; Higher Education South Africa, 2011). The increased workload necessitated by the increase of students within South African TEIs, in conjunction with the current financial situation of universities, is compounded by factors such as low staff morale, uncertainty among staff members and large-scale resignations (Maree, 2010). These challenges can be seen as increasing the demands and decreasing the resources of university staff, and as explained by the Job Demands-Resource Model of organisational wellbeing (JD-R) (Demerouti, Bakker, Nachreiner, & Schaufeli, 2001), could impact negatively on the wellbeing of the employees. These changes and the demands placed on the TEIs will inevitably have an impact on the levels of burnout as well as levels of engagement of employees (Coetzee, 2004). Stressful work situations (characterised by high job demands and lack of job resources), could lead to burnout, poor individual health and wellbeing of employees (Sonnentag, 2001). Burnout can lead to serious consequences, especially for university staff members, who form part of the human services industry (Adekola, 2010). The aim of this study was to establish the effectiveness of a physical activity and psychological intervention on burnout and engagement at a tertiary education institution. A longitudinal design was utilised where self-report as well as physical measures were used to evaluate the effect of the intervention. The convenience sample consisted of staff at a tertiary education institution (n(Time 1)=50, n(Time 2)=26; n(Time 3)=19). Burnout and engagement were measured using The South African Employee Health and Wellness Survey and physical measurement focused on: blood pressure values, fasting blood glucose levels, lipid profile Body Mass Index (BMI), waist circumference (WC), percentage body fat (%BF) and Lean Body Mass (LBM). The sample group was divided into two groups. In the first phase, the first group underwent a four-week physical activity intervention focusing on resistance training as well as cardiovascular fitness. The second group underwent a 4 week personal development plan focusing on increasing personal resources as well as social support. The groups were reassessed after the first four weeks and then switched interventions. After completion of both interventions, participants were once again assessed. MANOVAs were used to determine whether group differences occurred for more than one dependable variable (Salkind, 2009). ANOVAs (a one-way analysis of variance) were used to determine which intervention groups had been affected most with regard to the various constructs measured. Crichton (2009) explains that the Wilks’ Lambda test is used in MANOVA’ to test whether there are differences between the means of identified groups of subjects on a combination of dependent variables. Although there were no statistically significant movements observed for burnout and engagement scores, there are still indications of the effect the interventions showed. The psychological intervention increased engagement, and the scheduling of first a psychological intervention, and then a physical activity intervention, is suggested as more beneficial. None of the interventions were effective at alleviating burnout. Recommendations were made for future research.