Work wellness in a government organisation in South Africa
Boemah, Kenneth Kingsley Kwasi
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Various occupational stressors like the physical environment, noise, lighting, temperature. aspects of the job, role conflict, workload, lack of career path, poor relationships with peers. and lack of participation arc likely to lead to various stress outcomes, namely behavioural; proneness to accidents, cognitive, inability to make sound decisions, physiological: increased blood pressure, physical and mental health, and organisational: lower productivity, and high turnover rate. These outcomes could however be influenced by moderator variables like age and gender, physiological experience and affective behaviours (type 'A' behaviour, life change, and social support). Studies have also found instances where some workers, exposed 10 the same unbearable work environments, did suffer from neither stress nor burnout. These findings have therefore led to the study of work engagement, which is considered the opposite of burnout. The study of stress, burnout and work engagement has therefore become vehicles through which employees' effectiveness and efficiency can be facilitated. It has become necessary to jointly study stress with burnout and work engagement in a holistic model so as to how a better understanding of work wellness. Burnout and work engagement therefore represent the two aspects of wellness namely, the energy dimension and the identification with work dimension. Studies have identified two underlying dimensions of work wellness in which they identified activation as ranging from exhaustion to vigour, arid identification as ranging from mental distance to dedication. Thus burnout according to them is characterised by a combination of exhaustion (low activation) and mental distance (low identification), while engagement is represented by vigour (high activation) and dedication (high identification). Extreme exhaustion may render employees emotionally and physically drained which may lead them to distance themselves emotionally and cognitively from their work and clients, while an engaged worker develops high levels of energy, and derives a sense of significance, attachment and dedication to work. However, to measure burnout, work engagement, stress, commitment and ill health requires valid and reliable instruments. In South Africa there aren't many systematic studies that have investigated stress, burnout, work engagement, commitment and ill health among civil servants. It is this dearth of well-designed studies in the area that makes this study very important. The objectives of this study were to assess the reliability and validity of the MBI-GS, the UWES, the ASSET, the Job Demands-Resource Scale, Commitment and Ill Health subscales Tor civil servants, determine the occupational stressors that they experience and whether the biographic variables by any way increase or moderate the effects of the stressors, and to finally test a structural model of work wellness consisting of burnout, work engagement, job demands-job resources, ill health, and commitment. The research method for each of the three articles consists of a brief literature review and an empirical study. A cross-sectional survey design was used. An accidental sample (N = 500) for research articles 1, 2 and 3 were targeted from the civil servants in the Mafikeng area of the North West Province of South Africa. The measuring instruments used in this study are; the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Survey (MBI-GS), Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES), Job Demands and Job Resources Scale (JDRS), Health subscales. Organizational Commitment subscales, the ASSET questionnaire and a biographical questionnaire. Structural equation modelling was used to test the factor structures of the Maslach Burnout Inventory-General Sunley (MBI-GS), and the Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) respectively. namely exhaustion, cynicism, cognitive weariness, and professional efficacy, and vigour, dedication and absorption. In respect of the MBI-GS, a four-factor model of burnout. consisting of exhaustion (physically drained), cynicism (distancing oneself from colleagues and clients), professional efficacy (feeling of accomplishment) and cognitive weariness (lack of focus on one's work), was found to fit the sample data best in comparison to the three-factor, two-factor and one-factor models. Thus the study established burnout as a bur-dimensional construct. In the case of the UWES a two-factor model of work engagement, consisting of vigour and dedication fined the data best as compared to a three-factor or one-factor model. This means that the UWES is a two-dimensional construct and not a three-factor nor a one-factor dimensional construct. The scales of the MBI-GS, UWES, and the ASSET subscales of work relationships, work life balance, overload, job security, control, resources/communication. aspects of the job, and the stress outcomes of organisational commitment, individual commitment physical health and psychological (un)well-being showed acceptable internal consistencies. There existed no statistically significant differences between burnout, work engagement. the stress dimensions, commitment and ill health respectively and any of the biographical variables. The study found that psychological (un)well-being, is a major stress outcome for the civil servants followed by physical (un)health, respectively. It was discovered that the civil servants generally have low levels of stress, and security was the lowest stressor. Employee commitment was also found to be high. Stress, due to lack of resources, predicted physical ill health and explained 21% of the variance of ill health among the sample of civil servants. Stress relating to aspects of the job and security, predicted psychological ill health and explained 31% of the variance in psychological ill health. Issues relating to control on the job and security predicted organisational and individual commitment respectively and further explained 28% and 20% of organisational commitment and individual commitment. Stress due to lack of job resources, security and aspects of [he job seem to be the most important stressors. Another objective of the study was to find out if energy and identification with work could be predicted from job demands and job resources respectively. It was found that job demands and lack of job resources lead to ill health through burnout, and job resources could lead to commitment via engagement. The implications are that employees who experience excessive workload are likely to experience burnout, which in turn leads to health related problems. Continuous availability of job resources would lead to work engagement, which in turn leads to organisational commitment, while lack of it would lead to burnout. Recommendations for further research were accordingly made.