Work wellness at a higher education institution in South Africa
Coetzee, Susanna Elizabeth
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With the introduction of positive psychology the aim with organisational psychology shifted to finding the 'happy/productive' worker and focusing more on work wellness. Historically, working in a higher education institution has generally been considered relatively stress-free and highly satisfying. However, recently the world of work has started to change drastically, which also holds true for higher education institutions. Since 1994, the democratic post apartheid government of South Africa has attempted to redress the injustices of the apartheid era. One of the focus areas of redress is the educational system. This has resulted in a restructuring of the broad higher education system, which implies consequences for the governance of all tertiary institutions. This research focused on the total spectrum of wellness - from unwell-being (e.g. burnout and stress) to well-being (e.g. work engagement). The moderating effects of organisational commitment and affectivity were investigated in order to establish a work wellness profile that will serve as basis for a wellness programme within the work environment. The objectives of this research were to standardise the MBI-GS, UWES and ASSET for employees of higher education institutions as well as to develop and test a causal model of work wellness for this specific group. The research findings are set out as four separate articles, each consisting of a brief literature overview and an empirical study. A cross-sectional design, whereby a sample is drawn from a population at a particular point in time, was used. The data for this study were collected from 372 academic and administrative employees at a higher education institution in South Africa. The Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI-GS), Cognitive Weariness Scale (CWS), Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES), An Organisational Stress Screening Tool (ASSET), Job Characteristics Scale (JCS), Affectometer 2 (AFM) and a biographical questionnaire were administered. Descriptive statistics, correlations, analysis of variance, canonical analysis, multiple regression analysis and structural equation modelling were used. Structural equation modelling confirmed a four-factor model of burnout consisting of exhaustion, cynicism, professional efficacy, and cognitive weariness. The scales showed acceptable internal consistencies. Analysis of variance revealed differences in burnout for groups with different languages and different years of experience at the institution. A three-factor model of the three UWES dimensions of vigour, dedication and absorption was confirmed. Practically significant differences were found in engagement levels of employees in different language groups, those with different years of experience at the institution and between academic and administrative employees. Acceptable construct validity and internal consistency were found for the ASSET. Compared to normative data, the participants reported significantly high levels of physical ill health, psychological outcomes of stress, and perceived lack of commitment from the organisation. Analysis of variance revealed differences in occupational stress levels for all the biographical variables tested. Multiple regression analysis was used to determine the factors that predict burnout and work engagement. The results showed that engagement can be considered a positive indicator of employee wellness and that job resources and positive affectivity contribute to engagement. Work engagement was related to low burnout scores, while professional efficacy was associated with work engagement. Burnout and physical and emotional strain are negative indicators of employee wellness, while overload, negative affectivity and low levels of primitive affectivity contribute to burnout. Recommendations for the organisations and future research were made.