Developing working conditions
Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis was to investigate working conditions and organizational strategies providing conditions for job resources with potential for development, positive well-being and health. The aim was formed on the assumption that the organization affects working conditions, working conditions affects employees‟ development, well-being, health and sickness absence. Both a qualitative case study design and a longitudinal epidemiologic design were used in this thesis. These two different approaches are complementary in enhancing scientific knowledge as well as providing implementable tools for development and reduced absenteeism. Study I was a qualitative study aiming at identifying manageable organizational factors affecting working conditions and sickness absence. Interviews primarily with managers were analyzed with a qualitative thematic approach. This was made to distinguish organizational features characterizing companies with low compared to average levels of sickness absence. The results revealed strategies and procedures in leadership, employee development, communication, employee participation and involvement, corporate values and visions and strategies for employee health, as characterizing companies with low levels of sickness absence. In study II the organizational conditions and strategies for creating job resources in companies with low levels of sickness absence was explored and described by using the same qualitative method as in study I. Organizational conditions for following job resources were found: Authority, Autonomy, Support, Skill utilization, Feedback, Role clarity, Predictability, and Learning possibilities. A main finding was that strategies and conditions for job resources were found to be provided for both leaders and employees through the active use of teams. Another main finding was that the companies were providing different kinds of learning opportunities, regulated by personal development plans. The third study, a study of the active learning hypothesis conducted with a longitudinal and population based design, scrutinizes demands and control as antecedents for learning according to the Job Demand Control model. Logistic regression analyses were used to estimate the associations. Results showed positive main effects of skill discretion, task authority, and control, as well as a positive effect of active and low strain working conditions on developing problem-solving skills, indicating that working conditions including high levels of control may positively affect coping skills and behavior also in the non-work domain. However, levels of non-participation were high in this study. Therefore, an extensive analysis of non-participation was made in study IV. Multivariate logistic regressions revealed that the rates of non-response were higher among males, younger persons, singles, those with lower income, lower education and those born outside the Nordic countries. This led to an overrepresenta-tion of Nordic, older, married women with high education and income, in the sample used in study III. The overall conclusion of this thesis is that working conditions and organizational strategies to provide job resources have effect on levels of sickness absence and development.
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