Working conditions, compensatory strategies, and recovery

University dissertation from Stockholm : Psykologiska institutionen

Abstract: The general aim of this thesis was to study and identify working conditions related to different types of compensatory strategies and to examine the relations between such strategies and recovery. Compensatory strategies refer to how people act in order to handle a great amount of work. Intensifying work within the given time frame, paid and unpaid overtime, working when sick, and use of vacation instead of sick leave are examples of such strategies. These strategies are not focused on changing the relation to work, but on working harder and more. Compensatory strategies reduce the individual’s opportunities for recovery, which may be a health risk. The aim of Study I was to investigate recuperation among teachers. Based on cluster analysis, twenty percent of the teachers were classified as non-recuperated. That group also had more ill-health symptoms and higher sickness presence than the other teachers. Failure to recuperate was related to aspects of the classroom, but not to more general organizational circumstances. The aim of Study II was to investigate how common it was for employees to use vacation instead of sick leave, and how common it was for people not to be rested after vacation. Fourteen percent of the study group (n=2536) had taken vacation leave instead of sick leave, and 15 percent reported not being recuperated upon returning to work after several weeks leave. Personal financial situation is a contributory factor, but there is also a strong correlation with the way work is organized. The aim of Study III was to identify the determinants of sickness presence. For any given level of health status, there were personal- and work-related demands (replaceability, sufficient resources, conflicting demands, control, time pressure) that influenced the level of sickness presence. The aim of Study IV was to validate questions on unwinding and recuperation by investigating their relationships with cortisol output. High levels of morning cortisol were significantly related to subjective ratings of recuperation.

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