Balanced between Support and Strain: Levels of Work Engagement

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1 Balanced between Support and Strain: Levels of Work Engagement Carolyn Timms, Paula Brough and Rosie Bauld School of Psychology Griffith University

2 This presentation Presents some initial findings from the WLB project Is exploratory in nature Focuses on the importance of work engagement as an indicator of workplace health Demonstrates that there are differences between employees in China/Hong Kong and Australia/New Zealand.

3 Why look at work engagement? Schaufeli, W.B. (2005). The future of occupational health psychology. Journal of Applied Psychology: An International Review, 53, Until recently organisational health psychology was a misnomer because the focus has been on ill-health. He pointed out that this logic is flawed because psychological health in the workplace is much more than the absence of psychological strain such as burnout.

4 Schaufeli, 2005 The traditional utilitarian approach in OHP that considers workers as a means to the desired end of higher organisational productivity needs to be supplemented by a genuine occupational health psychological perspective that considers the pursuit of workers happiness, health and betterment as legitimate goals and ends in themselves (p. 514).

5 A consistent theme This call has resonance with other work, for example: Rousseau, 1995 (psychological contract) Mayer and Davis, 1999 (management trustworthiness) Kim and Mauborgne, 1998 (fair process) and 2005 (Blue Ocean Strategy)

6 Dedication Vigour Absorption

7 Do previous findings on work engagement apply in Asia? Previous research with work engagement has been conducted in Western countries. Culture in Western countries tends to be individualistic Only a handful of studies have previously been conducted in China Culture in China tends to be collectivist

8 Aim and Hypothesis Aim: To establish a sense of commonality between employed individuals who reported particular levels of work engagement. Hypotheses: 1. Respondents attitudes towards aspects of their work environments will predict their levels of work engagement 2. These findings will be consistent over national divides.

9 Participants in the Work- Life balance project Australia (GU & ANU) n = 5235 New Zealand (Waikato U) n = 719 China (Lingnan U) n = 4096 Hong Kong (UHK) n = 451

10 Gender and age Anglo Asian n % n % Males Females M SD M SD Mean Age

11 UWES z scores for groups Highly Engaged Engaged Unengaged Disengaged Very Disengaged Dedication % 29% 29% 18% 9% Vigour Absorption

12 Work Engagement More Anglo in Engaged groups More Asian in Disengaged groups.

13 Measures used to compare groups Work life balance: 4 items, 7pt Likert, developed within the current project. Work demands: 5 items, 5pt Likert, Boyar Carr, Mosley & Carson, Family demands: 4 items, 5pt Likert, Boyar et al., Supervisor Support: 4 items, 6pt Likert, O Driscoll, Brough & Kalliath Turnover Intentions: 3 items, 5pt Likert, Brough and Frame, General Health Questionnaire: 12 items, 4pt Likert, Goldberg, 1972.

14 Work-life Balance Generally consistent with higher engagement groups, although there was no significant difference between Anglo engaged groups and unengaged group.

15 Work Demands Interesting aspect of work demands was that more highly engaged groups reported higher work demands we thought this instrument might have tapped into challenge (Deci & Ryan, 1987; Schabracq & Cooper, 2000).

16 Supervisor Support Asks about helpful advice, sympathetic understanding, concern, clear and helpful feedback and practical assistance. Clear differences between engagement groups on Supervisor support.

17 Turnover Intentions More turnover intentions expressed by the disengaged groups. An interesting difference between Anglo and Asian respondents on this measure.

18 General Health Questionnaire Levels above 4 on the GHQ represent cause for concern. Clear evidence that disengagement in workers is linked to poorer mental health outcomes. CAUSE FOR CONCERN

19 Work Engagement as a measure of workplace health Maslach & Leiter (1997) saw burnout as a barometer that measured workplace social dysfunction The current study indicates that engagement could be a useful measure of workplace health

20 Conclusions High levels of supervisor support and work demands are consistently associated with levels of work engagement. There was an observable pattern with work-life balance which was associated with levels of work engagement. Low levels of work engagement are associated with higher turnover intentions, and higher GHQ scores particularly in Anglo employees.

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