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Can individual health differences be explained by workplace characteristics?—A multilevel analysis
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Sociology.
2008 (English)In: Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 66, no 3, 650-662 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research on work-related health has mainly focused on individual factors. The present study expands the focus by exploring the role of organizational characteristics of workplaces for different individual health outcomes. The aim of the study was to look at differences in relative effect of workplace variations on five health outcomes, and to explain those differences in health outcomes by organizational characteristics. The sample encompassed 90 workplaces in Sweden and about 4300 individuals employed within these workplaces. Measurement of the workplace characteristics was carried out independently of the measurement of the individual's working conditions and health. Organizational data were collected by interviews with local managers at participating workplaces, and individual data were obtained by means of a survey of the employees. The results showed that a significant proportion of the variance in sickness absence, work ability, general health, and musculoskeletal disorders was attributed to the workplace. Of eight tested organizational characteristics, customer adaptation, lean production, and performance control could explain some of this workplace variance. The results also showed that only one organizational effect remained significant when controlled for the individual confounder of age and gender. High customer adaptation is associated with higher sickness absence. This association is not mediated via differences in mental and physical job strain.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2008. Vol. 66, no 3, 650-662 p.
Keyword [en]
Organizational characteristics, Working conditions, Sickness absence, Musculoskeletal disorders, Work ability, General health, Sweden
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-11095DOI: doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2007.09.008OAI: diva2:150766
Available from: 2008-11-17 Created: 2008-11-17 Last updated: 2011-01-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The importance of organizational characteristics for psychosocial working conditions and health
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The importance of organizational characteristics for psychosocial working conditions and health
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The importance of organizations for understanding differences in the working conditions and health of employees is often emphasized but rarely explored empirically. The general aim of this thesis is to describe organizational characteristics of workplaces, and to assess their impact on the psychosocial working conditions and health of employees. In modern working life, it is assumed that employees' working conditions and health are affected by a general transformation of workplaces from bureaucracy to post-bureaucracy.

 The organizational data used are based on structured interviews with managers at workplaces in different types of operations in mid-Sweden, whereas the individual data consist of a questionnaire to all employees working in the participating workplaces, resulting in a dataset of 90 workplaces and 4306 individuals. Descriptive analysis was carried out for comparison of organizational characteristics in different types of operations, while multilevel analysis was applied to investigate the magnitude of the organizational impact on psychosocial working conditions, and to analyze associations between organizational characteristics, psychosocial working conditions and health.

The results showed that the workplaces were mainly displayed by a combination of bureaucratic and post-bureaucratic characteristics, and these were unequally distributed between types of operations. A systematic variation in the psychosocial working conditions and health of employees was found between workplaces, and the variation in psychosocial working conditions was attributed to several organizational levels. The variation between workplaces was explained by both organizational characteristics of the workplaces and individual characteristics of the employees. Formalization, centralization, job enrichment, individual responsibility, soft control systems, and performance control were associated with psychosocial working conditions when controlled for occupational class, gender and age of employees, and a high degree of customer adaptation was associated with increased sickness absence of employees.  

It is concluded that bureaucracy and post-bureaucracy should not be regarded as dichotomies. Organizational characteristics of workplaces have an impact on the psychosocial working conditions and health of employees beyond occupational class. This has implications for both the theory and the practice of occupational health research. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Print & Media, 2009. 59 p.
Akademiska avhandlingar vid Sociologiska institutionen, Umeå universitet, ISSN 1104-2508 ; 54
Organization, workplace, bureaucracy, post-bureaucracy, psychosocial working conditions, JDC model, multilevel analysis, health, sickness absence
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Research subject
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-18285 (URN)789-91-7264-735-0 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-03-27, Hörsal F, Humanisthuset, Umeå universitet, 901 87, Umeå , 10:15 (Swedish)
The Healthy Workplace Study
Available from: 2009-03-11 Created: 2009-02-02 Last updated: 2009-03-27Bibliographically approved

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