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The roots grow deep: strong yet changeable: social norms and working life
Linköpings universitet, Linköping, Sverige.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2471-3788
2022 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The overarching aim of this thesis was to explore social norms in relation to work and its influence on individuals’ actions and mindsets. This has been done through four empirical studies which investigated the work norm from three different perspectives: 1) the work norm in practice, through the actions of individuals on sick leave during their rehabilitation process and in relation to the system and the actors within the system, as well as managers actions within their organisations; 2) exploring perceptions of the work norm in terms of socialisation to working life and structural changes; 3) a comparative exploration of the work norm between different contexts.

The specific research questions were:

1. How do individuals’ various experiences influence their values and perceptions of themselves and their actions in relation to work?

2. How do individuals’ actions serve to reinforce or challenge the existing normative structures?

3. Are there differences, and if so, how are they expressed, in the work norm between different societal and cultural contexts?

This thesis was exploratory in nature and aimed at gaining a rich, in-depth understanding of the participants’ experiences, values and actions by adopting an inductive, qualitative approach. The data collection consisted of a combination of semi-structured individual interviews and group interviews. The material was analysed through qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis.

Study I focused on experiences of being on long-term sick leave, how the participants manage the societal norms and values, and how these influence their perspective on themselves throughout the rehabilitation process.

Study II was concerned with first-line managers’ actions and attitudes towards employees with repeated short-term sickness absence. Of particular interest was how social and organisational factors in the workplace influenced and shaped the managers’ actions.

Studies III and IV focused on young adults’ experiences of work, the role of work in their lives and their work values. The third study was mainly interested in the young adults’ expectations about work and their lived experiences of working. The fourth study’s main interest was how today’s young adults perceive the role of work in their lives and what they value about work. To capture how the social and cultural context may shape work centrality and work values, data from Sweden and the Netherlands were compared.

The results of this thesis show that the work norm is strong, and that work plays a central role in the lives of the participants in these studies. The structure individuals find themselves in shape their views on work and the thesis displays a nuanced perspective of different expressions of the work norm. Its influence differs depending on one’s life situation, whether you are at the start of your working career, in the centre of it or currently outside of the labour market. The results highlight the importance of achieving balance and accommodating one’s concerns within the natural, practical and social orders of reality. Ignoring one of these orders might result in a lack of wellbeing in another.

This thesis shows how the structural conditions which influence people’s possibilities to live up to the work norm differs depending on resources and social position. Even though the work norm is strong and people generally express a desire to work, it is not always practically reasonable to demand it, especially if it means too great of a sacrifice in other parts of the individual’s life. The results point to a difficulty in challenging the work norm as an individual, while organising with others around shared opposing values could be a start of bringing about a change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2022. , p. 65
Series
Linköping University Medical Dissertations, ISSN 0345-0082 ; 1801
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology Occupational Health and Environmental Health
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-221000DOI: 10.3384/9789179291891ISBN: 9789179291884 (print)ISBN: 9789179291891 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-221000DiVA, id: diva2:1838317
Available from: 2024-02-15 Created: 2024-02-15 Last updated: 2024-02-16Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Work ethics and societal norms influence sick leave and return to work: Tales of transformation
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Work ethics and societal norms influence sick leave and return to work: Tales of transformation
2021 (English)In: Disability and Rehabilitation, ISSN 0963-8288, E-ISSN 1464-5165, Vol. 43, no 21, p. 3031-3040Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: This study’s purpose was to explore how people on sick leave manage societal norms and valuesrelated to work, and how these influence their perspectives of themselves throughout the rehabilitationprocess.

Materials and methods: This was a longitudinal interview study with a narrative approach, comprising 38 interviews with 11 individuals on long-term sick leave. Data collection was conducted in two phasesand analysed iteratively through content analysis.

Results: The results suggest that work ethics and societal norms influence individuals’ views of themselvesand the sick leave and rehabilitation process. Conforming one’s personal values to the work normcan create internal conflicts and cause feelings of shame for not being able to live up to the establishednorm. The strong work norm may create unrealistic expectations, which in some cases may result in constrainingthe return to work process.

Conclusion: To transform a sick leave narrative into a positive one, societal norms and their influence onidentity needs to be recognised. Stakeholders involved in the process can contribute to a positive transformationby not only supporting return to work, but also to acknowledge and help people manage theirself-image as having a disability that limits their ability to work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2021
Keywords
Sick leave, return to work, work ethic, societal norms, narrative, experiences
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-221002 (URN)10.1080/09638288.2020.1728398 (DOI)000515433400001 ()32089014 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-85117305759 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Insurance Society
Available from: 2024-02-15 Created: 2024-02-15 Last updated: 2024-02-16Bibliographically approved
2. Acting the part: how social and organisational factors shape managers’ actions towards employees with repeated short-term sickness absence
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Acting the part: how social and organisational factors shape managers’ actions towards employees with repeated short-term sickness absence
2021 (English)In: International Journal of Workplace Health Management, ISSN 1753-8351, E-ISSN 1753-836X, Vol. 14, no 6, p. 634-649Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose – The aim of the study was to understand the social and organisational factors in the workplace thatshape managers’ actions and attitudes towards workers with repeated short-term sickness absence.

Design/methodology/approach – This was a qualitative interview study. Semi-structured interviews wereconducted with 19 managers at 15 different workplaces. The analysis had an abductive approach, usingthematic analysis which focused on the latent content of managers attitudes towards employees with repeatedshort-term sickness absence.

Findings – Results indicate that the managers’ views of people on short-term sick leave shift and move throughseveral phases, which was analysed as they were acts in a play, where their given roles are prescribing whichactions to take given the available resources for acting these parts. These acts depict an increasingly controllingattitude, where the sick leave is ultimately seen as an individual problem best managed by repressive tactics.

Originality/value – Role theory offers the possibility to analyse managers’ attitudes and behaviours byconsidering the workplace and the manager-employee relationship as regulated by norms and organisationalfactors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2021
Keywords
Managerial perspective, Sickness absence, Social norms, Organisational factors, Role theory, Social performances
National Category
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-221001 (URN)10.1108/ijwhm-09-2020-0162 (DOI)000688113900001 (PubMedID)2-s2.0-85113745768 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2024-02-15 Created: 2024-02-15 Last updated: 2024-02-16Bibliographically approved

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