Stop Burnout, Increase Engagement & Improve Safety…by Providing Supportive Environment?

Topic: Health and Safety, Motivation, Human Resources
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (JAN 2011)
Article: Safety at Work: A Meta-analytic Investigation of the Link Between Job Demands, Job Resources, Burnout, Engagement, and Safety Outcomes
Authors: Jennifer D. Nahrgang, Frederick P. Morgeson, David A. Hofmann
Reviewed by: Mary Alice Crowe-Taylor

These days, the workplace is generally quite demanding! This study used a meta-analysis approach, with 203 independent samples, to assess how detrimental job demands are, and how helpful job resources are, in terms of burnout, engagement and safety outcomes. These researchers wanted to know how well the job demand-resources theory (JD-R) by Bakker & Demerouti (2007) explains these relationships.

According to this analysis, pretty well actually! The model that best fit the data supported the JD-R’s theoretical links between job demands-health impairment-burnout-negative safety outcomes. Burnout was harmful to safe work practices! It also supported the theory’s links between job resources-motivation-engagement-positive safety outcomes. Engaged employees are motivated to work safely.

Job demands included variables like job complexity, role overload, cognitively challenging work, physical demands, and risks and hazards. Draining to employees both physically and psychologically, these result in burnout, health impairments, and a greater number of unsafe outcomes, as this study showed. Only the variable “physical demands” was not related to burnout or engagement.


“Risks and hazards” explained the most variance in engagement, burnout and safety outcomes in the Construction and Transportation Industries, making it the key job demand that these types of organizations need to address. Making risk assessments for their specific environments and addressing specific employee concerns about risks and hazards would be the most advantageous, in terms of reducing burnout and safety problems and increasing engagement, for these types of organizations. In the Healthcare and Manufacturing/Processing Industries, “Job Complexity” was the key job demand predicting burnout, engagement and safety outcomes. Complexity included cognitive demands, task complexity, and role ambiguity.

Job resources like job autonomy, coworker/leader support, participation in decision-making, teamwork, positive work climate, pay, job security, knowledge of workplace safety, and a safety climate buffer these job demands. They also increase employee engagement, and reduce the likelihood of unsafe outcomes, as this study also showed.

Across all Industries, “Supportive Work Environment” was the key job resource for reducing burnout and safety problems and increasing engagement. Therefore, support such as leadership and teamwork training as well as providing social support, not just providing safety training, should be a priority for all types of organizations.

Nahrgang, J. D., Morgeson, F. P., & Hofmann, D. A. (2011). Safety at Work: A Meta-analytic Investigation of the Link Between Job Demands, Job Resources, Burnout, Engagement, and Safety Outcomes. Journal of Applied Psychology, 96, 71-94.

human resource management,organizational industrial psychology, organizational management