This study used a meta-analysis approach (combination of many previous studies) with 203 samples, to assess how detrimental job demands are, and how helpful job resources are, in terms of burnout, engagement and safety outcomes. The researchers (Nahrgang, Morgeson, & Hoffman, 2011) wanted to know how well the job demand-resources theory (Bakker & Demerouti, 2007) explains these relationships.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
According to the analysis, the theory fits pretty well. The data supported the theoretical links between job demands-health impairment-burnout-negative safety outcomes, meaning burnout was harmful to safe work practices. The data also supported the theory’s links between job resources-motivation-engagement-positive safety outcomes, meaning 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 lead to burnout, health impairments, and a greater number of unsafe outcomes. Only the variable “physical demands” was not related to burnout or engagement.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN INDUSTRIES
“Risks and hazards” explained the most variation in engagement scores, 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. 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 (or reduce the harmful effects of) these job demands. They also increase employee engagement, and reduce the likelihood of unsafe outcomes.
BOTTOM LINE FOR ORGANIZATIONS
Across all industries, “supportive work environment” was the key job resource for reducing burnout and safety problems and increasing engagement. Therefore, support such as teamwork and leadership 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(1), 71-94.