Work ability as a risk marker of employee health and organisational effectiveness in four UK manufacturing organisations

Coomer, Karen (2017) Work ability as a risk marker of employee health and organisational effectiveness in four UK manufacturing organisations. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Work ability (WA) concerns a worker’s capacity to manage their job demands in relation to their physical and psychological resources. Over the last decade, the WA construct and its associated measurement instrument, the Work Ability Index (WAI), have become established within occupational health practice in several countries, particularly within Scandinavia. One consequence of this is that occupational health researchers have begun to utilise WA in the prediction of worker health and operational effectiveness outcomes.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that occupational health professionals in the United Kingdom (UK) have begun to use, or express interest in using, WA because of its increasingly widespread use in research, the gradual accumulation of information from Scandinavia on its potential for application within occupational health practice, and challenges presented to occupational health by an ageing workforce. In response, the first study in this thesis concerns a survey of UK (n = 436) and Finnish (n = 97) occupational health practitioners centred on their awareness, understanding, and application of WA in occupational health practice. Comparisons are drawn between the two countries to highlight possible areas for development in the use of WA in UK-based occupational health practice.

There is a paucity of WA research derived from the UK and manufacturing contexts. As such, the extent to which the WA construct might have utility in these contexts remains unclear. In response, the second study in this thesis concerns a cross-sectional survey of employees drawn from four UK manufacturing organisations (n = 311). The study centres on relations between work ability on the one hand and individual health (psychological distress, job stress, job satisfaction) and organisational effectiveness indices (work engagement, sickness absence) on the other. The predictive influence of personality constructs – core self-evaluation and the Big Five – is also examined. To address some of the limitations of cross-sectional research, the third study offers a longitudinal examination of these relationships involving a 19-month time lag (n = 74).

Within the last five years, a number of researchers have sought to examine the relative utility of different versions of the WAI. As with most WA research, this has derived primarily from Scandinavia. The relative utility of different versions of the instrument in the UK and manufacturing contexts remains unclear. In response, the final study in the thesis compares a multi-item and single item version of the WAI in the UK manufacturing sector in terms of the prediction of individual health and operational effectiveness outcomes.

This thesis concludes that there is a lack of understanding and use of the WA construct in UK occupational health practice. Work ability, and to a lesser extent the personality constructs, were found to be related to workers’ health, well-being, and organisational effectiveness. Finally, it was found that the two versions of the WAI instrument differed in terms of their predictive validity. The results of this thesis are discussed in light of their application to the development of theory, research, and occupational health practice.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Houdmont, Jonathan
Keywords: Work ability, Core self-evaluation, Big Five, Psychological distress, Job satisfaction, Job stress, Work engagement, Sickness absence
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WA Public health
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 44382
Depositing User: Coomer, Karen
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2017 04:40
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2017 02:10

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