Working conditions & stress in the UK public sector

Ravalier, J.M and Walsh, J (2018) Working conditions & stress in the UK public sector. In: International Congress of Applied Psychology, 26 - 30 June 2018, Montreal, Canada.


Background: Stress can negatively influence employee physiological and psychological health and well-being. In the UK, public sector employees such as teachers and social workers are working under austerity which may subsequently be influencing stress. We will demonstrate working conditions in these public servants, and influence of these conditions on stress-related outcomes. Methods: Nation-wide surveys of working conditions, perceived stress, presenteeism, turnover intentions and job satisfaction were conducted using psychometrically valid and reliable measures. We also asked respondents to describe ways to improve on stress in their job roles. Results 16,000 responses from nationally-representative social work and teacher respondents. Working conditions were worse than 95% of respondents from benchmark scoring, over 50% were looking to leave the role within 18 months, over 40% were dissatisfied, and 45% had attended work. Demands were the one factor which significantly influenced these outcomes. Conclusions: In order to stave off a national crisis, we need to improve the demands faced by public sector employees – without doing so, we risk migration away from these important professions. As such, by focusing on the improvement of demands faced in these roles, we can stave off these outcomes. Recommendations & Impact Respondents described (irrespective of job role) demands were influenced by red tape, number of students/cases, and lack of support. National suggestions for improvement are presented. Work has influenced national organisation’s campaigns on workload (such as the British Association of Social Workers and Education Institute for Scotland) and the Scottish Parliament. It is well documented that exposure to chronic negative working conditions leads to stress. This subsequently impacts sickness absence and attrition, making it a key consideration for policymakers and academics alike. This study therefore seeks to investigate the influence of psychosocial working conditions on stress and related outcomes: sickness presenteeism, job satisfaction, and turnover intentions in UK teachers and social workers. A cross-sectional survey was used, in addition to a single open-ended question designed to further investigate the sources of stress, to collect data from 16000+ teachers and social workers. Results demonstrate high levels of turnover intentions, presenteeism, and low job satisfaction, as well as higher than average perceived stress. Regression analyses found that the interaction between high demands, low levels of control, and poor managerial support was related to stress and related outcomes. Qualitative content analysis of the open-ended question corroborated and extended these findings, discussing the influence of the amount of paperwork and casework/students most influenced these outcomes while also demonstrating that poor ergonomic set up of the work environment and a blame culture was adding to the experience of stress. The work has subsequently influenced national work and campaigns by social work and teaching organisations, and influenced at national parliamentary levels.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Sciences
Date Deposited: 05 Nov 2018 09:32
Last Modified: 15 Aug 2021 09:50
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