MELBOURNE: Not just the right job, but the relationships with colleagues and the social groups we form at the workplace may be linked to better health and lower burnout, new research has found.
Previous studies on the relationships between people and their workplaces focus on issues of satisfaction, motivation, and performance, but much less on health and well-being.
While many people assume that finding the right job that fits your personality and skills is the key to a healthy work life, Scientists have shown that how strongly we identify with the people or organisation where we work is associated with better health at work.
“This study is the first large-scale analysis showing that organisational identification is related to better health,” said Niklas Steffens from University of Queensland in Australia.
“These results show that both performance and health are enhanced to the extent that workplaces provide people with a sense of ‘we’ and ‘us’,” said Mr Steffens.
The team reviewed 58 studies covering 19,000 people in a variety of occupations, from service and health to sales and military work, in 15 countries.
While the type of job was not a significant factor in the link between social identification and health benefits, several factors influenced the relationship.
“Social identification contributes to both psychological and physiological health, but the health benefits are stronger for psychological health,” said Mr Steffens.
The positive psychological benefit may stem from the support provided by the work group but also the meaning and purpose that people derive from membership in social groups.
“We are less burnt out and have greater well-being when our team and our organisation provide us with a sense of belonging and community – when it gives us a sense of ‘we-ness’,” said Mr Steffens.
The researchers also found that the health benefits of identifying with the workplace are strongest when there are similar levels of identification within a group – that is, when identification is shared.
So if you identify strongly with your organisation, then you get more health benefits if everyone else identifies strongly with the organisation too.
The team was surprised to find that that the more women there were in a sample, the weaker the identification-health relationship.
“This was a finding that we had not predicted and, in the absence of any prior theorising, we can only guess what gives rise to this effect,” said Mr Steffens.
“However, one of the reasons may relate to the fact that we know from other research that there are still many workplaces that have somewhat ‘masculine’ cultures,” he said.
“This could mean that even when female employees identify with their team or organisation, they still feel somewhat more marginal within their team or organisation,” he added.
The study was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.