Good work relationships shown to improve health

by Michael Mata06 Oct 2016
A new study has shown that getting on well with co-workers in the workplace is associated with better health and lower burnout.
The research, a meta-analysis entitled ‘A Meta-Analytic Review of Social Identification and Health in Organizational Contexts’ published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, covered 58 studies and 19,000 people across the globe.

According to the research, health at work depends not so much on securing a job that fits one’s personality and skills, but on relationships in the workplace and the social groups formed there.
Studies in the past that looked at the relationship between people and the workplace have focused on questions of satisfaction, motivation and performance more than issues of health and wellbeing.
Lead researcher Dr. Niklas Steffens of the University of Queensland said,This study is the first large-scale analysis showing that organisational identification is related to better health.
“These results show that both performance and health are enhanced to the extent that workplaces provide people with a sense of ‘we’ and ‘us’.”
What type of job an individual has was found not to be a decisive factor, with a variety of occupations covered in the analysis, including sales, health and the military.
“Social identification contributes to both psychological and physiological health, but the health benefits are stronger for psychological health,” says Steffens.
“We are less burnt out and have greater wellbeing when our team and our organisation provide us with a sense of belonging and community – when it gives us a sense of ‘we-ness’.”
The research also found that the potential health benefits are strongest when all workers in a workplace social group feel identification with it. If an individual reaps health benefits from identifying with an organisation, those benefits will be stronger if others identify in the same way too.
One unexpected finding from the research was that the more women there were in a sample, the weaker the correlation between workplace identification and health.
“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,” says 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. 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.”
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