The well-being of employees in a South African agricultural research organisation
Asiwe, Doris Nkechiyem
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It is important that organisations are aware of factors that might affect the levels of well-being of employees, as employees are instrumental to the achievement of organisational goals. Well-being of employees can be conceptualised in terms of burnout and engagement. Studies have shown that different factors contribute to the employee experience of burnout and engagement. These factors include job demands and resources and psychological conditions (psychological meaningfulness, psychological availability and psychological safety). Although various studies regarding burnout and engagement can be found in literature, three research gaps have been identified from the studies. First, a reliable and valid instrument is needed to measure job demands and resources in a specific organisation. Second, given the cost of some measures of burnout, inadequacies in conceptualisation of the burnout construct and the inadequate psychometric properties of others, an inexpensive measure is needed which can be used to measure burnout in a valid and reliable way. Third, no studies seem to be found which focus on the effects of job demands and resources on burnout and engagement via specific psychological conditions (i.e. psychological meaningfulness, availability and safety). The general objective of this research therefore was to investigate the well-being of employees in a South African agricultural research organisation. It focused on job demands, job resources, burnout, work engagement and psychological conditions. The objective of the first study was to investigate the job demands and resources of employees in a South African agricultural research organisation. The study specifically examined the validity and reliability of a scale adapted to measure job demands and resources of the employees and established the prevalent job demands and resources of the employees. Differences that may exist based on the employees‟ demographic variables were also investigated. The aim of the second study was to provide an overview of current burnout measures that are used in the literature. From the literature, gaps were identified and used to develop a new Burnout Scale for use with employees within a South African agricultural research organisation. The research then examined the construct validity, reliability, construct equivalence and item bias of the newly-developed Burnout Scale. The research also investigated whether any differences in burnout existed in relation to the employees' demographic variables. The third study investigated the relationships between specific job demands, job resources, psychological conditions, burnout, and work engagement by testing a structural model of burnout and engagement in a sample of employees within a South African agricultural research organisation. The research method for each of the three articles consisted of a brief literature review and an empirical study. A non-probability availability sample of 443 agricultural employees was used. A cross-sectional design, with a survey as the data collection technique, was used. Measuring instruments that were utilised included an adapted Job Demands-Resources scale (AJDRS), a self-developed Burnout Scale (BS), a self-developed Work Engagement Scale (WES), an adapted Psychological Conditions Questionnaire (PCQ), and a biographical questionnaire. The statistical analyses were carried out with the help of the SPSS programme (IBM SPSS statistics, version 21) and MPLUS version 7.11 (Muthén, & Muthén 1998-2013). The statistical methods utilised in the three articles included descriptive statistics, Cronbach alpha coefficients, principal factor analysis, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficients, MANOVA, ANOVA, differential item functioning (DIF), and structural equation modelling. Evidence was established for the factorial validity and reliability of the AJDRS. The results indicate that the job demands experienced by employees in an agricultural research organisation are: overload and job insecurity; while job resources were: organisational support, growth opportunities, control, rewards, and physical resources (equipment). It was furthermore found that there were differences in the perceived job demands and resources of employees. In addition, the BS was found to consist of three reliable factors, i.e. fatigue, emotional exhaustion/withdrawal, and cognitive weariness. The results also showed construct equivalence for the Burnout construct, and no item bias for the language groups examined. Age was found to affect the level of perceived burnout of the employees. Furthermore, job resources (growth opportunities, control, and organisational support) were found to be positively associated with engagement, while lack of resources and job demands (overload) are positively associated with burnout of employees. Psychological meaningfulness, safety and availability are positively associated with work engagement, and negatively associated with burnout. The psychological conditions of availability, safety, and meaningfulness mediated the relationship between job resources and work engagement, as well as between lack of job resources and burnout. Psychological availability and meaningfulness mediated the relationship between job demands and burnout; however, the mediation effect of psychological safety on the relationship between job demands and burnout could not be established. Recommendations are made for practice, as well as future research.