• Explaining work-related stress in UK academic staff: alternative approaches

      Wray, Siobhan (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2018-09-26)
      The programme of work presented in this thesis examined the effect of work-related stressors in UK academic staff across a period of six years, utilising a benchmarking approach. Furthermore, the thesis examines the relationships between stressors and a range of key strain outcomes: psychological distress, emotional exhaustion, disengagement, work-life conflict, intrinsic and extrinsic job satisfaction. Study 1 presents the results of three work and wellbeing surveys conducted in 2008, 2012 and 2014 that utilise the Health and Safety Executive’s Management Standards Indicator tool to assess levels of psychosocial hazard in the occupational group at these three time points. Comparisons were made across each wave of data to identify patterns of change in the sector. Additionally, a range of strain outcomes were assessed at each data collection point and examined with reference to other occupational groups and norms, and across the waves of data where appropriate. The results from study 1 indicate that the level of wellbeing associated with academic work significantly reduced in five out of seven hazard categories across the three waves of data. Additionally, academic staff reported higher levels of perceived stress and increased work-life conflict. Psychological distress and job satisfaction, measured in 2014, were lower than benchmarked data from a range of other occupational groups. Study 2 examined the predictive power of two key theoretical models of work-related stress to further examine the stressor-strain relationship in academic staff. The job demands control-support and job demands resources models predicted significant proportions of the variance in all strain outcomes, however, the inclusion of a broader range of resources in the latter model explained a greater proportion of the variance in all outcome measures except work-life conflict. Strong main effects were observed in each model, but the evidence for interactive effects was less conclusive. Study 3 expanded on these findings by examining key resources identified in the job demands resources model and examining these via the context of sector change. A conservation of resources approach was used to develop and test a resource caravan whereby satisfaction with sector change predicted strain outcomes via the mediating effects of role stress and two form of illegitimate task. Indirect effects of role and illegitimate tasks independently mediated the relationship between change on a range of outcome variables, Additionally, a serial mediation effect whereby change predicted role, which in turn predicted illegitimate tasks added further unique predictive power to each model. The findings from the thesis indicate a worsening pattern of wellbeing associated with academic work across the six-year period investigated and evidence is presented to support the effect of stressors on key strain outcomes in academic staff. Finally, the findings highlight the importance of examining the relationships between key resources at sector, institutional and individual levels to inform systemic interventions to respond to the significant levels of stressors and strain reported by the sector and suggestions for interventions are discussed.