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Throw-away workers or sustainable workplaces? The Australian Workplace Barometer Maureen F Dollard Centre for Applied Psychological Research, Work & Stress Research Group, University of South Australia Natalie Skinner Centre for Work + Life, University of South Australia Keywords: National surveillance, psychosocial risk factors, job stress, Job DemandsResources Model. ABSTRACT There is an urgent and pressing need to address the issue of work stress in Australian workplaces. Do we want to build sustainable workplaces or simply throw-away and replace worn out or damaged workers? This paper argues for a national surveillance system of psychosocial factors at work as a means to build sustainable work contexts, and discusses national progress towards that goal. Drawing on the dynamism of the Job Demand-Resources Model the system will enable the exploration of the complexity of work stress by examining interactions between job demands, job resources, work engagement, mental (e.g. depression) and physical health and important organisational outcomes such as productivity loss in dollar terms. It will enable benchmarking of Australian work conditions against international standards, and the tracking of important temporal trends in conditions and work-related mental and physical health. Australian researchers will participate in high quality theory driven longitudinal research of crucial practical importance nationally and of theoretical importance internationally. Specifically the study will assist in understanding workplace health and productivity in terms of job conditions, demands and resources. It will underscore costly consequences of stressful jobs e.g. depression related workplace productivity loss in dollar terms. Australian governments, unions, and OHS organisations will have access to high quality evidence to: design and evaluate OHS interventions; inform prevention campaigns, policies and practice; benchmark progress at national levels; monitor changing trends, and develop national standards. 1.

INTRODUCTION

There is an urgent and pressing need to address stress and mental health in Australian workplaces. From an economic perspective the cost of stress-related compensation claims is estimated at AUD $200 million annually (Australian Safety and Compensation Council, ASCC, 2006). It is estimated that stress and violence at work accounts for 1 – 3.5% of GDP in a range of countries (Hoel et al., 2001). Psychosocial risks or hazards are aspects of “work design and the organisation and management of work, and their social and environmental contexts, which have the potential for causing psychological, social or physical harm� Cox et al. (2000, p. 14). Psychosocial protective factors are job resources that protect against psychosocial hazards, assist in achieving work goals and contribute to learning and personal growth (cf. Hobfoll, 2002). The main aim of this paper is to argue for a state-of-the-art surveillance system for psychosocial risks and protective factors in Australian workplaces as a national priority intervention strategy, and to discuss progress towards the development of the content and implementation of the system.


Crucial to effective interventions are robust empirically tested models of work stress that are both theoretically rigorous and intuitively easy to grasp for the layperson (eg policy makers, CEOs and managers). The Job Demands-Resources theory meets these two important criteria. A second aim of the paper is to discuss the JD-R theory as a foundation theory for the proposed surveillance system. 2.

PSYCHOSOCIAL SURVEILLANCE Surveillance as a Systems Strategy to Address Psychosocial Risks– International Context

Surveillance is particularly important in today’s global climate of rapid workplace changes. Contemporary workplaces are characterized by an increased emphasis on knowledge and information-based work, greater reliance on new technologies, increasing use of just-in-time production and management, and more frequent organisational change including downsizing and restructuring (Dollard, 2003; Kompier, 2006; Landsbergis, 2003). The lack of a comprehensive Australian surveillance system means that little is known regarding the impact of these changing conditions on Australian workers’ health and wellbeing. Findings from EU and OECD surveys, however, indicate cause for concern. These surveys show changes in a range of psychosocial risk factors and working conditions. Data from the European Working Conditions survey indicate an increase in work intensity (high speeds, tight deadlines) from 1991 to 1995 (Green & McIntosh, 2001). The European Working Conditions Survey also shows an increase in reports of violence, bullying, and harassment from 1996 to 2000 (Eurofound, 2005). A survey of 7 OECD countries indicated that perceptions of job security fell from 1989 to 1997, job satisfaction either remained stable or trended downwards, and perceptions of hard work increased (Clark, 2005). National surveillance is crucial to effectively addressing these important OHS issues. Interventions at the individual and organisational level are necessary but not sufficient as some of the problem or solutions may stem from “upstream” factors, such as policies, programs, and regulations initiated by governments, unions and other regulatory bodies. Indeed the United States National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) number one agenda item is for improved surveillance and monitoring studies to better track how the organisation of work is changing (Sauter, 2002). Surveillance of psychosocial risk and protective factors, individual health outcomes (eg stress, depression, anxiety) and organisational outcomes (eg absenteeism, presenteeism (reduced productivity whilst sick at work), turnover, productivity loss) is standard practice in many European countries and Canada. In the first international review of its kind, Dollard, Skinner, Tuckey, and Bailey (2007) identified 35 national surveillance systems of psychosocial risks in 20 countries (16 European) and 4 multi-country systems. Australia is one of a few industrialized countries without a comprehensive surveillance system. Canada is an international leader in this field, with three surveillance systems monitoring various aspects of working conditions, mental and physical health (Workplace and Employee Survey, National Population Health Survey, Canadian Community Health Survey). Risk assessment is also being adopted in nascent systems such as the Health & Safety Executive in Britain to inform its Management Standards initiative to achieve a nationwide reduction in work stress (MacKay et al., 2004). 2.2 The Lack of Comprehensive Data on Psychosocial Risks in Australia Australian research on the prevalence and outcomes of psychosocial risk factors tends to focus on specific occupations known to be at high risk. For example, there is good evidence of problems with violence, bullying and stress in the health and human services sectors (eg Dollard et al., 2003; Hegney, Eley, Plank, Buikstra, & Parker, 2006; Mayhew & Chappell, 2003). Australian population data on these issues, however, is currently not available. Australia has very limited national surveillance for psychosocial risk factors. National Data Set statistics are collected on compensation claims including claims arising from mental disorders and mental stress. However, claims data are unreliable as many people who are equally stressed do not submit claims (Dollard et al., 1999), indicating that such data can significantly underestimate the number of work related injuries and diseases. In 2003 LaMontagne and colleagues (LaMontagne et al., 2006) conducted the Victorian Job Stress Survey (VJSS) on a representative population sample of


1,101 Victorian workers. This comprehensive once-off study focused on the epidemiology of job strain and its association with compensation claims, depression, anxiety and cardiovascular disease risk. Limited data on psychosocial risks and protective factors is also collected by the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey. Within the broad scope of HILDA there are 21 questions addressing psychosocial risk and protective factors. Whilst this data can provide a valuable overview, it is clearly inadequate as a source of comprehensive surveillance information to detect, monitor and assess psychosocial risk factors, health and organisational outcomes. For example, HILDA does not collect data on emotional demands, acute stressors, violence, bullying and harassment – key issues that impact on physical and psychological health. In contrast, the surveillance systems identified by Dollard et al. (2007) as reflecting international best practice contain over 200 psychosocial questions across 40 categories. Nor does HILDA collect data on specific health conditions associated with psychosocial risks such as depression, anxiety and cardiovascular disease risk. 2.3 Foundation Work Achieved Towards Developing an Australian Surveillance System Significant steps towards the development of an Australian system have been achieved. In Japan 2005 the researchers convened a Roundtable on the Australian National Research Agenda and Action Plan for the Prevention of Psychosocial Risk at Work, at the 2nd International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) International Conference. Twenty nine eminent international scientists from 14 different countries attended. The Okayama Resolutions were drafted to promote national action in Australia. The main priority for the plan was national surveillance of psychosocial factors. Meanwhile in Australia the Australian Safety and Compensation Council has progressed tripartite work toward a national work hazard surveillance system of which psychosocial components are an element. Again, the system is not as comprehensive as we would like to see (e.g. does not include bullying, emotional demands, violence). Cooperation is in place so that the comprehensive system will overlay elements of the ASCC system. The researchers now have funding from the ARC Discovery scheme for 4 years to develop and implement the system in 2 states with 4000 participants and 2 time waves. 3. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND A major challenge for research in the field of work stress and burnout is to address with the myriad of factors that may impact on employees’ wellbeing and effectiveness in the workplace, and the interactions between them in determining health and organisational outcomes. One of the most comprehensive approaches to understanding this complexity is represented by the recent Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) Model of burnout. The JD-R model is firmly grounded in well established theories such as the Demand-Control-Support (DCS) Model (Johnson & Hall, 1988; Karasek, 1979), the Effort-Reward Imbalance (ERI) Model (Siegrist, 1996) and the Conservation of Resources (COR) Model (Hobfoll, 1989). There is considerable support for the central idea of the DCS model that certain demand resource combinations (high demands, low control and low support) presage the most deleterious health outcomes (de Lange et al. 2003). Similarly in the ERI model high efforts (demands) combine with low rewards to produce the worst health outcomes (Tsutsumi & Kawakami, 2004; van Vegchel et al. 2005). The more recent JD-R Model extends this previous work by proposing that many more demands and resources combinations than those specified in ERI and DCS models are important in predicting burnout (Xanthopoulou, Bakker, Dollard, Demerouti, Schaufeli, Taris, and Schreurs, 2007). Thus a more flexible model is proposed. We turn now to a brief description of the JD-R model and recent extensions. The Job DemandsResources (JD-R) Model of burnout is a relatively new theoretical model which is attracting much attention in the work stress area (Demerouti et al. 2001). The JD-R model proposes that work environments can be categorised according to job demands or job resources. Job demands are ‘things that have to be done’ and refer to those physical, social or organizational aspects of the job that require sustained physical and/or psychological effort and are therefore associated with certain physiological and/or psychological costs. Schaufeli and Bakker (2004, p. 296) argue that job demands are not necessarily negative aspects of the job, but they can turn into job stressors when meeting those demands requires high effort, eliciting negative responses such as depression, anxiety or burnout. Job resources are physical, psychological, social or organizational aspects of the job that may (a) aid in achieving work goals; (b) reduce job demands and the associated physiological and psychological costs; and (c) stimulate personal growth and learning (Bakker et al. 2003; Demerouti et al., 2001; p. 501). Like demands, resources can be operationalised at the task (eg feedback),


interpersonal (eg colleague support) and organisational level (eg mentoring) (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004). Demands and resources are assumed to be negatively related, and involved in two psychologically independent pathways in the development of various outcomes. Demands are predicted to lead to emotional exhaustion (or burnout) in an energy depletion process, whereas resources are hypothesized to lead to disengagement in a motivation depletion process. This dual pathway model has its roots in older research traditions such as job enrichment (cf. Herzberg et al. 1959) and job characteristics theory (cf. Hackman & Oldham, 1980). The model also emphasises positive resources, as well as negative demands, ideas consistent with the increasing recognition within broader psychological research of the importance of “positive” factors such as optimism and happiness for health and wellbeing (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Further the JD-R Model has recently been extended to a more comprehensive wellness model which includes the positive antipode of burnout - engagement (rather than disengagement). Engagement is the ‘positive, fulfilling, work related state of mind characterized by vigor, dedication and absorption’ (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004, p. 295). In this extended model burnout and engagement are proposed to mediate the impact of job demands and resources on health and work outcomes respectively. In the health impairment/erosion process high or unfavourable job demands drain employees’ energy resources, and compensatory costs manifest psychologically (eg increased fatigue) and physiologically (eg increased cortisol), thus leading to burnout and in turn to health problems (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004): Demands →burnout→health problems. In the motivational enhancement process high or adequate job resources stimulate employees’ motivation in the form of work engagement leading to positive work outcomes: Resources→engagement→ work outcomes (eg commitment). In sum the model can explain the genesis of important health and work outcomes. Research on the extended JD-R Model will be advanced by examining new and innovative hypotheses regarding: (1) the mediators of the relationship between demands /resources and health; and (2) the health and organisational outcomes related to job demands and resources. The phenomena of burnout (ie emotional exhaustion) has been widely studied. The large scale surveillance study enables us to investigate the unique mediator of depression in place of burnout. This represents an important extension to the JD-R model, and will provide important new insights into the dynamics of working conditions and mental health in the workplace. As recommended by Schaufeli and Bakker (2004) we will operationalise the outcomes of the JD-R Model in more diverse ways than has been previously researched; e.g. health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease (CVD) and muscular skeletal disorders (MSD), and work outcomes such as intention to turnover, compensation claims, and the financial $ cost of absenteeism and presenteeism (attending work whilst ill). We will also extend the scope of the model by examining its applicability at a population level – the first study to do so. This project will also be the first longitudinal test of the expanded Model.

Health Erosion Process

Demands

Mental Health

Physical Health

Resources

Engagement

Work Outcomes

Motivational Process 4. SIGNIFICANCE AND INNOVATION The proposed research addresses an extremely important problem of work stress in Australian workplaces. This study will significantly advance current understanding of the complex dynamics of job demands, resources, mental health reactions, engagement, physical health and organisational


outcomes. This project will be the first longitudinal population-based study of the extended JD-R model which will allow testing of both a generalized population model, and where possible sector-specific sub-models. The inclusion of bullying (see below) as a key demand within this model will also enable testing of unique hypothesis regarding the interaction between bullying and these variables. 4.1 Investigation of unique mediators and economic outcomes The JD-R model emphasizes burnout as an intermediary mental health state between demands and negative health outcomes. However, Schaufeli and Bakker (2004) do discuss other negative responses that have not yet been tested. We will extend this research by examining the unique mediators of depression. This will be the first study of the JD-R model to examine alternative indicators to burnout as a measure of mental health. The importance of addressing depression is highlighted in two recent meta-analyses that found depression was an independent risk factor for death due to CVD and myocardial infarction, in previously healthy people (Rugulies, 2002; Wuslin & Singal, 2003). Addressing these mental health problems is a high priority. Mental health burden represents the greatest population disability burden in Australia (Mathers et al, 1999). The WORC study finds that Australian workers at high risk of depression have an annual productivity decrement of $12, 700 (Whiteford et al., 2005). We can verify this statistic in our study as well extend the WORC study by drawing essential links between depression and work conditions in a representative sample. There is good evidence that working conditions affect mental health. For example, poor working conditions have been linked: with poor mental health in an Australian cross-sectional population study (D’Souza et al., 2003) and with depression in a Danish 5 year cohort study (Ruglies et al., 2006). What is not known however is how job demands and resources interact with mental health to influence outcomes such as productivity and physical health. The outcomes to be assessed in this study represent a selection of issues at the cutting edge of work stress research. There is increasing interest and evidence for the relationship between psychosocial factors at work (ie job demands and resources) and physical health conditions such as CVD and MSD (Belkic et al., 2004; Bongers et al. 2006). This study will be the first to examine these relationships in the context of the JD-R Model. In regard to organisational outcomes, the focus of this study is on productivity-related outcomes: intention to turnover (potential future loss), compensation claims, and the financial cost of absenteeism and presenteeism. This study will provide one of the most stringent tests of the JD-R model by examining its capacity to predict significant economic outcomes in dollar terms. Then we can draw conclusions about the cost-benefits of workplace change. 4.2 Inclusion of bullying as a demand factor In previous work we have identified bullying as an important workplace stressor with significant implications for individuals’ health and wellbeing. In a longitudinal sample of police officer we have found good evidence for the association between demand resource imbalance and bullying, and separately evidence for the association between bullying and increased CVD risk. This link was also evident in a longitudinal cohort of Finnish hospital workers (Kivimaki, et al., 2003), as was the link between bullying and depression. By examining bullying as a demand with the broader JD-R framework this study will enable us to examine novel hypotheses such as the proposition that bullying leads to depression which in turn leads to CVD risk through the health erosion pathway described earlier. We will also examine the economic impact of bullying in regard to productivity loss. 4.3 Investigation of cross links between job demands and job resources The latest innovative work on the extended JD-R Model has challenged the assumption that job demands and resources are independent constructs whose influence is restricted mainly to health and work outcomes, respectively. For example there is evidence of a positive relationship between health problems and organisational outcomes (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004). This supports the notion that when people are run down, they will limit their efforts to support positive organisational outcomes (Bakker et al., 2004). 4.4 Examination of the JD-R model at a population level This will be one of the first studies to use a large representative sample to test the utility of the expanded JD-R model at a population level. Because the JD-R model enabled tests of its main hypotheses with occupational specific measures, a flurry of articles were written which used


occupation-specific measures of demands and resources. We (Cotton et al., submitting) reviewed the most recent 20 studies of the Model some not yet published and found only 6 (23%) that were heterogeneous in nature but these were usually sector specific. Nine investigated elements of the extended model, and of these 2 were Australian, and both were intra-occupational. Given the widespread problem of work stress in Australian workplaces we need an overarching theoretical model which can explain stress and inform evidence-based interventions not only within occupations but at a more general level as well. 4.5 Investigation of sector/occupation-specific relationships Recent work on the extended JD-R model by Bakker et al. (2004) indicates that different kinds of job resources may buffer the impact of different kinds of job demands (Xanthopoulou et al., 2007). The interaction may depend on specific demands and resources salient in the occupation under study. We can see if the interaction is stronger within occupations/ sectors where specific demands and resources are salient (eg emotional demands in care workers) possibly due to a matching domain effect where buffer effects are expected to be stronger, when similar types of demands (eg emotional demands) are matched with similar types of resources (eg emotional support), and produce outcomes in a similar domain (eg depression) (De Jonge & Dormann, 2006). This will be one of a few longitudinal studies to test the matching hypothesis using domain specific measures. The results will also inform more powerful interventions that are targeted towards the specific demands and resources of most importance in particular jobs, and hence improve the efficacy and effectiveness of such actions. 4.6 Limitations of JD-R Theory JD-R theory is limited in its explanation of work stress because it theorises mainly a t a work context rather than the organisational and/or external level. Indeed there is a tendency in the literature to view the work context as an independent rather than dependent variable. Accordingly questions such as, ‘what are the factors that lead to increased work pressure?’, are not adequately addressed. Therefore there is a need for more studies focused on up-stream/external and organizational factors, and studies aimed towards multi-layered approaches to problems in order to capture both upstream influences and downstream costs (Kang et al, 2007). Matching international surveillance systems with international literature regarding emerging risks we identified the following for priority inclusion in the surveillance system: emotional demands/emotional labour; workplace bullying, harassment, and violence; exposure to acute stressors; organizational justice issues; the occurrence and impact of organizational change, including downsizing, mergers, and globalization of work and companies; and positive psychological states of wellbeing such as engagement (Dollard et al., 2007). Working conditions must be considered in light of the complexities of today’s organizations and the emergence of a global business community in which ‘up-stream’ or external pressures are becoming more and more influential in worker’s lives. Thus we intend to extend the JD-R model by embedding it in these important influences that also need to be considered in the system. 5. SURVEY CONTENT Three priorities will guide survey refinement: (1) theoretical basis for structure and content; (2) appropriate length for valid assessment without compromising response rates; and (3) item content to enable international comparisons and benchmarking. The survey will be informed by the JD-R theory. Standardized scales with known psychometric properties will be used: e.g. Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (Kristensen et al., 2005), Job Content Questionnaire (Karasek et al., 1998), the EffortReward Imbalance Scale (Siegrist, 1996), the Victorian Job Stress survey (LaMontagne et al., 2006), and by well established systems that represent international best practice: e.g. Canadian National Population Health Survey (see Dollard et al., 2007). Measures will include: • Globalisation demands, organizational change, mergers, downsizing • Job demands e.g. workload, cognitive, emotional and physical demands, interpersonal conflict, bullying, violence, work pressure.


• •

• • •

Job resources e.g. supervision / leadership quality, coworker / supervisor / social support, trust, procedural fairness, rewards (see Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004). Mental health e.g. Burnout (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004), Depressive Symptom severity e.g. Kessler 6 (note those who screen positive may be followed up for more detailed analysis in separate cohort studies using the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms which has highly acceptable psychometric properties for research purposes Rush et al., 2003 as in the WORC study) and Psychological distress GHQ-12 for benchmarking. Engagement i.e. Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004). Health outcomes e.g. CVD risk (Rose et al., 1977), and MSD (HSE report 273, 2004). Work outcomes: intention to leave job; seeking alternative employment; commitment to the workplace; loyalty to employer; financial cost of absenteeism and presenteeism (Work Productivity and Activity Impairment Questionnaire (WPAI); Reilly et al., 1993, note this reliable tool determines lost productivity $ = employee hourly compensation x lost productivity score related to health problems); compensation claims; job satisfaction.

The survey will also collect demographic data including gender, age, socio-economic status, educational qualifications, industry/occupational sector, workplace size, and geographical location. It will be applicable to the entire Australian workforce across all industries and occupational groups, including public and private sectors, and the self-employed. It will be amenable for use as state level surveillance, for organisational benchmarking and intervention needs assessment. 6. NATIONAL BENEFIT This important and significant project will deliver valuable economic, social, and work environment benchmarking data and benefits for Australian researchers, government and industry, and workers. 6.1

Economic significance of psychosocial stressors

The findings from this project will support the development of targeted evidence-based interventions to address workplace psychosocial stressors, and enable significant costs savings: • • • • •

Stress compensation claims are estimated at AUD $200 million annually (ASCC, 2005). Australian compensation claims due to work stress increased by 62% from 1996-97 to 200203 (all other claims decreased over the same period) (ASCC, 2006). Mental stress claims have longest work time loss and high costs ($10 300) (ASCC, 2006). Depression accounts for three to four days off work per month for each person experiencing depression –over six million working days lost each year, and more than 12 million days of reduced productivity each year (Andrews et al., 1999). Estimated that stress and violence at work account for 1 – 3.5% of GDP in a range of countries (Hoel et al., 2001). For example, the estimated cost (days absent) of work-related stress in the UK is £3.7 to £3.8 billion (1995-96 prices) (HSE, 1999).

Given the large economic burden of work stressors, this project will produce significant cost-benefits. Prevalence data and economic cost estimates of absenteeism and presenteeism (WPAI) will enable targeted prevention interventions (eg by industry, sector, disease).

6.2

Social and organisational costs of psychosocial stressors The findings of this study will provide important risk assessment information to industry, governments and the public which will assist in raising awareness, and targeting interventions, to reduce the high social and organisational costs of work stressors. • There is good evidence linking work demands and resources imbalances to health (eg depression, CVD) (MacKay et al., 2004; Stansfeld & Candy, 2006). • Work demands and resources imbalances have been linked to organisational outcomes (eg absenteeism, turnover, and reduced performance (Head et al., 2006; Nielsen et al., 2006). • Much of this evidence is from large longitudinal cohort studies; Whitehall II (eg Stansfeld et al., 1999), Canadian National Population Health Survey (eg Marchand et al., 2005), and the Danish Work Environment Cohort Study (eg Rugulies et al., 2006). 6.3

Benefits to Australian government and industry stakeholders


Key stakeholders who have written in support of this project include the ASCC and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). For state and federal governments, unions, and OHS organisations quality data will be available to: design and evaluate targeted OHS interventions at multiple levels (national, state, industry / employment sector); inform prevention campaigns, policies and practice; set priorities for policies and interventions; benchmark progress at national and international levels; monitor changing trends; develop national standards; and forecast emerging risks. The data could be used to monitor work stress risks e.g. bullying and violence across time, within specific industries / occupations and demographics (eg gender, age, SES, geographic location). Risks will be correlated to health measures to identify priority intervention groups. The value of surveillance data is clearly demonstrated by the 2003 Victorian Job Stress Survey (VJSS) (LaMontagne et al., 2006). The VJSS study identified two priority groups for interventions to reduce high risk for job stress: women, and younger employees in low status jobs. Further, the VJSS data indicated a significant disparity between the experience of high demand, low control jobs and workers compensation claims: workers in the service sector (eg cafes, hotels) had the highest job demandsresources imbalance, but were not the most prevalent recipients of workers compensation. VJSS data provided important new insights into the epidemiology of work stress that was not evident from compensation data, and have important implications for the design, implementation and evaluation of targeted work stress interventions in Victoria. Whether these patterns of job demands-resources are representative of national patterns is unknown; a significant and costly knowledge gap for the health of Australian workers. There is also a strong business case for the project. Bond et al.’s (2006) meta-analysis of longitudinal studies found clear evidence that improving working conditions leads to improved business outcomes such as better performance, less absenteeism, and less turnover. A national survey would support targeted policies and programs within specific industries, occupations, and organisations to achieve these important business outcomes. A shorter version of the survey (approximately 50 items) will be developed for use by industry (ie, private & public organisations). 6.4 Benefits to Australian community and researchers An accessible website featuring the ‘Australian Workplace Barometer’ will be created to provide timely trend data on risk and protective factors and related outcomes for the public (alternative funding to be sought). The project will create new opportunities for Australian researchers to participate in and lead international forums on Australian working conditions and outcomes, and to participate in cutting edge theoretical refinement of the JDR Model. Australian researchers will have access to a valuable high quality database that contains valid, reliable, comprehensive, longitudinal data to test theoretically driven questions as well as investigate issues of practical importance. 7. CONCLUSION As reflected in workers compensation claims for psychological distress the rates of psychosocial illness in the Australian workplace appears to be increasing with serious and significant implications for individual workers, organizations, and the economy. A comprehensive surveillance system of psychosocial risk factors and outcomes will play a central role in ongoing monitoring, identifying at-risk groups and occupations, and evaluating the effectiveness of programs and interventions. We have made some progress toward this goal. Nevertheless we recommend that such as system is put forward as a priority component of the Australian national research agenda for the management of work-related psychosocial risks (Dollard et al., 2007). We use JD-R theory as an overarching comprehensive theory to explain and describe the relationship between important work demands and resources, and their relationship to mental and physical health and engagement and important work outcomes. However there are limitations to the model, and consistent with international systems and literature regarding emerging risks the following will also be considered to inform the content of the system: emotional demands/emotional labour; workplace bullying, harassment, and violence; exposure to acute stressors; organizational justice issues; the occurrence and impact of organizational change, including downsizing, mergers, and globalization of work and companies; and positive psychological states such as engagement. REFERENCES


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Assoc Prof Maureen Dollard is Director of the Centre for Applied Psychological Research and Director of the Work & Stress Research Group. She is known nationally and internationally for research on psychosocial factors at work specifically relating to factors that affect health, well-being and engagement of workers.

Natalie Skinner is a research fellow at the Centre for Work + Life at the University of South Australia. Her research background is primarily within psychology, and organisational psychology in particular. She is currently involved in projects examining the links between work-life balance, working conditions and health.


Dollard Perth 2007