We spend almost one third of the day in our respective workplaces, so the people or the organization is very much associated with better health and lower burnout.
In a new meta-analysis covering 58 studies and more than 19,000 people across the globe, it is said that though many people assume that finding the right job that fits your personality and skills is the key to a healthy work life, health at work is determined to a large extent by our social relationships in the workplace and more particularly, the social groups we form there.
Previous studies on the relationships between people and their workplaces focus on issues of satisfaction, motivation, and performance in organizations, but much less on health and well-being.
“This study is the first large-scale analysis showing that organizational identification is related to better health,” said lead researcher Dr Niklas Steffens.
“These results show that both performance and health are enhanced to the extent that workplaces provide people with a sense of ‘we’ and ‘us.'”
Researchers from University of Queensland, China Europe International Business School, China, and Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany also collaborated on the study. The team reviewed 58 studies covering 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 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 organization provide us with a sense of belonging and community, when it gives us a sense of ‘we-ness,'” summarized Steffens.
The authors 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 organization, then you get more health benefits if everyone else identifies strongly with the organization 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 theorizing, we can only guess what gives rise to this effect,” said 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 organization, they still feel somewhat more marginal within their team or organization.”
As part of their work, the researchers have several recommendations for future research.
“One important area where we need to do much more work is making use of this research in applied settings,” Steffens continues saying, “In particular, it is important to examine whether health may actually precede changes in performance and what role identification plays in this.”
The team also recommends exploring the role of leadership. This is because other findings that emerge from the same program of research indicate that how leaders manage teams and groups has a strong influence on the social identification-health connection.
“Leaders play a key role in shaping a sense of group identity in the workplace,” Steffens said, adding, “and this is important not only for team performance but also for the mental and physical health of employees.”
The work appears in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.