Time pressure, working time control and long-term sickness absence

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Abstract

Objectives

Perceived time pressure at work has increased in most European countries during recent decades. Time pressure may be harmful for employees’ health and well-being. The aim of this register-based follow-up study is to investigate whether the effects of time pressure on long sickness absence vary by the level of working time control.

Methods

The data are taken from the Finnish Quality of Work Life Survey 2003 (n=3400), a representative sample of Finnish employees, combined with a register-based follow-up from Statistics Finland covering the years 2002–2006. In the 2003 survey, employees were asked about their perceived time pressure and to what extent they had control over working time. The register data included information on long-term (more than 10 days) sickness absence. A negative binomial model was used in the analysis of long-term sickness absence days during 2004–2006. The results are adjusted for several background and work-related factors and controlled for baseline absenteeism in 2002.

Results

High working time control decreased and high time pressure increased long-term sickness absence. The highest incidence of long-term sickness absence was found in time strain situations (high time pressure, low time control). However, there was no statistical interaction between working time control and time pressure.

Conclusions

Establishments that use working time control as a human resource instrument may benefit from reduced absenteeism. However, following the ‘strain’ hypothesis it is insufficient to focus solely on working time control as high time pressure maintains its detrimental effect on employees’ health.

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