Background

This web instrument is based on a research study called “How to facilitate recovery from work demands in different age groups to achieve sustainable health and an inclusive working life”

Scientific question

The scientific question is based on a study by Aronsson et al. (2010). The researchers studied working conditions, achieved recovery (or remaining fatigue), health and the individual’s strategies for coping with work demands. The study focused on occupational groups working in preschool, home care and social work. Using a recognised calculation method, the participants were divided into three different groups reflecting whether they were “Recovered”, “Not Recovered” or “In-between”.

After further analysis of the collected material, the “Not Recovered” group could be described as having comparatively high work demands, insufficient resources to do the work, insufficient support from management, and insufficient space to discuss and reflect on the work tasks together. Stress-filled work strategies, like working at a fast pace, a tendency to skip breaks or working in their spare time to meet work demands, were also part of the picture. Another finding in the “Not Recovered” group was a significantly higher level of reported ill health. When compared to the situation of the best recovered group, the “Not Recovered” group exhibited an 18 times greater risk of depression, a 9 times greater risk of insomnia, and a 2 times greater risk of neck and back pain. At the same time, the group did not have a higher level of sickness absence, which the researchers interpreted as “sickness presence at the workplace”. One of the researchers’ conclusions about effects on health and working conditions was that the next step should be to study insufficient recovery over time and in more occupational groups. A research team from Occupational and Environmental Medicine in Gothenburg has been working with this subject since 2014. The final measurements were complete in the spring of 2018.

Purpose

The purpose of the study on the need for recovery after work was to investigate the Need for Recovery and measures of health in 4 occupational groups (engineers and architects, carpenters, nurses, and home care staff) over a 2-year period. By analysing Need for Recovery after work in occupational groups with high mental demands, high physical demands and a combination of high mental and physical work demands in 3 different age groups, knowledge about conditions for a sustainable ability to work can be increased. A further aim of the study was to create and disseminate a simple web-based measuring tool. The tool combines measures of work demands and resources with Need for Recovery after work. Using the web tool to capture early signals in the form of Need for Recovery after work can help to prevent ill health. It can also lead to a sustainable ability to work and an inclusive working life.

Significance

After examining the Need for Recovery after work and measures of health in 4 occupational groups for 2 years, the new knowledge provided a basis for calculating what can be considered a healthy and an unhealthy level of fatigue after work. Based on a limit value for Need for Recovery after work, it was possible to calculate what is too high or too low a “score” or values for different work demands and resources during the working day.

The web-based tool works by comparing demands and resources at work with Need for Recovery after work (fatigue). The resources and demands that the calculation showed to be most significant to fatigue after work were being able to do high-quality work and having Recovery opportunities in relation to the working day as well as quantitative demands and emotional demands.

If the results of the calculation show too great a Need for Recovery, too little resources or too high demands and thereby a risk of ill health, the test taker is given advice on necessary improvements via the website. The Quickcheck for Need for Recovery after work can be used anonymously by anyone wanting to calculate their need for recovery after work, as well as by occupational health services, HR departments, trade unions and employers. The instrument will also be made available to primary care and can be demonstrated in the Medicine Programme. The web instrument does not collect or save the calculations.

In addition to problems related to ill health, work-related fatigue (Need for Recovery) also has a serious and well-documented negative effect on safety in working life (Kecklund et al. (2010)). Knowledge about using working conditions to make it easier for the employee to recover before each work shift reduces the risk of work injuries and long-term sick leave. At the same time, increased health and well-being can be made possible together with better work results.

The study was conducted in collaboration with labour market partners and funded by the insurance agency AFA Försäkring. Local union representatives were also contacted to inform them about the study.

Contact and more information

For information about the study, please contact project manager Kerstin Wentz, PhD, Senior Psychologist, Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital area 6, Box 414, SE-405 30 Gothenburg. Tel 031 786 3219

For a summary of international research related to the Need for Recovery after work and work demands, see Report by Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital’s website (www.amm.se/behovavaterhamtning), Need for recovery in relation to effort from work and health in four occupations http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00420-019-01476-7 or read more under the other headings in the menu of this website.

Important references

Aronsson G., Wanja Astvik, W., Gustafsson K. (2010) Arbetsvillkor, återhämtning och hälsa– en studie av förskola, hemtjänst och Socialtjänst. Arbete Hälsa nr 2010;44(7).

Kecklund, G, Ingre M,Åkerstedt T. Arbetstider, hälsa och säkerhet – en uppdatering av aktuell forskning. Stressforskningsrapportnr 322, Stockholm, 2010.

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