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July 28, 2010 | Volume 4 | Number 7
July 28, 2010
Though there are different ways to conceptualize the utility and function of psychologically healthy workplace practices, thus far no one has done so from an employee resource allocation (ERA) perspective. An ERA perspective is derived largely from Conservation of Resources (COR) theory (Hobfoll, 1989), which suggests that individuals have a finite amount of resources (e.g., time, energy and money) at their disposal (Edwards & Rothbard, 2000; Marks, 1977) that they seek to protect and expand. Consequently, individuals experience strain when they either allocate their resources to meet demands in a way that is misaligned with their own expectations (Edwards, 1992) or are required to allocate more resources than they currently possess (Bakker, Demerouti, & Euwema, 2005).
Individuals have a limited amount of resources to manage demands in their work and non-work lives (Grandey & Cropanzano, 1999; Greenhaus & Beutell, 1985; Hobfoll, 1989), and strain associated with an inability to meet these demands can lead to decreased employee well-being and adverse organizational outcomes (Grawitch & Barber, in press; Voydanoff, 2005). Workplace practices can assist employees in effectively allocating their resources to fulfill demands both in and out of work (Grawitch, Trares, & Kohler, 2007; Kelly et al., 2008; Valcour, 2007).
Grawitch, Barber, and Justice (2010) recently discussed the importance of resource allocation in producing individual outcomes, such as performance and well-being. Employee resource allocation occurs within a three-part looped process that includes:
Figure 1: Resource Allocation Model (click figure to view larger image)
Practices in each of the five areas of APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace framework can function as intervention strategies at one or more stages of the ERA process.
Table 1: Healthy Workplace Practices Points of Intervention
(click table to view larger image)
Though practices in each category contribute to the overall health and functioning of organizations and their employees (Grawitch, Trares, & Kohler, 2007), they may be unique in their contribution to the resource allocation process. By understanding the function of particular practices at each stage in this process, organizations can make more informed decisions about the types of programs they offer based on their unique organizational and employee resource allocation needs.
At the personal resource supply level, an individual begins with a limited amount of time, energy (physical, mental or emotional) and monetary resources (Edwards & Rothbard, 2000; Marks, 1977). This resource supply then faces demands that compete for these finite resources and can include work demands, family demands, social demands, personal interest demands, spiritual demands and others (Grawitch et al., 2010). Once a demand is experienced, a resource allocation strategy is developed in which an individual chooses how and where to expend these resources. Regardless of the specific strategy, the allocation of resources to meet specific demands results in fewer resources available to meet others.
The happiest and most productive employees are those who are able to effectively allocate resources in ways that are consistent with their personal and professional goals (Grawitch et al., 2010; Voydanoff, 2005). Resource allocation, then, is not just a work-related issue. Because resources are not confined to one life domain, effective resource allocation becomes an overall life management issue. By assisting employees at each stage in the resource allocation process, organizations provide employees with the tools necessary to make appropriate resource allocation decisions and achieve overall well-being.
Application to APA’s Healthy Workplace Practices
Personal Resource Supply – At this level, organizations can develop programs that directly provide employees with additional resources to meet demands in their lives. Health promotion and disease management programs (specific types of health and safety practices) can directly provide employees with additional energy resources, largely due to their positive effects on well-being. For example, an employee who suffers from a chronic illness often has to expend resources on the management of demands associated with the illness. They often have less energy at work and might have to miss work due to illness-related appointments or sickness. Workplace practices that improve health directly provide employees with more energy to perform their jobs and less need to miss work.
Demands – In this stage, individuals are confronted with demands that compete for their limited resources. Organizations at this stage can lessen the strain associated with these opposing demands in several ways. For instance, organizations may enhance employee involvement by allowing more autonomy over how employees perform their jobs and/or give them input into organizational-level decisional making. This additional freedom in where, when and how employees engage in their work can lessen the strain experienced from competing demands. Additionally, when given added decision-making input, employees have the ability to help shape organizational policies that may reduce the number of demands competing for personal resources.
Work-life balance practices in the form of non-work support benefits can also intervene at this stage, as these programs allow employees the ability to put their work demands on hold to address other non-work demands. This temporarily eliminates work from the competition for a person’s resources, as they are allowed to focus solely on demands they face outside of the organization.
Resource Allocation Strategy – At this stage, employees decide how they should spend their finite resources to address particular demands. Interventions that target employee resource allocation do not alter any of the demands employees face, but rather provide employees with the tools necessary to effectively allocate their resources to optimally meet their demands. For example, monetary and non-monetary recognition practices can motivate employees to maximize their performance on the job and increase the likelihood that employees will choose to invest their personal resources in work.
Work flexibility programs (a work-life balance practice), on the other hand, allow employees the freedom to choose when and how they allocate resources to their work and non-work demands. For instance, telecommuting allows employees to handle demands in their work life while concurrently fulfilling demands in their non-work life. This lessens the strain on employees of having to choose between conflicting roles so that roles in each demand can be fulfilled. By providing employees the tools and flexibility to most effectively manage the demands they face, employees have a higher net amount of personal resources to have at their disposal to tackle future demands.
Both organizations and employees may benefit from applying a resource allocation perspective to psychologically healthy workplace practices. This approach helps identify how workplace practices serve as intervention points at the personal resource supply, demands and resource allocation strategy levels. Choosing an appropriate healthy workplace practice intervention based on accurate assessments of employee needs and organizational capabilities can help organizations make the most of their resources and efforts (Barber & Grawitch, 2009).
Bakker, A. B., Demerouti, E., & Euwema, M. C. (2005). Job resources buffer the impact of job demands on burnout. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 10, 170–180.
Barber, L. K., & Grawitch, M. J. (2009, May). Creating a psychologically healthy workplace: The importance of fit. Good Company Newsletter. Retrieved from http://www.phwa.org/resources/goodcompany/newsletter/article/104
Edwards, J. R. (1992). A cybernetic control theory of stress, coping, and well-being in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 17, 238-274.
Edwards, J.R., & Rothbard, N. P. (2000). Mechanisms linking work and family: Clarifying the relationship between work and family constructs. Academy of Management Review, 25, 178-199.
Grandey, A. A., & Cropanzano, R. (1999). A conservation of resources model applied to work-family conflict and strain. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 54, 350-370.
Grawitch, M. J., & Barber, L. K. (in press) Work-Flexibility or Non-Work Support? Theoretical and empirical distinctions for work-life initiatives. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research.
Grawitch, M. J., Barber, L. K., & Justice, L. (2010). Re-thinking the work-life interface: It’s not about balance, it’s about resource allocation. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 2, 127-159.
Grawitch, M. J., Trares, S., & Kohler, J. M. (2007). Healthy workplace practices and employee outcomes. International Journal of Stress Management, 14, 275-293. Greenhaus, J. H., & Beutell, N. J. (1985). Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review,10, 76-88.
Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44, 513-524.
Kelly, E. L., Kossek, E. E., Hammer, L. B., Durham, M., Bray, J., Chermack, K., Murphy, L. A., & Kaskubar, D. (2008). Getting there from here: Research on the effects of work-family initiatives on work-family conflict and business outcomes. The Academy of Management Annals, 2, 305-349.
Marks, S. R. (1977). Multiple roles and role strain: Some notes on human energy, time, and commitment. American Sociological Review, 42, 921–936.
Valcour, M. (2007). Work-based resources as moderators of the relationship between work hours and satisfaction with work-family balance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1512-1523.
Voydanoff, P. (2005) Toward a conceptualization of perceived work-family fit and balance: A demands and resources approach. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67, 822-836.
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