Employees of 45 years and older need support to continue working life. Their ‘sustainable employability’ depends on the possibility of
individual adjustments to their working conditions. This is one of the conclusions drawn by researcher Wendy Koolhaas of the UMCG in her PhD research. The intervention she developed for this group of workers increases their awareness of the own role and responsibility to improve their long-term work prospects. Koolhaas will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 22 January.
K oolhaas’ study of more than 3,000 workers from 9 organizations showed that approximately 40% of employees experienced problems relating to ageing, and need support to help them continue working. About 37% of the employees reported a chronic health condition. Sustainable employability depends on a variety of factors, many of which are linked to the specific working situation. Individual adjustments are the best way to improve sustainable employability.
These results form the basis of the problem solving based intervention developed by Koolhaas, which is called ‘Staying Healthy at work’ (‘Gezond aan het werk (blijven)’. The intervention aims to increase the potential of employees and managers to resolve problems that may arise. It shows employees how much influence they have on achieving their aims for sustainable employability and makes them aware of their own role and responsibilities. The managers provide support at process-level.
K oolhaas studied the effect of the intervention a year later. It seems to have made workers more aware of their own responsibility and the role they can improving their sustainable employability. They are also more confident about discussing their sustainable employability as they have a different attitude to their work, see more opportunities and were more motivated. However, after a year, the intervention didn’t have a positive effect on the primary outcome measures of sustainable employability, namely work ability, productivity and vitality. Longitudinal research is needed to see whether the intervention will improve sustainable employability in the long run.
Wendy Koolhaas MSc (Noordoostpolder, 1980) studied Sociology at the University of Groningen. She carried out her PhD research in the Department Health Sciences of the University Medical Center Groningen. Her research in line with the UMCG’s healthy@work research theme, and her thesis is entitled: ‘Sustainable employability of ageing workers; the development of an intervention’. She will continue to work as a researcher at the UMCG.
Carlijn van Beek has won the 2021 Golden Master Award for her Master’s research. She is Master’s student in Chemistry at the University of Groningen (UG). The award has been granted by the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society (KNCV) since 2009.
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