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    Work-family conflict and job-related wellbeing in UK police officers: the role of recovery strategies

    McDowall, Almuth and Kinman, G. and Cropley, M. (2012) Work-family conflict and job-related wellbeing in UK police officers: the role of recovery strategies. In: Work and Family Researchers Network Inaugural Conference, 14th - 16th June 2012, Millenium Broadway Hotel, New York, USA. (Unpublished)

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    Police officers have been found to experience high levels of operational and organisational stressors, and are at considerable risk of emotional exhaustion, psychological distress, burnout and PTSD. The demands inherent in police work can have a negative impact on family life, with police officers at high risk of marital dissatisfaction, divorce and domestic violence. Although police officers experience the type of work demands that have been associated with work-conflict in other occupational groups (such as working long shifts or night shifts, and performing physically and emotionally demanding duties) few studies have systematically examined the nature and impact of work-life conflict in UK police. This study examined relationships between aspects of work-life conflict and job satisfaction and work-related wellbeing in a sample of UK police officers. The respective role played by time-based, strain-based and behavior conflict is examined Compared to research conducted on time- and strain-based work-life conflict, behaviour-based conflict has been under-researched as it is typically considered irrelevant to most occupations. More recently, however, it has been argued that behavior-based conflict may be more salient in jobs with more interdependence and interpersonal contact such as policing. Previous research on police and other emergency response service workers indicates that leisure activities and relaxation is the strongest predictor of successful coping with stress. Other studies indicate that sufficient opportunities for recovery during non-working time are necessary to promote psychological and physical health and enhance job performance and interpersonal relationships at work more generally. The ability to effectively disengage from work issues is considered particularly important. Therefore, this study also investigated associations between specific strategies related to the disengagement process (i.e. psychological detachment, and affective and problem solving rumination) and job-related wellbeing, and the extent to which these processes mediate relationships between job demands and wellbeing. Finally, the study utilised qualitative data to explore the type of strategies utilised by police officers to balance their work and home lives in greater depth. The data presented here was collected as part of study examining the working conditions of police officers and staff in a UK police force, using a bespoke on-line questionnaire. For this analysis we used the subsample of uniformed officers only (N= 547) serving police officers (61% male). A three dimensional measure of work-life conflict was utilised that encompassed time-based, strain-based and behaviour-based conflict (Carlson et al., 2000). Quantitative job demands were also assessed and a measure of recovery developed by Cropley (2008) was utilised to measure affective rumination, problem solving rumination and detachment. Scales developed by Warr (1990) assessed job satisfaction and job-related mood (i.e. depression-enthusiasm and anxiety-contentment). Open-ended questions were included to examine the strategies that police officers use to disengage from work more specifically. Levels of time-based, strain-based and behaviour-based work-life conflict were moderately high. Police officers who reported more time-based, strain-based and behaviour-based conflict also tended to report lower levels of job satisfaction and less job-related enthusiasm and contentment. Affective rumination was associated with poorer job-related wellbeing and less job satisfaction, whereas a greater ability to detach from work-related issues was related to better job satisfaction and more positive job-related mood. Although problem-solving rumination was related to work-life conflict and poorer job-related mood, these relationships were generally weaker with no significant association found with job satisfaction. The potential mediation effects of recovery strategies on the relationship between job demands and strain-based work-life conflict were examined using bootstrapping analysis (Preacher and Hayes, 2008). Evidence was found for partial mediation for all three recovery strategies (i.e. affective rumination, problem solving rumination and detachment) suggesting that job demands may impair work-life balance via the utilisation of these strategies. Thematic content analysis of the qualitative data highlighted a wide range of strategies utilised by officers to recover from work demands. These include spending time with family and friends, engaging in voluntary work and hobbies, and exercise. Negative health behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcohol were commonly reported. The risk of unpredictable job demands interfering with recovery strategies was highlighted, with a high proportion of respondents indicating that they had little or no time available to disengage from work activities and concerns. The findings of this study highlight the important role played by work-life conflict in predicting the job-related wellbeing of police officers. The salience of behaviour-based conflict in this occupational group has been confirmed, but strain-based work-life conflict had the strongest relationship with poor job-related mood and lack of job satisfaction. Recovery strategies appear to be important mechanisms by which job demands manifest themselves as work-life conflict, with affective rumination posing the greatest threat to work-life balance. Problem-solving rumination, as well as affective rumination about work during non-working time, also appears to have negative implications for work-life balance and job-related mood. Whilst several UK police forces have active programmes in place to encourage healthier lifestyles, including advice on diet, sleep and exercise, there is a need to develop targeted interventions to help police officers create more effective physical and psychological barriers between work and non-working life to enhance the unwinding process. These need to draw on psychological theories to encourage and sustain behaviour change, and also ensure that a supportive and facilitative organisational climate is developed simultaneously.


    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Science > School of Psychological Sciences
    Depositing User: Sarah Hall
    Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2016 11:26
    Last Modified: 07 Aug 2023 16:10


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