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Schedule control and mental health: the relevance of coworkers’ reports

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Although some studies suggest that schedule control might promote mental health, research has over-relied on self-reports, which might explain why the evidence is inconclusive and mixed. In this study, we introduce an analytical approach based on coworkers’ reports (in lieu of self-reports) in order to better characterize the organizational nature of schedule control, and to address biases of self-reports (e.g. reverse causation or confounding). Following job demand-control theoretical principles, in this cross-sectional study of 1229 nurses nested in 104 hospital units, we tested the hypothesis that psychological distress (a risk factor for mental illness) would be lower for nurses where coworkers reported higher levels of schedule control at their units. Results showed that increments in coworkers’ reports of schedule control at their units were associated with lower risk of psychological distress, even after accounting for self-reports of schedule control, which were not associated with this outcome. In conclusion, relying only on self-reports might conceal mental health effects of schedule control, so future research ought to include organizational and individual measures and perspectives of schedule control. Using coworkers’ reports is a pertinent strategy to better signal the potential health effect of schedule control, especially when biased self-reporting is suspected.
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Keywords: colegas de trabajo; control horario; coworkers; grupos de trabajo; malestar psicológico; psychological distress; schedule control; work-teams

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Kresge Building 7th Floor, Boston, MA, 02115, USA 2: Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine, 185 Berry Street W, San Francisco, CA, 94143, USA 3: Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, 9 Bow Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA 4: Partners HealthCare System, 101 Merrimac St., Boston, MA, 02114, USA 5: Uni Research, Postbox 7800, Bergen, 5020, Norway

Publication date: October 2, 2015

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