Academic journal article Journal of Healthcare Management

Physical Work Environment as a Managerial Tool for Decreasing Job-Related Anxiety and Improving Employee-Employer Relations/PRACTITIONER APPLICATION

Academic journal article Journal of Healthcare Management

Physical Work Environment as a Managerial Tool for Decreasing Job-Related Anxiety and Improving Employee-Employer Relations/PRACTITIONER APPLICATION

Article excerpt

Hessam Sadatsafavi, PhD, research scientist, Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; John Walewski, PhD, associate professor of practice, Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; and Mardelle Shepley, DArch, professor, Department of Design and Environmental Analysis, Cornell University

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The expected increase in healthcare needs resulting from the Affordable Care Act and the growing population of older citizens in the United States is challenging owners and operators of hospitals to improve quality of care and reduce operational costs. Meanwhile, studies have indicated a serious shortage in the healthcare workforce and have highlighted the critical role of employees' job-related attitudes and feelings. The main objective of this study was to test whether employees' evaluations of important environments within hospitals were significantly associated with their job-related attitudes and feelings, and whether this relationship varied across different demographic groups. About 700 healthcare professionals from 10 acute-care hospitals run by three healthcare organizations participated in this cross-sectional study. Structural equation modeling found that employees' evaluations of their physical work environment were significantly associated with lower rates of job-related anxiety, higher levels of job satisfaction, and increased rates of organizational commitment. Perceived organizational support was responsible for mediating part of these relationships, indicating that employees can perceive a healthy work environment as a sign of their organization valuing them and caring about their well-being. When distinguishing between different spaces, analysis found that satisfaction with rest areas and work spaces had the largest effect size, while the influence of patient areas was small. Employees newer to the facility and to the organization were more influenced by the physical work environment. This study provides preliminary evidence that facility design can be used as a managerial tool for improving employees' job-related attitudes and feelings and earning their commitment.

For more information about the concepts in this article, contact Dr. Sadatsafavi at hs825@cornell.edu.

INTRODUCTION

Healthcare is one of the biggest sectors of the U.S. economy. According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), healthcare spending in the United States accounted for 17.9% of the gross domestic product in 2011 (AHA, 2013), which represented a larger share of GDP than in any other major industrialized country. In the coming years, a growing population of older citizens with chronic health conditions will translate into a greater need for healthcare services as more of the U.S. population enters advanced age and higher life expectancy. Moreover, improving economic conditions and the Affordable Care Act coverage expansions are expected to drive faster projected growth in health spending in 2015 and beyond.

While this need for healthcare grows, studies have indicated a serious shortage in the healthcare workforce in the United States and have highlighted the critical role of job-related attitudes and feelings among caregivers (Buerhaus, 2008). It has been demonstrated that job attitudes and feelings have important implications for the recruitment and retention of caregivers and significant influence on the quality of care they deliver (Aiken et al., 2011). From a managerial perspective, a report by the American Hospital Association (AHA, 2011) also suggested that caring for employees can play an important role in the financial well-being of an organization. The AHA report indicated that approximately 60 cents of every dollar in expenditures go to caregivers and other hospital workers, making human-resource-related expenses higher than other essential expenses such as medication, devices and other supplies, treatment facility improvements, health information technology installation or upgrades, utilities, and liability coverage. …

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