Theoretical and practical perspectives of employee wellness programmes at a selected South African university
In attempting to contribute to social transformation, South African Higher Education has undergone considerable changes, taking on greater student enrollment, increasing curriculum responsiveness, and prioritising pass- and graduation rates, all of which have put universities’ resources, specifically their human resources, under considerable pressure and stress (Rensburg, 2013: 5). Paradoxically, there has been no meaningful attempt to address the negative effects of these pressures and stress on the wellness of those who are expected to cope with the enormous changes. In addition, Higher Education Institutions’ (HEIs’) mergers, although honourable in intention, have resulted in negative, unintended consequences for staff. Previous research studies have highlighted the growing occupational stressors experienced by HEIs’ staff; however, limited sustainable solutions have been forthcoming. It is on this premise that this research study aimed to develop a holistic employee wellness programme model that would provide a support system for university staff. This model would alleviate the impact of challenges experienced in staff daily work and on their personal lives, and ultimately aid in promoting quality of work life and balance within the institution. The intention was to prevent university staff from experiencing job burnout and health-related problems, thereby promoting their optimal wellness and performance at work. A mixed methods research design was adopted involving a case study and a quasi-experimental research design. Purposive sampling was applied within the case study unit which included both academic and non-academic staff, as they shared similar attributes and wellness experiences within a university. Triangulation mixed methods that was applied combined, with equal importance, both quantitative and qualitative data which were brought together for comparison. This research study identified thirteen employee wellness factors that formed the foundation of a holistic employee wellness programme. Each employee wellness factor was allocated according to three types of interventions, namely primary – prevention, secondary – reduction, and tertiary – treatment, in order to promote employee-organisational health and wellness. The prevention intervention firstly promotes quality of work life and balance through a number of wellness factors, namely, Wellness working environment, Organisational intervention expectations, Organisational wellness support, Organisational culture, Human relations, and Social support; and, secondly, workplace health is promoted through the wellness factors, Physical health and wellness, and Lifestyle. The reduction intervention builds psychological capital through Psychological health and wellness, Resourcefulness, Resilience, and Basic work life skills.
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