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  Introduction
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REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 89-93
 

The healthy organization construct: A review and research agenda


Department of Management Studies, School of Management, Pondicherry University, Pondicherry, India

Date of Web Publication17-Apr-2014

Correspondence Address:
Sivapragasam Panneerselvam
Department of Management Studies, Pondicherry University, RV Nagar, Kalapet, Pondicherry - 605 014
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0019-5278.130835

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  Abstract 

Work plays an important role in one's life for many reasons. It provides us with economic, social, and personal satisfaction and accounts for a substantial percentage of our waking hours. But in today's knowledge-driven economy, organization of work has been changing at a warp speed as a consequence of economic, social and technological aspects of changes brought down by globalization and liberalization worldwide. While this situation has eliminated some risks of the earlier industrial era, it is introducing others. In such a dynamic business environment, where can business leaders and managers find competitive advantage? It lies in balancing people and performance goals. This is the line of approach for healthy organization research that examines organizational context with regard to: People, work organization, management practices, employee wellbeing and performance. The healthy organization concept proposes that along with the profits, employee's well being should also be an important goal for organizations. In this paper, the researcher undertakes an extensive review of literature in the mainstream business literature and establishes the agenda for healthy organization research among other research paradigms.


Keywords: Culture, effective HRM, employee well-being, healthy workplace, leadership, learning, organizational health, performance


How to cite this article:
Raya RP, Panneerselvam S. The healthy organization construct: A review and research agenda. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2013;17:89-93

How to cite this URL:
Raya RP, Panneerselvam S. The healthy organization construct: A review and research agenda. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2013 [cited 2019 Sep 18];17:89-93. Available from: http://www.ijoem.com/text.asp?2013/17/3/89/130835



  Introduction Top


Work plays an important role in one's life. Work is essential to the well-being of the individual and his/her dependents as it enables him/her to meet their many needs, including financial and psychosocial. It provides individuals with improved chances of experiencing health, financial, and social advantages in life. While acknowledging the importance of work and its contribution to well-being, it is equally significant to recognize the negative impact of the working environment on the health and well-being of individuals in general. This is because; work is becoming more fluid and less bound by space and time because of globalization, economic liberalization, and technology diffusion. [1]

The changing nature of work

The organization of work has been changing in response to an array of economic, technological, legal, political, and socio-cultural forces across the globe, [2] thereby creating a complex effect on markets, on organizations and on individuals. [1],[3] Work today is predominantly knowledge-based, offers increased responsibility, better compensation, and higher learning opportunities; the concern, however, is about the potential negative effects of these work organization changes that prompt action. [2] Fast-paced work, continuous demand to learn and use newer technologies, and reduced people interaction are all causing significant stress on employees, [4],[5],[6] placing higher demands on employees' well-being, and in turn, on the health and efficacy of organizations. This is especially true for people working in knowledge intensive work environment today. [7]

To add to this complexity, employees today are highly market-oriented and they no longer look at jobs for life. [8] As a result, issues such as employee turnover, sickness absenteeism, high stress levels, low performance, interpersonal conflicts at work, and so on, are becoming more common, which suggest that the organization of work in the knowledge economy is not as positive as it should be. Hence, the call for managing the people-side of organizations such as "healthy organization" does not come as a surprise. [9],[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15] This paper explores literature on this area and gives a detailed account on the works of earlier researchers to delineate how healthy organizations have been described and analyzed in the development of an organization theory and presents an agenda for future research.

The concept of health of organizations

Health is often considered as the absence of disease. According to the World Health Organization (1998), "health is a state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." [16] Healthy people respond to various challenges and tend to lead a happy and productive life. As with healthy people who characterize vigour, flourishing, robust, thriving, resilient, and fit, so do healthy organizations. From an exclusive focus of examining health in organizations as a absence of disease (biomedical approach), work in this area has been evolving to explore positive work environment factors (humanistic approach) for employee health, well-being and performance. [17],[18]

According to De Smet and his colleagues (2007), conceptualizing health of organizations emerges out of a metaphor "performance and health," which improves when cared for and deteriorates when ignored, thus signifying the importance of employees' well-being for business profitability, [19] the central notion of healthy organization approach. [20],[21],[14] As such, humanistic psychologists (for example, Vroom, 1964; Herzberg, 1974), [22],[23] medical professionals, management scholars, and so on have played the central role in the development of this concept and provide backdrop to the current focus. [3],[20],[24],[25],[26] This new thinking has also been reinforced by recent advances in the management of human resources (HR), making it imperative that employees' well-being and organizational performance draw on each other strengths.

Empirical studies on healthy organization have been significant in at least two disciplines, educational settings with the development of a valid OHI by Hoy and Feldman (1987) and not for profit institutions. These studies examined the context of school environment, teacher's functioning, work quality, efficacy of schools, and indicator of its socio-psychological status. [27] Among studies in business organizations, Adkins (1999) proposed organizational health concept as an extension of occupational health psychology with a clear organizational focus, [17] and Danna and Griffin (1999) review-related employee well-being to organizational effectiveness and functioning. [25] Most recently, some researchers have recommended for a process-based model of 'healthy organization', [12],[20] as they considered organizations as having system properties. [18],[28],[29] According to Lowe (2003, 2010) defines a healthy organization as "one whose culture, climate and practices create an environment that promotes employee health and safety as well as organizational effectiveness." [20],[30]

Hallmarks of a healthy organization

Traditionally, when organizations show a good financial performance they were regarded healthy. [31],[32] However, several writers have argued about the insufficiency (ability) of the accounting-based financial measurement system to measure the health of organizations. [12],[28],[33],[34],[35],[36] According to Saunders and Barker (2001), financial analysis tends to measure consequences of organizational factors and events or circumstances and supported for the examination of those organization factors. [32] A brief description of them follows.

Leadership

Leadership is one of the most important dimensions in organizational sciences. In fact, the quality of leadership has been linked to an array of outcomes within organizational psychology such as well-being, safety climate, organizational performance. [37] Literature suggests that supportive leadership is critical for the development of a healthy organization. Leaders, of course, play a critical role in the development of a healthy organization. Leaders are the catalysts for creating personal and meaningful connections with their employees, which is very critical for bringing about desired job and work-related attitudes from employees. [34],[38],[39] When the leadership is perceived to be healthy and it supports for effective balancing of people and productivity concerns, they tend to create an engaging place to work for employees and greater returns for the organization.

Learning culture

Culture exerts an important influence on organizations and the people who work in them, yet many organizational initiatives address it the least. [40],[41] Culture in simple term refers to how things are done in organizations. It is the process of communicating and promoting the organizational ethos to employees, their acknowledgement, demonstration of respect, cultivates a sense of personal inspiration about one's work. [20] According to Peterson and Wilson (2002), exploring the healthy organization construct should focus on culture because it is a building block for the development of a successful, innovative, productive and above all, a healthy organization. [42],[43],[44]

Healthy organizations foster a culture of greater interaction and collaboration where-in employees and managers readily offer their assistance to each other to meet business objectives. [45] Relationship building, therefore, becomes an important element of the culture of healthy organizations. Healthy organizations are characterized by clear and consistent openness to experience, encouragement of responsible risk taking, and willingness to acknowledge failures and learn from them. [24] Healthy organizations are proactive enough to take necessary steps to guard themselves against any environmental contingencies and adapt to technological or operational and market changes. [31],[46],[47]

Job quality

What does the existing literature say about the effect of the quality of jobs on healthy organization outcomes? Job quality affects almost every aspect of working individuals' life. Key characteristics such as job demand and the level of decision latitude in one's job proposed in Karasek's job strain model (1979) profoundly influence individual and organizational outcomes, attests literature on job design/characteristics over the years. [45]

A manageable workload, a reasonably clear role, a sense of control, job security, flexible work arrangements and ensuring that an employee is not overburdened is critical to employee well-being and organizational productivity. [4],[48] Literature suggests that better and specific job designs are critical for the development of a healthy organization. [49] While this list does not comprehensively translate into rating the quality of jobs, it does provide a framework for thinking about the elements that make some jobs better than others and about what employers should create.

HR practices

Due to the changes in the business environment, the traditional sources of competitive advantage are not sufficient for success in today's situation. Competitiveness requires developing the internal human capital as it is the human that enable organizational systems to operate. HR practices have recently been regarded as key to attaining sustainable competitive advantage. Literature posits that healthy organizations regard their talent pool as a key asset and therefore focus their efforts on developing the HR more effectively. [8],[21],[50],[51],[52],[53] They create and implement policies and practices and make it readily available to its employees. Healthy organizations are concerned about identifying the right talent, appraise and reward their performance with right incentives, and provide career development support. [21],[54] These HR practices are the most likely visible factor that help determine how employees experience life within organizations and resonates an organization's commitment to its member's well-being. [55]

To summarize, creating healthy organizations is about the development of appropriate enabling management processes and practices that intervene all organization-wide systems, thereby contributing to overall performance. A truly healthy organization is one which "strategically integrates employee well-being into its business objectives and reinforces it through established practices on leadership support, learning culture, healthy job quality, and people friendly HRM practices."

Agenda for future research

What is so important about the healthy organization debate that it is still little researched? What do employees perceptions of their job and organization environment do to performance? Despite advances that have been made in understanding healthy organizations and its role in wellbeing and organizational performance, a number of critical issues still need to be examined in the present economic scenario. [15],[56],[57]

First, the fact that a greater majority of lifetime has been spent in organizational environment makes the investigation of health in organization as an important consideration for researchers and business practitioners. [2],[12],[54],[58] Second, healthy organization is a poorly defined, but widely used concept. [46],[52] There is a considerable debate on exactly what these terms encompass, its measurement, how helpful they might be, and struggle to develop a systematic model for measuring healthy organization. [30],[59],[60] Furthermore, some researchers recommend for the development of standard questionnaires for defining healthy organization with greater clarity. [61]

Third, the conceptual uncertainty also has perpetuated, by researchers' use of a variety of terms (e.g. healthy workplace, psychologically healthy workplace, healthy work organization, wellness initiative, corporate fitness, and healthy organizational culture/climate) when referring to individuals' perceptions of their organizational and work environment. Therefore, it is important that we begin by clearly defining organizational health and distinguishing it from other related constructs. Existing models appear exceptionally general, focus exclusively on job stress, tends to be more prescriptive, [29],[55] and mostly done in a handful of Western nations. [11],[46],[56],[57],[58],[62]

Finally, the issue of generalizability of findings from the developed economy to emerging economies has also been raised, including by Indian authors. [29] Given India's rise on the world economic scene, this line of research assumes even more relevance today, where we have a booming economy and a growing number of young people are spending longer hours at their workplace in an ever changing competitive environment. Therefore, the need to have a healthy organization, by definition, is a supportive and productive one for enhancing the environmental factors to improve both employees' and organizational outcomes cannot be ignored.


  Conclusion Top


People are the most valuable asset for every organization. Unprecedented global business uncertainty, knowledge-driven businesses, increasing overheads on employees' health management, and the war for talent are significant trends that necessitates further exploration and the development of healthy organization approach in today's scenario. For researchers, studies of this nature offers greater potential for the advancement of knowledge about people experiences at work, for example, how they are treated, what they feel and think about practices are intended to support them, and finally how they behave to those key practices at work. For practitioners, healthy organizational framework provides an action-oriented approach to examine and understand key factors of organizational performance, which in turn, contribute toward creating and sustaining vibrant and productive workplaces.


  Acknowledgment Top


The authors would like to acknowledge UGC for the Junior Research Fellowship, without which, this research attempt would not be made possible.

 
  References Top

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