Abstract: An Investigation of Factors Impacting Presenteeism in Child Welfare Workers (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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An Investigation of Factors Impacting Presenteeism in Child Welfare Workers

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Ahwatukee A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Michae' D. Cain, MSW, PhD Student, Florida State University
Wilke Dina, Professor, Florida State University
Background and Purpose: Presenteeism is defined as being present at work but lacking the physical or cognitive energy required for optimal performance. While prior studies have been done on illness-related presenteeism, little has been done on non-illness-related presenteeism, and none with the child welfare workforce. Evidence outside of child welfare suggests presenteeism accounts for greater loss of productivity than absenteeism. The current study examines child welfare workers’ non-illness-related presenteeism using the job-demands-resources (JD-R) model. The JD-R model describes the relationship between worker characteristics, demands of the work environment, and available support and resources on employment outcomes.

Methods: Analyses were completed using data from wave 3 (12 months of employment) of the [study blinded], a prospective study of the child welfare workforce in one southeastern state. Participants were included if they were 1) a current child welfare worker; 2) managing a caseload; and 3) working at the same agency as wave 2 (N=733). Worker characteristics included age, race/ethnicity, degree (graduate/not), major (social work/not), and gender identification. Job demand variables included time pressure, perceived caseload severity, and several subscales from the Parker Psychological Climate Inventory (job challenge, role ambiguity, conflict, and overload). Job resource variables included career mentorship, co-worker support, and Parker subscales measuring job importance and autonomy, organizational innovation, justice, and support, and supervisor trust and support, work facilitation, and goal emphasis. All role measures (overload, conflict, and ambiguity) were reverse coded to reflect positive perceptions per author guidelines. A hierarchal regression analysis was completed to assess the impact of personal characteristics, job demands, and job resources on presenteeism. An inverse relationship exists between presenteeism and perceived job performance. As such, higher presenteeism scores on the Health and Work Performance Questionnaire (HPQ) indicate higher perceived performance and lower presenteeism.

Results: Results revealed five significant predictors of presenteeism: age (b=.04, p=.001), role conflict (b=.12, p=.005, role overload (b=.15, p=.001), supervisor goal emphasis (b=.12, p=.03), and job importance (b=.14, p=.01). All variables increased HPQ scores indicating higher perceived performance and lower presenteeism.

Conclusion and Implications: Elements of the JD-R model predicted non-illness-related presenteeism. In this analysis, all significant variables increased perceived job performance, and while some measures decreased perceived performance, none reached significance. This suggests that agencies can impact the work environment in ways that promote an engaged and productive workforce. For example, role conflict and overload predicted presenteeism such that workers perceiving structured and balanced role expectations reported better perceived performance. Similarly, supervisors set the tone for the work environment, and those who perceived clear guidance and expectations from supervisors also reported better performance. Additionally, age increased perceived performance such that younger workers reported lower perceived performance. This may be a function of inexperience and could suggest the importance of early support or mentorship. Finally, workers who believed in the importance of their work also reported higher perceived performance. Agencies should be deliberate in creating a work environment wherein workers feel they are making a meaningful contribution to the team, agency, and client outcomes to help facilitate self-assessed performance.