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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays in occupational fitness and absenteeism Lee, Patrick Quinn


Occupational fitness programs have enjoyed enormous popularity over the course of the past decade. Their continuing penetration into all sectors of the business community coupled with the rapid growth of organizations serving professional fitness personnel, suggests that their presence may be permanent. A major reason for the popularity of occupational fitness programs, is the claim that fitness programs can reduce employee absenteeism. Two important issues at this time are: (1) the role of physical fitness in mediating sickness absence behavior, and, (2) the role of participation in occupational fitness programs as a way of enhancing worker attendance motivation. These issues fit in well with the Steers & Rhodes (1978) Process Model, a conceptual framework which deals with employee absenteeism from the standpoints of ability to attend (ie. high fitness) and motivation to attend (ie. high morale). The Steers & Rhodes theoretical model was chosen as an appropriate vehicle to guide this study. Part I reviewed the claim that physical fitness as a physiological state, is inversely related to sickness absence among employees. The literature review suggested that fit employees would miss fewer days from work than unfit employees. The prediction that physical fitness and sickness absence will be inversely related, formed the core of the hypotheses generated in Part I. In addition, hypotheses were also developed concerning the possible effects of gender, age, length of service and company affiliation. Correlational analyses were performed on several physiological and absence variables obtained from a sample of employees from the years 1979 through 1984. Modest but significant inverse correlations were found to exist between MVO₂ and a number of different absence measures. The magnitude of these correlations disappeared in some cases when the groups were controlled for gender. Significant correlations were also found between variables such as length of service and absence or age and absence. Absence patterns for males and females and management and classified employees also showed significant group differences. These results point to the need to consider these personal and socio cultural variables when attempting to describe any relationships between occupational fitness and absenteeism. Part II chose the Steers & Rhodes concept of motivation to attend. Based on the review of literature, it was expected that participants in the company fitness program would report positive changes in a number of attitudinal and personal variables. A simple questionnaire was developed to assess this change, and the entire population of a very large (n=1076) corporate fitness program was polled. Respondents in the main, indicated a significant improvement in their personal perception of a number of different attitudinal variables. The magnitude of this improvement was significantly related to the length of time they have been members of the program and their degree of participation in the program

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