Chapter 5: Building more supportive and inclusive public sector working environments: a case study from the Australian community health sector
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The aim of this chapter is to explore the strategies (policies, systems, practices) that could enhance perceptions of control and support experienced by healthcare professionals working in the publicly funded, community services sector. Working conditions that facilitate employee control and support not only make significant contributions to the levels of stress experienced by public sector employees working in the health and human services, but also represent key features of high performing work systems. Identifying the specific policies, processes and practices that can enhance the support and control experienced by employees could therefore contribute to the development of healthier and more effective human service working environments. The current study involved a series of focus groups with front-line community health workers working in an Australian community health service. The group discussions were organized around the participating agency’s three major work areas and, based on participant responses, strategies designed to enhance support and control need to be directed at systems and practices existing within: (1) individual work areas (e.g. selecting team leaders carefully and making sure they have the interpersonal and team-development skills required to lead and manage people); and (2) the organization overall (e.g. increasing the level of face-to- face contact between executive-level personnel and ensuring agency management have a more in-depth understanding of employees’ needs).

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