Purpose: This study explores two possible mechanisms through which occupational stress is linked to absenteeism. The extent to which physician-excused absenteeism and absenteeism not excused by a physician are related to employee reports of perceived stress is assessed.
Design: A plant wide survey was conducted in January 1990. Employee reports of occupational stress gained from this survey were linked with 1990 absenteeism data from the employees' records.
Setting: A mid-sized manufacturing plant.
Sample: Complete data were available for 998 of the 1534 (65%) unionized employees in the plant.
Measures: Measures of both physician-excused absences and absences not excused by a physician were created. Stressors included role ambiguity, lack of control over work pace, and being paid on a piece-rate basis. Perceived stresses included role conflict, physical environment stresses, and overall work stress.
Results: For physician-excused absenteeism, role conflict (OR, 1.54, p < .01), overall work stress (OR, 1.24, p < .05), and physical environment stress (OR, 1.34, p < .05) had significantly elevated odds ratios, even after adjusting for demographics. For absences not excused by a physician, none of the stressors or stresses had significant odds ratios after controlling for demographic characteristics.
Conclusions: Employees in this plant were not using short-term voluntary absenteeism as a way of coping with work stress. However, high levels of perceived work stress were associated with subsequent physician-excused absences.