Airport employees face many challenges that can create stress, and if employee stress levels are not addressed, employee health and well-being suffers. While many airports do offer employee well-being programs to address these stress and health needs, additional research is needed to ensure that the well-being programs meet the needs of all employees (e.g., varying shifts, generational differences) and that the outcomes of these programs are tracked to provide a better understanding of their impacts.
Airport employees face a variety of stressors in their daily work lives. Employee well-being programs are a key mechanism through which airports can work to decrease employee stress and improve the overall health of their workforce. ACRP Synthesis 113: Airport Workforce Programs Supporting Employee Well-Being provided an overview of current airport employee stressors and well-being programs. While the research indicated that many airports provide a variety of employee well-being program offerings, that there are still areas in which further research is needed. This project is designed to address of the identified research gaps and needs to ultimately enable airports to 1) better provide well-being programs that meet the needs of airport employees and 2) evaluate well-being offerings to show their benefits.
Creating Well-Being Programs that Meet Employee Needs
Airport employees experience a variety of stressors that can be significant and are unique to their work in airports. When offering well-being programs, airports may not be considering options that meet the needs of all employees. Research throughout ACRP Synthesis 113 indicated that in many cases, more well-being programs are offered to employees who work during the day shift. However, there is not research available to indicate if 24/7 staff would benefit from the same types of programming, if other well-being offerings would be of greater benefit to them, or how to effectively reach staff who work during the night shifts. For example, shift work is related to increased cardiovascular disease, weight gain, smoking, anxiety, insomnia, and stress (Buss, 2012). Coupled with the additional stressors that airport employees experience as a result of their work context, there is a great deal of stress that employees working on different shifts experience. As such, research is needed to identify the impact of 24/7 operations on well-being culture and to better understand and address the wellbeing needs and challenges for staff across shifts and job types (e.g., office vs. maintenance).
Beyond the needs of staff who work different shifts or types of jobs, as airports seek to expand their talent pools and bring in younger and more diverse staff, research is also needed to examine the well-being needs and preferences of different groups of employees so that well-being offerings. If employees are not interested in the types of well-being programs offered, they will not participate or use these programs to help address stress or other health-related issues they may be experiencing.
Tracking Well-Being Programs for Outcomes
In many cases, even when an airport has an employee well-being program in place, there are not evaluation metrics or methods used to track the impact of these offerings or measure outcomes to ensure that the well-being programs are meeting the needs they were designed to meet. To continue providing support for programs, airports need to be able to show the positive impacts or outcomes of well-being programs. Research is needed to focus on ways to measure these impacts and outcomes, showing how effective the well-being programs and associated offerings are or identifying ways in which they may need to be modified to achieve the desired outcomes. This tracking can include the identification of metrics to track for well-being programs that will help to show savings achieved through the programs, creating a case that the benefits of the program outweigh the costs. If airports can show a positive impact of the well-being offerings already in place, then they can use that information to request additional programs or funding or validate existing funding requests, and ensure that employees have access to the well-being programs they need.
The objective of this research is to provide airports with guidance to support tailoring their well-being programs to meet the needs of all employees and to evaluate well-being program offerings, ultimately creating a healthier, more positive work environment for all employees. The main outcome should be a user-friendly toolkit that lays out common challenges impacting employee well-being, the types of programs or strategies that can be used to alleviate these challenges and employee stress across employee types and groups, and provides resources and metrics airports can use to evaluate their well-being programs to show benefits and identify areas for improvement.
The proposed research may include, at a minimum, steps such as the following:
1. Literature Review. The literature review should focus on identifying well-being program best practices and stressors for airport employees working in various shifts or job types. ACRP Synthesis 113 should serve as a starting point for this research, with additional information gathered related to differences in employee needs as well as the metrics that would be useful to evaluate well-being programs and their outcomes.
2. Airport Specific Data Collection. Following the literature review, it will be valuable to gather information directly from airports and airport employees to address the project objective. Specifically, interviews and focus groups can be conducted with airport employees. The representation in these interviews should be broad, with representation from employees across shifts, job types, generations, airport types, and locations. These data collection activities can be used to better understand the well-being needs of varying employees, and their preferences related to well-being program offerings. In addition to speaking with employees, data should also be gathered from HR or well-being program administrators who can share information related to current metrics and the way in which well-being program offerings, or other airport programs, are evaluated.
3. Analyze Employee Well-Being Needs and Preferences. Combining data from the previous research activities, the researcher should review the data collected to determine if different well-being offerings are needed as well as how to best reach all airport staff through the employee well-being programs. This could include examining examine differences in participation rates and satisfaction for various well-being program offerings based on demographic or employee differences such as generation, work location, or type of job to better understand employee participation.
4. Review Metrics for Well-Being Programs. The research should seek to better understand current metrics used to evaluate well-being programs as well as identifying metrics that can be used to track program savings, finances, or other outcomes and impacts. For example, by tracking metrics along with the types of program offerings available, airports may be able to track impacts from the programs (e.g., improvements in safety scores).
5. Develop Well-Being Program Development and Evaluation Toolkit. The researcher should create a user-friendly toolkit that include guides related to identifying airport employee stressors, creating tailored well-being programs that benefit employees and match their desired program offerings, and evaluating the outcomes and impacts of these programs. The Toolkit should provide straightforward guidance that will be immediately implementable for airports as they focus on their employee well-being programs.
The estimated funding for this proposed effort is $300,000. The estimated time needed to complete this research is 18 months, including 3 months for review and revision of a draft final report. These estimates are based on the complexity of information to be gathered as well as the high level of detail that will be expected in the final products.
ACRP Synthesis 113 (2020): Airport Workforce Programs Supporting Employee Well-Being identified the topics described in this research idea as key gaps in the current research related to airport well-being programs, and needed areas for future research.
Select examples of additional related research that demonstrate the importance of focusing on employee well-being and focusing on the positive outcomes of well-being programs include:
• American Psychological Association (2018). Mind/Body Health: Job Stress. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/job-stress.aspx
• American Psychological Association (2018). Stress in America: Generation Z. Stress in America™ Survey.
• Cho, J.-E., Choi, H. C., & Lee, W. J. (2014). An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship Between Role Stressors, Emotional Exhaustion and Turnover Intention in the Airline Industry. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 19(9), 1023–1043.
• Grawitch, M. J., Gottschalk, M., & Munz, D. C. (2006). The path to a healthy workplace: a critical review linking healthy workplace practices, employee well-being, and organizational improvements. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 58(3), 129-147.