People - 26.10.2016 - 00:00 

Improving employment opportunities and work conditions of employees with health restrictions

Workplace adaptations make the continued employment and inclusion of people with health-related limitations easier. What conditions are required to facilitate the success of such initiatives? Kirill Bourovoi has investigated this in his doctoral thesis.

27 October 2016. In most industrialised countries, the average age of the workforce is rising. With increasing individual age, there is a higher probability of developing health restrictions. "Organisations typically react to these circumstances with adjustments to work organisation and schedules, or workplace ergonomics," says Kirill Bourovoi. In his doctoral thesis, "Workforce Ageing, Health Restrictions, and Related Workplace Accommodations: The Perspective of Affected Employees", he has come up with new insights as well as practical guidance for a German car manufacturer in dealing with employees with health restrictions.

Filling gaps in research

With a psychology degree in the bag and a passion for methodology and statistics, Kirill Bourovoi knew that he wanted to delve deeper into the world of research. "Nevertheless, it was important to me to do a practice-oriented doctorate and not to spend all my time in the lab," says Bourovoi. The research project at the Center for Disability and Integration, in collaboration with a German car manufacturer, persuaded Bourovoi to investigate important gaps in the research on health-related workplace accommodations. For instance, only little was known about workplace accommodations for affected blue-collar employees. Moreover, existing research was culturally and politically biased, as it was mostly US-focused.

Impact on thousands of production workers

Bourovoi's doctoral research project consist of three data collections covering the views of all relevant stakeholders. In addition to the assessments of the participants, the analysed data also include objective Human Resources and production figures. "An important personal insight was observing first-hand that soft factors such as 'leadership style' or 'team climate' can have a considerable effect on hard factors such as 'work quality' or 'sick days'," says Bourovoi. Furthermore, an open communication regarding workplace accommodations is key for employee acceptance and successful implementation. As the doctoral thesis was implementation-oriented, Bourovoi's investigations had an immediate influence on the Human Resources and production processes of the car manufacturer. The practical recommendations derived from the research project affected several thousand production employees. "I also hope that my doctoral thesis will contribute to the continued increase in acceptance and tolerance of interpersonal differences."

Implementing the findings in practice

After four years in research, Kirill Bourovoi decided to pursue a practical career. Despite this, he has not completely turned his back on research. "I think there are many precious research findings that unfortunately never reach the companies or never get properly implemented," he says. With his new work, he wants to contribute to practice by implementing rational and empirically based solutions and methods in a pragmatic manner.

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