Asiantuntija-artikkelit ja ajankohtaisblogit
Sivuston näkymät

Working conditions are the sum of their parts – excessive time pressure eats up the weight of development and influencing possibilities

12.3.2021
Twitterissä: @HannaSutela
Kuva: Shutterstock

Development and influencing possibilities, social environment and work intensity appear to be more important factors in terms of well-being at work, job satisfaction and commitment than flexibility of working hours and physical factors in the work environment. Differences in job satisfaction, well-being and showing symptoms between the profiled groups are explained by real differences in working conditions.

The special theme of Statistics Finland's Quality of Work Life Survey 2018 was digitalisation, which has transformed working life in recent years. The results of the survey reveal conflicting development in working conditions.

On the one hand, we can see much positive from constantly improved social support to stronger work engagement, but on the other hand, time pressure and coping problems experienced particularly by female employees have grown record high. (Sutela & Pärnänen & Keyriläinen 2019)

What explains the conflict?

We have profiled Finnish wage and salary earners into five groups based on different dimensions of working conditions. The grouping thus generated with the data of the Quality of Work Life Survey shows that the features of working life have not treated all wage and salary earner groups equally, but clear polarisation of working conditions can be seen.

In the group we call good jobs (35% of wage and salary earners), all the dimensions of work (Skills and Discretion, Social Environment, Working Time Flexibility, Work Intensity) we measure are realised well. The general impression is also good in decent manual jobs (18%), even though working hours are not much flexible and there are more than average physical adverse factors in the work environment.

In jobs spoiled by time pressure (17%) everything would otherwise be fine, but time pressure and mental stress of work are harsher than in other groups. Burdensome jobs (11%) are troubled not only by shortcomings in development and influencing possibilities and the social environment, but also by time pressure and mental stress of work – on the other hand, things are better than average in terms of flexibility in working hours and the physical environment.

In heavy manual jobs (20%), all the measured dimensions of working conditions seem to be realised more inadequately than average.

In this article we examine different job quality profiles more closely from the view of how the effects of the digitalisation of work that has penetrated working life, job satisfaction and, above all, well-being at work are manifested in different groups.

Does such an approach strengthen the first observation of the polarised wage and salary earner community or does the connection of job quality profiles to experienced well-being, for example, remain weak? And is it possible in this way to separate from working conditions the factors that have a particularly strong effect on job satisfaction and well-being at work?

Positive aspects of digitalisation build up in good jobs...

Nine out of ten wage and salary earners used various digital applications and tools in their work in 2018. The prevalence of use varies by socio-economic group, which is also reflected in the job quality profiles.

In upper-level salaried employee jobs spoiled by time pressure practically everyone used digital tools. Similarly, in good and burdensome jobs the share rose to over 90 per cent. The use was lower in decent manual jobs and heavy manual jobs, but even in them it was around 80 per cent. (Table 1.)

Table 1. Digital devices and applications at work by job quality profile
                            Good jobs Decent manual jobs

Jobs spoiled by time pressure

Heavy manual jobs Burdensome jobs Total

Uses digital tools or applications at work

93 % 78 % 99 % 83 % 95 % 90 %

Uses at least five different devices or applications at work

33 % 13 % 49 % 15 % 41 % 30 %

Uses digital tools or applications at least half of working time

66 % 35 % 83 % 36 % 80 % 59 %

 

           

Digitalisation has increased the efficiency of work*

67 % 49 % 67 % 43 % 52 % 58 %

Digitalisation has increased the tempo of work*

52 % 39 % 73 % 50 % 65 % 55 %

Digitalisation has increased the burdening of work*

22 % 24 % 54 % 45 % 46 % 35 %

Digitalisation has increased the supervision of work*

38 % 39 % 44 % 56 % 47 % 44 %

Digitalisation has increased the use of creativity at work*

44 % 27 % 41 % 25 % 31 % 36 %

Very satisfied with work methods facilitated by digitalisation*

28 % 15 % 20 % 8 % 17 % 20 %
             

Malfunctions in information technology applications interrupt work daily*

17 % 14 % 29 % 30 % 28 % 22 %

Repeated learning of new systems weakens job satisfaction*

5 % 5 % 15 % 21 % 22 % 12 %

Receives enough support in the use of information technology or applications*

63 % 61 % 38 % 36 % 31 % 49 %

Fears that will not learn to use new technology sufficiently well

7 % 10 % 15 % 20 % 17 % 12 %

Fears that own work input will be replaced with technology

5 % 5 % 7 % 12 % 14 % 8 %

Source: Quality of Work Life Survey 2018, Statistics Finland; * Only those using digital devices or IT

The use of digital tools follows the above-described division. Many digital devices were used in jobs spoiled by time pressure, burdensome jobs and good jobs, and they were used for a larger part of working time and own digital skills were assessed to be better than in decent manual jobs and heavy manual jobs.

However, when examining the experiences of wage and salary earners using digital devices, the picture becomes slightly more nuanced.

In good jobs, the emphasis was more than average on that digitalisation had increased the efficiency of work while it had added to the burdening of work less than average. The situation was totally opposite in heavy manual jobs and burdensome jobs: as a result of digital devices the work was seen to have become more efficient less often than average but its burdening had grown more than average.  

All in all, the positive aspects of digitalisation seem to build up in good jobs.

… and problems are bothering in others

The more problematic aspects of the phenomenon – increased burdening, interruption of work due to malfunctions, anxiety about repeated learning of new systems, fear of dropping out of digitalisation, insufficient IT support – are highlighted in jobs spoiled by time pressure, heavy manual jobs and burdensome jobs.

In addition, digitalisation is felt particularly often to have increased supervision of work in heavy manual jobs. The fear that own work input will in future be replaced with technology bothers this group and those working in burdensome jobs more often than average.

In jobs spoiled by time pressure, differing from these two other groups, the positive aspects of digitalisation are also seen more often than average in addition to the negative ones: not only burdening but also the efficiency of work and the possibility to utilise creativity are considered to have grown along with digital devices. Digitalisation seems to have changed work methods most strongly in jobs that were spoiled by time pressure.

Clear polarisation also in job satisfaction and reconciliation of work and the rest of life

The polarisation of groups formed on the basis of job quality profiles is also clearly visible in general job satisfaction, satisfaction with reconciliation of work and the rest of life, commitment to present work and intentions to retire. (Table 2.) 

Table 2. Satisfaction, significance of work, commitment and plans to retire by job quality profile
                        Good jobs Decent manual jobs Jobs spoiled by time pressure Heavy manual jobs Burdensome jobs Total

Very satisfied with present work

50 % 34 % 28 % 8 % 4 % 30 %

Very satisfied with reconciliation of work and rest of life

42 % 34 % 18 % 14 % 16 % 28 %

Boundary between work and free time is wavering for me

27 % 13 % 47 % 24 % 34 % 28 %

Regards one’s work as very important and significant

39 % 39 % 43 % 34 % 25 % 37 %

Sees one's work as productive or useful

42 % 43 % 32 % 28 % 18 % 35 %

Would change jobs if could with the same pay

36 % 39 % 48 % 68 % 74 % 49 %

Has often thought about retiring before the lowest retirement age*

14 % 21 % 22 % 30 % 29 % 22 %

Gainful employment is a very important area of life

65 % 64 % 68 % 58 % 59 %

63 %

Source: Quality of Work Life Survey 2018, Statistics Finland; * Aged 50 or over

For those with good jobs, particularly job satisfaction but also satisfaction with work-life balance life is high. In decent manual jobs both general job satisfaction and satisfaction with work-life balance is above average.

This is interesting because the flexibility of working hours and the boundary between work and free time are drawn completely differently in these two groups. Good jobs have plenty of employees-based flexibility, but the boundary between work and free time is average. There is hardly any flexibility in decent manual jobs but, on the other hand, the boundary between different areas of life is particularly clear.

In jobs spoiled by time pressure, the main problem is reconciliation of work and the rest of life, even though general job satisfaction is almost average. Despite good flexibility in working hours, the mental strain of work is also presumably reflected in the time left outside work. In this group, the line between work and the rest of life is particularly blurred.

The share of those satisfied with their work is notably low in heavy manual jobs and burdensome jobs. Reconciliation between work and family is not great either. The latter share is almost as low in these two groups despite the fact that in burdensome jobs working hours are often flexible, while in heavy manual jobs they are not.

The situation is, indeed, affected by the fact that the boundary between work and the rest of life is clearly more wavering in the case of burdensome jobs than in the case of heavy manual jobs.

Early retirement in mind in heavy manual jobs and burdensome jobs

Differences are also visible in experiencing one's work as productive or useful or very important and significant. The interesting thing about jobs spoiled by time pressure is that in them the importance and significance of work is emphasised, but the perception of work as productive and useful remains below average. This probably depicts some degree of frustration with working conditions. All-time low in valuing one's own work is seen in burdensome jobs.

The willingness to change jobs with the same pay either to the same or to a different occupation is emphasised among those working in burdensome and heavy manual jobs, most of which would have been prepared to leave their present jobs. The least willingness to change jobs was expressed in good jobs and decent manual jobs (36% and 39%).

In good jobs, only a few over 50-year-olds had thought of retiring before their lowest retirement age. It is interesting that early retirement has been considered about as often – more often than other groups – in heavy manual jobs and burdensome jobs. Burdensome jobs are only mentally burdensome, heavy manual jobs also physically.  

As regards the appreciation of gainful employment, the groups are surprisingly even. In all groups, over one-half, 58 to 68 per cent, regard gainful employment as a very important area of life.

Different working conditions are reflected in the division of well-being at work

The job quality profiling we use also makes visible the polarisation of working conditions and well-being consequences (Table 3).

Table 3. Well-being at work according to job quality profiles
                          Good jobs Performing decent jobs Jobs spoiled by time pressure Performing heavy jobs Burdensome jobs Total

Subjective well-being at work points, average

8,6 8,3 8,0 6,8 6,6 7,8

Work capacity points, average

8,9 8,7 8,6 7,7 8,0 8,5

Days of sick leave during 12 months, average

6,2 7,5 6,0 15,2 9,7 8,5

Worked while ill during the past 12 months

48 % 41 % 65 % 60 % 64 % 54 %

Feels serious burnout a clear danger

5 % 4 % 19 % 31 % 29 % 15 %

Recovers mentally well after the working day

39 % 37 % 10 % 15 % 10 % 26 %

Recovers physically well after the working day

37 % 26 % 21 % 12 % 16 % 25 %

Health good

61 % 55 % 53 % 39 % 40 % 52 %

Feels stressed, much or quite much

7 % 7 % 31 % 23 % 36 % 18 %

Reluctant when going to work, weekly

8 % 12 % 21 % 40 % 42 % 21 %

Difficulty remembering things, weekly

15 % 15 % 38 % 35 % 43 % 26 %

Difficulty in concentrating, weekly

14 % 11 % 42 % 35 % 49 % 26 %

Source: Quality of Work Life Survey 2018, Statistics Finland

Mental and physical well-being at work is best realised for those working in good jobs. The situation is for the most part almost equally good for decent manual jobs, even better when it comes to concentration difficulties for which it is even better. The difference to good jobs is mainly that physical recovery is poorer.

The problems of mental stress are highlighted in the group jobs spoiled by time pressure, although work capacity and well-being are estimated to be quite average.

By contrast, for those working in heavy manual jobs and burdensome jobs all indicators describing mental and physical well-being at work are clearly under average.

However, the structural difference between the groups is visible: in worker-dominated heavy manual jobs the problem is more often physical recovery and generality of sickness absences, while in burdensome jobs dominated by salaried employees the problem typically is mental recovery and experience of stress.

The fact that especially in jobs spoiled by time pressure and in burdensome jobs, but also in heavy manual jobs, work has been done quite often also while ill, tells its own story.

Working conditions matter

Many key conclusions concerning the development of working life can be drawn from the results. Firstly, they show that the quality of working conditions matters. Working conditions are important both in terms of job satisfaction, well-being and commitment to work. All this impacts not only the well-being of the individual but also has more far-reaching effects: motivated and committed workers are productive and want to continue working longer. 

The results also make us reflect on how the new aspects of working life affect different groups. Does digitalisation of work strengthen inequality even further or could its implementation be successful in that the possibilities for good, meaningful and productive work are divided among people working in all types of jobs?

At the moment, digital tools or applications are generally used in all job quality profiles. However, the amount of use varies. Interestingly enough, the number of different devices or applications in use and the working hours spent on them are not directly linked to what effects they are felt to have on work. For example, digital equipment seems to be used equally widely in decent and heavy manual jobs, but the perceived effects of digitalisation are much more negative in heavy manual jobs than in decent manual jobs.

Working conditions are the sum of their parts

It can also be concluded from the results which strengths of working conditions can compensate for shortcomings in other areas when optimal conditions are not possible in all respects, for example because of the nature of work tasks.

When comparing the groups of decent manual jobs and jobs spoiled by time pressure, it can be seen that time pressure and mental strain seem to weaken well-being more than the insufficiency of flexibility in working hours or the physical disadvantages of the work environment: well-being at work is realised even better in decent manual jobs without time pressure than in jobs spoiled by time pressure.

This is so despite the fact that the working hours of decent manual jobs are not very flexible and the work environment includes physical disadvantages, while in jobs spoiled by time pressure these factors are in order. Nevertheless, jobs spoiled by time pressure are troubled by time pressure, but not performing decent jobs.

Jobs spoiled by time pressure are linked to burdensome jobs in terms of better than average flexibility of working hours and “neat indoor work”, but also work intensity. In burdensome jobs, it is, however, critically worse that in jobs spoiled by time pressure. Is the difference explained by the very different development and influencing possibilities of the groups and the social environment?

In heavy manual jobs, all the components of working conditions are worse than average.  In burdensome jobs, some rays of light can at least be found in flexible working hours and scarcity of physical disadvantages. Thus, one could imagine that in burdensome jobs occupational well-being would be realised better than in heavy manual jobs.

This is not the case, however, but the situation is almost more hopeless precisely in burdensome jobs. Flexibility and a better than average physical working environment do not compensate for the fact that the components of development and influencing possibilities, social work environment and work intensity are realised even worse in this group than in heavy manual jobs. 

Excessive time pressure eats up the weight of development and influencing possibilities

The results thus show that development and influencing possibilities, the social environment and work intensity seem to be more important factors in terms of well-being at work, job satisfaction and commitment than flexibility of working hours and physical factors in the work environment. However, the latter cannot be underestimated either.

The result is largely in line with the classic two factor theory of Herzberg's et al (1959). According to it, job dissatisfaction is explained by so-called external (hygiene) factors, but job satisfaction by internal (motivation) factors.   

On the other hand, it also seems evident that excessive time pressure at work revokes part of the positive effects that good development and influencing possibilities offer. In a decent manual job one can feel better than in a job spoiled by time pressure, despite the fact that in the latter group the development and influencing possibilities are much wider.

This is a rather worrying result not only for the development of working life, but also for gender equality. Based on the results of the 2018 Quality of Work Life Survey, the experience of harmful time pressure has increased to record figures for female wage and salary earners and the difference between genders has only grown in this respect. This is probably one of the key factors in that gender segregation is so clearly visible in working life profiles: men work more commonly in jobs classified in this model as good or at least decent jobs than women.  

Finally, we should go back to the figures in Table 2, which show that there is little variation in the appreciation of gainful employment in different job quality profiles. This shows precisely that the differences between the profiled groups in job satisfaction, well-being and showing symptoms are not explained by the “attitude problems” of individuals.

This is based on real differences in working conditions. Working conditions that can be continuously developed if there is willingness for it.

 

Hanna Sutela works as Senior Researcher and Jere Immonen as Senior Statistician at Statistics Finland's Social Statistics Department.

 

Methodological description

The job quality profiles formed with the data of the Quality of Work Life Survey were formed with the methods of factor analysis and grouping analysis. The factors we use are based on the indices describing the quality of work formed from the European Working Conditions Survey carried out by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) (see Green & Mostafa 2015).  These indices have been used in the classification of wage and salary earner groups with the data of the European Working Conditions Survey for 2015. (Eurofound 2017, 128 to 135)

The Latent class analysis method has been used in the classification of Eurofound. In our own classification we used the so-called two-step clustering analysis. This method is suitable for extensive data and for classifying various scaled data. (Trpkova & Tevdovski 2009, 303)

We formed indices from the variables of the Quality of Work Life Survey by selecting the questions corresponding to the variables used by Eurofound from our own data. We also added other variables from the Quality of Work Life Survey data to the indices at our discretion if and when they serve as indicators for the same dimension.

After this we formed mainly variables with values between 0 to 1, although with our own consideration and to imitate the previous classification we gave some variables a higher weight in the index. Internal consistency of the factors was tested and corrected with the help of the factor analysis.

The reliability of the formed factors was assessed with the Cronbach alfa coefficient. The correlation between the variables of the factors used in the grouping analysis was strong (at its highest r = 0.55) but was clearly below the critical limit (r = 0.9) (Kaasalainen & Saari 2019, 100).

In the Eurofound classification (2017), five job profiles were identified with six factors measuring working conditions and one natural logarithm measuring the size of earnings. We formed six factors with the data of the Quality of Work Life Survey.

We also tried to build a factor describing the fairness and size of earnings with the variables in the Quality of Work Life Survey. We were unable to form a coherent factor with the variables, so we examined separately how earnings and experience of their fairness manifest themselves in the final groups. 

The factor that describes job insecurity was also excluded at the end because we found that insecurity is in many respects a phenomenon cross-sectional to the wage and salary earner population. When the factor of insecurity was included in the grouping a group was formed of persons experiencing insecurity, which did not, however, differ from the average with other factors. Insecurity is strongly present in working life but was not in this case a clear factor distinguishing the quality of work among wage and salary earners.

Many thanks to Senior Statistician Juhani Saari for support and guidance with the research method.

 

Sources:

Eurofound (2017), Sixth European Working Conditions Survey – Overview report (2017 update), Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg.

Green, F. & Mostafa, T. (2012) Trends in job quality in Europe, based on 5th European Working Conditions Survey, Eurofound.

Herzberg, Frederick & Mausner, Bernard & Snyderman, Barbara (1959). The Motivation to Work. New York: John Wiley.

Kaasalainen, K. & Saari, J. (2019) Sport motivation scale- mittarin validiteetti korkeakouluopiskelijoilla ja motivaatioprofiilien erot liikunta-aktiivisuudessa, liikuntapalvelujen koetussa tärkeydessä ja käytössä (in Finnish only) (Validity of the Sport motivation scale indicator for university students and differences in motivation profiles in physical activity, perceived importance and use of physical exercise services). Liikunta & Tiede 56 (2–3), 97–106.

Sutela, Hanna & Pärnänen, Anna & Keyriläinen, Marianne (2019) Working life in the digital age - results of the Quality of Work Life Surveys 1977 to 2018. Statistics Finland.

Trpkova, M. & Tevdovski, D. (2009) Twostep cluster analysis: Segmentation of largest companies in Macedonia. In: Challenges for Analysis of the Economy, the Businesses, and Social Progress, Reviewed Articles. (2009) s. 302–318.

Tilaa Tieto&trendit-juttukooste sähköpostiisi

Lue samasta aiheesta:

tk-icons