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Work pressure. Results of a conceptual and empirical analysis


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(from the chapter) The notion of "work pressure," although frequently used in current debates on working conditions, lacks conceptual and operational precision. Therefore, a conceptual model, based on action regulation theory, state regulation theory, and stress theory, was developed that differentiates work pressure from related concepts. Work pressure is conceived as a subjective state of tension associated with the current and/or anticipated execution of work tasks. Utilizing items from various sources, scales for measuring work demands, workload, and work pressure have been developed. Next, these scales were subjected to an analysis of structural relationships together with scales for non-work factors, fatigue and stress, using data from a cross-sectional sample of 1,129 Dutch workers. It is demonstrated that the concepts can be reliably measured and that their interrelationships conform to the conceptual model. A comparison of worker subgroups, based on cluster analysis, shows that high levels of work pressure can originate from different patterns of work demands. It is also shown that high work load does not necessarily lead to high work pressure, and that high work pressure does not necessarily produce stress. Implications for the effective prevention and management of work pressure are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved) (chapter)
Work pressure.
Results of a conceptual and empirical analysis
Robert A. Roe & Fred R.H. Zijlstra
WORC - Tilburg University, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands
The notion of 'work pressure', although frequently used in current debates on
working conditions, lacks conceptual and operational precision. Therefore, a
conceptual model, based on action regulation theory, state regulation theory,
and stress theory was developed, that differentiates work pressure from related
concepts. Work pressure is conceived as a subjective state of tension
associated with the current and/or anticipated execution of work tasks.
Utilising items from various sources, scales for measuring work demands,
workload, and work pressure have been developed. Next, these scales were
subjected to an analysis of structural relationships (by LISREL-8) together
with scales for non-work factors, fatigue and stress, using data from a cross-
sectional sample of Dutch workers (N=1129). It is demonstrated that the
concepts can be reliably measured and that their interrelationships conform to
the conceptual model. A comparison of worker subgroups, based on cluster
analysis, shows that high levels of work pressure can originate from different
patterns of work demands. It is also shown that high work load does not
necessarily lead to high work pressure, and that high work pressure does not
necessarily produce stress. Implications for the effective prevention and
management of work pressure are discussed.
Work demands, Work load, Work pressure, Fatigue, Burnout
In current debates about the working conditions in Europe frequent references are made to
the notion of 'work pressure'. In popular publications and reports from work hygiene
institutions and labour unions concern is expressed about the prevalence of high work
pressure among a great part of the working population. In our own country, the
Netherlands, alarming figures have been published, showing that 30 to 60% of workers
suffer from high pressure at work (Smulders & Bloemhoff, 1991; Diekstra et al., 1992;
Vroom, 1995; Werkdruk in Nederland, 1997). For instance, Diekstra et al. have shown that
35 % of all respondents report problems with work pressure, 10 % describe these problems
as serious and speak of "excessive work demands". According to another study the
percentage of employed people complaining about high time pressure at work has grown
to 60% in 1996 (CBS, 1997). In the public debate about the issue it is often asserted that
high work pressure is a result of ongoing reductions of the work force, greater intensity of
work due to high demands on speed and quality, and the greater use of computer
technology at work. There is a fear that high work pressure will lead to greater work stress
and rising work disability, and will bring social and economic disadvantages in the long
run. Several studies suggest that work pressure is indeed a factor negatively affecting
worker health and well-being (e.g. Carayon & Zijlstra, in press; Frone, Russell & Cooper,
1995; Carayon, Yang & Lee, 1995; Turnipseed, 1994; Neubauer, 1992; Smith et al., 1992;
Rees & Cooper, 1992; Jones, Fletcher & Ibbetson, 1991; Siegrist et al., 1990).
However, the notion of work pressure does not carry a very precise meaning, and there
is as yet little agreement about the way in which it should be operationalised. In this study
we will present a conceptual model, that may help to distinguish work pressure from
similar concepts and to define it in a unequivocal way. We will also describe the
construction of a method for measuring work pressure and related concepts, the so-called
'Tilburg Work Pressure Questionnaire', and present some empirical findings on the
phenomenon of work pressure, based on research carried out in the Netherlands in 19981
(see also van Helvoort et al., 1998).
The aim of the study is multi-fold, i.e.: (1) to clarify the conceptual status of work pressure,
(2) to develop a set of instruments for the measurement of work pressure, (3) to investigate
the situational and personal determinants of work pressure, and (4) to explore the
consequences of work pressure for people's well-being and health. The approach taken is
primarily work psychological, that is, the focus is on intra-individual factors and processes
involved in the execution of work tasks. The study reported here, is part of a wider
research programme on work pressure, which comprises three main parts: a survey study
carried out in a broad cross-sectional sample of people doing paid work, an in-depth
interview study, aiming at revealing people's subjective experiences associated with work
pressure, and an experimental study of the dynamics of work pressure on a longer and
shorter time axis. Here we focus on results from the survey study, but we will use some
findings from the interview study in the discussion.
If one examines the relevant research literature it appears that there exists considerable
conceptual confusion with regard to notions such as work demands, work load, time
pressure, job pressure, and work pressure. Often two or more of these terms are used
interchangeably (e.g. Brookings, Wilson & Swain, 1996; Urban, Weaver & Bowers, 1996;
Veltman & Gaillard, 1993; Tsang & Velasquez, 1995; Laudeman & Palmer, 1995;
Carayon, Yang & Lee, 1995; Frone, Russel & Cooper, 1995; Turnipseed, 1994; Martin &
Wall, 1989). Yet, from a theoretical and a practical point of view, it is preferable to
distinguish between these notions and to operationalise them more rigorously in order to
better understand the psychological phenomena involved.
We propose to make a distinction between four notions, i.e. work demands, work load,
1 The research project reported upon here was carried out by a research team consisting of R.A.
Roe, F.R.H. Zijlstra, A. Vingerhoets, J. de Vries, M. van der Mast, M. Meegens & S. van Helvoort at
Tilburg University. The project was co-funded by the Magazine 'Psychologie' and the Research School
'Psychology and Health'.
work pressure and work stress. Work demands represent the objective requirements posed
by the tasks to be performed and the working conditions. These demands are the same for
each job incumbent. Examples of work demands are: task speed/rate, difficulty,
complexity, uncertainty and responsibility. Task speed/rate is sometimes designated as
'time pressure' (e.g. Van Roon et al., 1996; Raby & Wickens, 1994; Moray et al., 1991)
although this notion is also used in a subjective sense. Work load refers to the degree to
which the person's individual resources are charged when carrying out work tasks. It can
be considered as the subjective counterpart of the work demands. Since it depends on
individual factors, such as the worker's capacity, psycho-physiological state, and work
strategy, there is no one-to-one correspondence between demands and work load. Two
people with equal work demands can have higher or lower work load, depending on
dynamic intra-individual factors. The distinction between work demands and work load is
an important one. It corresponds to the distinction between the external work load as an
attribute of the task given to a person, and internal (also: functional or effective) work load
as experienced by the person when actually carrying out the task. External work load refers
to the demands posed by the work tasks to be performed, and hence is equivalent to work
demands. Some languages use specific terms to refer to this distinction, e.g. 'Belastung'
and 'Beanspruchung' in German (e.g. Hacker, 1997) or 'last' and 'belasting' in Dutch.
Work pressure is provisionally conceived of as a cognitive-energetic state of the person,
producing the experience of strain or felt pressure, which is associated with the ongoing
and anticipated execution of work tasks. At present it can best be understood as the
subjective reflection of the person's psychological/ physiological state while carrying out
work tasks. Obviously, this state can vary and work pressure can augment or decline,
depending a.o. on the worker's expectation of the amount of work that remains to be done
and his/her assessment of the chance to accomplish the work successfully. Although work
pressure is conceived as a dynamic phenomenon, one would expect it to change less
quickly than work load. Work pressure seems to be a more enduring state which may
extend into people's leisure time.
Stress is defined as a state of excessive activation which results when one has been
exposed to a threatening situation for a longer period, and when attempts to cope with, or
to terminate the threatening situation fail. Work pressure can be such a threatening
situation. Work pressure seems related to stress, but unlike stress it is specifically linked to
work tasks to be performed and probably more susceptible to change. The difference, thus,
is that stress is a-specific and relatively persistent, while work pressure seems specific and
changeable. Work pressure may well be a precursor of stress, but under typical conditions
work pressure may alternatively reach high levels and drop again, without ultimately
causing stress. This implies that the 'wave-length' of work pressure is longer than that of
work load and shorter than that of stress.
It is important to recognise that the phenomena dealt with here are inherently dynamic,
and they are affected by a number of regulatory mechanisms. We distinguish between
three such mechanisms: (1) the effort mechanism (Kahneman, 1973; Sanders, 1983;
Mulder, 1986; Hockey, 1986, 1997; Zijlstra, 1993, 1996) which lowers or heightens the
mental capacity in response to work load; (2) the strategic mechanism (Hacker, 1997;
Sperandio, 1973; Hockey, 1986, 1997), which produces variations in strategy in response
to work load (and perhaps work pressure); and (3) the fatigue-recovery mechanism
(Meijman, 1989), which adjusts the person's state by means of recovery in response to
fatigue. Each of these mechanisms can be supposed to have an influence on work load, as
well as on work pressure.
Figure 1 Conceptual model of work pressure
Figure 1 presents a heuristic conceptual model showing the links between the four
concepts introduced above. But it also incorporates a number of other concepts which were
briefly mentioned above, including actual capacity, psycho-physiological state, fatigue and
recovery. Since work load not only depends on the level of the demands, but also on how
long the person is exposed to them, work time is also included. Also included are outcomes
of the work and the rewards they lead to. This aspect has been incorporated because of the
findings by Siegrist et al. (1990) that rewards may counteract potential negative effects of
work stressors on people. A final important element in the model is strategy. Through their
choice of strategy people may take an influence on work demands, work time, and non-
work factors. Strategy is dependent on 'control' (Ganster, 1989; Karasek & Theorell, 1990),
i.e. the degree to which the work setting enables people to exert influence on their work.
The primary function of the model is to serve as a heuristic tool in developing a set of
instruments and to direct research on work pressure. Although it incorporates the three
regulatory mechanisms mentioned above, it does not represent a fully developed causal
scheme of the factors and mechanisms related to work pressure.
4.1 Scale construction and analysis
The first step in our study is the development of a set of instruments for the measurement
of work demands, work load, work pressure and other concepts. This was done on the
basis of the conceptual model presented above. Existing scales, published in the literature
as well as questionnaires commonly used in the Netherlands, were scrutinised as to
identify which scales and/or items would be appropriate for operationalising the various
concepts. Some of the items were re-sorted as to match our conceptual distinctions,
mentioned above, and several new items were developed. Next, questionnaires were
composed and tested in a small pilot study before administering them in the survey sample.
Scales were formed on the basis of item analysis (item-test correlations and coefficients
To investigate the relationships between the variables we performed two types of
analysis. First, work demands and work time were correlated with work load, work
pressure, fatigue and stress, and regression analysis was applied. Next, we did path
analysis on these and a few other variables, using LISREL-8 (Jöreskog & Sörbom,1993).
In order to achieve a better understanding of how different configurations of work
demands may affect work pressure, we conducted a cluster analysis (using SPSS Quick
Cluster) and formed groups with different work demand profiles and compared them with
respect to the level of work pressure, using analysis of variance.
4.2 Sample
For the purpose of the present study a sample of Dutch working people was drawn in the
following way. From a random sample of some 8000 private phone numbers, 4000
numbers were selected. Those persons have been called in order to find people who would
satisfy the criteria for participation in the study and would be ready to take part. The
criteria were such that people had to be over 18 years old, perform a paid job, either as an
employee or being self-employed, and make at least 8 hours per week. People without a
paid job, such as housewives, retired people, and students were excluded from
participation. People were asked whether they would be willing to take part in a study on
work and working conditions conducted by the University of Tilburg. Addresses of those
agreeing were taken down and people were sent a written questionnaire with a prepaid
return envelope. A total of 2000 questionnaires were sent out, and 1130 have been
returned; the return rate therefor was 56.5 %. Information on the sample composition in
terms of age, gender and education is given in the upper part of Table 1.
Table 1 Sample composition
Age Male Female Education
Under 30 79 103 Basic 23
31-50 429 322 Lower vocational 212
Over 50 104 51 Middle voc ational 247
College 108
Higher voc ati onal 316
Sector Uni ver sity 136
Industry & Agriculture 155 Other 32
Construction 49
Trade, hotels, r epair 124 Work objects
Transpor t 38 People > Data > Things 389
Banks & insurances 150 Data > People > Things 352
Health care 186 Thi ngs > People > Data 130
Education 111 People > Things > Data 89
Public services 109 Thi ngs > Data > People 52
Other ser vic es 125 Data > Things > People 33
The distribution across economic sectors and types of work, categorised by the relative
importance of data, people and things as work objects, is given in the lower part of the
table. It appears that the sample is approximately representative of the Dutch work force,
although persons with a higher education are somewhat over-represented.
4.3 Measurement instruments
Measures of work demands, work load and work pressure were made by means of scaling,
using re-arranged items from other published instruments and new items generated by the
research team. Along with questions concerning work time and non-work activities, these
scales constitute the 'Tilburg Work Pressure Questionnaire' or T-WPQ. The work demands
scales that are covered in the T-WPQ are:
Quantity: the amount of work that must be performed.
Difficulty: the degree of difficulty or complexity of the work tasks.
Intensity: the degree of sustained and focussed attention needed to do the work.
Emotiveness: the degree to which the work implies emotionally demanding situations.
Responsibility: the degree to which the work implies carrying responsibility for other
people or for valuable goods.
Temporality: the degree to which the work flow must meet deadlines, take place at a
prescribed speed etc.
Multiplicity: the degree to which the work involves multiple tasks.
Interruptiveness: the degree to which the work is susceptible to interruptions.
Lack of support / hinder: the degree to which people lack the information, tools,
personal assistance needed to carry out their work tasks, or feel that things get in their
Along with the T-WPQ we used a number of instruments for measuring other variables in
the model. The variables involved in the present study are: Rewards (scale developed after
Siegrist et al., 1990), Fatigue (measured by the CIS-20; Vercoulen et al., 1994; subscales:
Table 2 T-WPQ Scales with no. of items and coefficients alpha
'subjective fatigue', 'concentration', 'energetic', 'activity'), and Burnout (MBI-Dutch
version; Schaufeli & van Dierendonck, 1994; subscales: 'emotional exhaustion', 'distance',
The coefficients alpha of the newly created scales are presented above in Table 2.
Generally speaking the items appeared to be suitable for measuring the constructs. Only
few items had to be deleted in order to raise the scale's reliability.
5.1 Structural analysis
A first impression of the structural relationships between the variables in this study comes
from the pattern of correlations and regression weights. Table 3 gives the raw correlations
and beta-weights of the nine work demands, the number of working hours and the number
of household hours for the prediction of work load, work pressure, subjective fatigue and
felt exhaustion. It is clear that the demands correlate strongest with work load, somewhat
lesser with work pressure, and the least with exhaustion and fatigue. Apart from the
relative position of fatigue and exhaustion, which can be supposed to influence each other
mutually, this seems to be in agreement with the general structure of our conceptual model.
The number of working hours correlate only with work load and work pressure. And for
number of household hours weak negative correlations are found with three of the four
Table 3 Correlations and beta's of work demands for 4 criteria
Work Demands
Lack of support
Working hours
Household hours
Multiple R2
The overall pattern of relationships was established by path analysis, using LISREL-8
(Jöreskog & Sörbom, 1993). The results are presented in Figure 2. The path model is the
one that fits the data best. It was developed iteratively, suppressing paths with coefficients
lower than 1.00, 1.50 and 1.96 (5% significance level) successively. The fit of the model is
acceptable. The RMR is .037, the Goodness-of-Fit Index (GFI) is .97, the Adjusted
Goodness of Fit Index (AFI) is .92, the Normed Fit Index (NFI) is .97. The model shows
that some, but not all demands act as determinants of work load, and that work load is a
determining factor of work pressure. Work pressure in its turn determines fatigue and
exhaustion, whereas fatigue affects exhaustion as well. All this is more or less in
accordance with our conceptual model. However, there are differences as well. Some
demand factors seem to influence work pressure directly. Some demands produce rewards,
which appears to counteract work pressure and fatigue, and - indirectly - also exhaustion.
This latter finding is in agreement with the 'effort-rewards' model of Siegrist et al. (1990),
which postulates that rewards are a good buffer against the unhealthy effects of work
stressors. Of course, it should be kept in mind that the model does not display real causal
links, since the data were all gathered at the same moment. Causal analysis based on
longitudinal data will be left for a later moment.
Figure 2 Structural model of work pressure
5.2 Subgroup analysis
Since jobs may differ in the demands they pose to people and yet produce equally high
work pressure, we have broken up the overall sample up in subgroups with different
profiles of job demands and made a comparison between these groups. The groups were
created by means of cluster analysis using SPSS Quick Cluster. A first analysis using the
nine demand scales alone did not produce a clear solution, but including the number of
working hours and gender did. Number of working hours is a relevant factor, since long
work hours may add to the effects of otherwise similar job demands. Gender is relevant
since there are systematic differences in job content and number of working hours between
men and women. The final solution is based on an analysis of z-scores of demands,
number of working hours and gender (with.01 decrement and 30 iterations)2.
2 Note: we are using perceived demands, since no information about objective demands could
possibly be gathered.
The analysis resulted in five job types with predominantly male job incumbents, six job
types with predominantly female job incumbents and one mixed job type. The twelve job
types are described in Figures 3 and 4.
Figure 3 Work pressure and work demands for job types
Male (M1-M5) & Mixed (X1)
Figure 4 Work pressure and work demands for job types
Female (F1-F6)
It appears that there are clear differences between types of jobs in terms of the demands
posed. Apart from job types with one or several high demands, there are several with low
demands. Male and female job types seem similar apart from the number of working
hours, which are typically longer for men. In our description of the job types we have also
indicated whether the respondents had substantial duties outside of the work, that is in the
household. Some of the female groups with less work hours than the standard work week
spent over 20 hours a week on household duties (including care)3.
Six of the twelve job types, involving 47% of the total number of workers in the
sample, can be characterised as highly demanding. This applies to: M1 (overtaxing male
jobs), M2 (intense male jobs) and M3 (broad male jobs), F1 (overtaxing female jobs), F2
(intense female jobs), and F4 (ordinary female jobs), and to X1 (draining jobs, male and
female). The other job types, comprising 53% of the respondents, pose moderate to low
Looking at work pressure for the twelve job types, we find large and significant
differences (F= 44,39; df=11,1082 p<.0001). Work pressure is highest among X1
(emotionally draining jobs), M1 and F1 (overtaxing jobs, male and female), F2 (intense
jobs female), and M3 (broad male jobs). Analyses carried out with fatigue, emotional
exhaustion and health complaints give similar results.
To better understand the differences between the job types we also compared the job
types with respect to a number of job content variables, that is: the mental vs. manual
nature of the tasks, the work object (data-people-things), the use of technical tools. From
this analysis it appears that in most jobs mental tasks dominate, and that higher demands
are associated with a predominance of mental tasks. The lightest jobs are those with more
manual tasks. The job types also differ in the work objects dealt with. On average dealing
with people is more common in female jobs. A prevalence of people as work object is
found for F1 (overtaxing female jobs) on the one hand, and F4 (ordinary female) and M5
(light female jobs) on the other hand. Male jobs at the lighter end of the scale, i.e. M4 and
M5, more often have 'things' as work objects. Thus we find some evidence of gender
segregation in work content, and are reminded of the fact that high demands can originate
from different sources. Interestingly enough, we find that the work in category X1
(emotionally draining jobs) is almost exclusively focused on people. Here the number of
respondents reporting 'work with people' amounts to 90%. There are also differences in the
use of work support tools, like the use of the portable telephone and the laptop, which are
more common in the groups M1 (overtaxed male jobs) and M2 (intense male jobs).
Looking at the results of the foregoing, it appears that work pressure is a distinct
phenomenon, that can neither be equated to high work demands, nor to high work load or
work stress. There are positive correlations between demands, work load, and work
pressure, to be sure, but they are not sufficiently high to consider all these variables as
expressions of a single factor. The model that we propose can be seen as a kind a 'stage-
model' in the process of developing stress and burnout. The work demands have an effect
on workload, but the effects of demands on work pressure and fatigue and exhaustion are
much weaker. The decrease in the Multiple R2 from left to right in Table 4 illustrates this
quite clearly.
For the sample as a whole, the main determinant of work pressure is high work load,
which is in its turn produced by quantity, difficulty, intensity and hinder (lack of support).
Higher demands are associated with greater rewards, and rewards seem to play a buffering
role since it goes together with less work pressure, less fatigue and less exhaustion.
Our analysis of subgroups makes clear that high and low work pressure are associated
3 This variable is presented for descriptive and explanatory purposes. It was not included in the
cluster analysis.
with different profiles of work demands, typical for certain types of jobs. High work
pressure is found in subgroups of workers who face high overall demands (M1 and F1),
who have jobs with a high level of intensity (M2 and F2), those with a great variety of
tasks (only male: M3), who have 'ordinary jobs' but make much hours in household (only
female: F4), and those who deal with people in emotionally demanding situations (male
and female: X1). The number of people in these seven job categories is almost 50 % of the
total sample. Since the subgroups do not only differ in the pattern of work demand, but
also in the overall balance of work and household hours, the factor time seems to play a
role as well. However, further research is needed to clarify the role of temporal factors.
With respect to practice a first lesson from this study is that high work demands do not
necessarily result in high work pressure. Much depends on other factors and particularly on
the rewards people receive from their work. This makes it desirable to look beyond signs
of work pressure and to make a proper diagnosis of relevant situational and personal
factors. An instrument like the T-WPQ may be helpful in this context. Secondly, it seems
that, generally speaking, work pressure can be reduced in different ways: on the one hand
by reducing the work demands or adjusting working (or household) hours, on the other
hand by giving people more rewards for their work. Thirdly, we can conclude that the
factors producing work pressure vary with the type of job people are in. This implies that
job factors should be taken into account in making a diagnosis of high work pressure, and
that the ways to reduce work pressure should depend on the particular constellation of
demands in the job.
The results from the survey suggest some measures for preventing and reducing high
work pressure in general, but they do not yield information about the ways in which people
can cope with work pressure in everyday settings. For this we can rely on a study by
Stuifbergen (1999), who conducted in-depth interviews with 24 people engaged in various
types of jobs. This study examines the meanings people assign to work pressure, the
conditions under which work pressure is felt, and the methods people use to cope with high
work pressure. The study confirms that work pressure is a subjective state associated with
expectations about the future flow of work, more in particular with the dynamic balance
between the work that has to be done and the work that one is able to do.
Figure 5: Starting points for intervention
On the basis of this finding and the coping methods mentioned by the subjects we
propose a simplified model in which work pressure is the outcome of a process of
balancing the work that must be done and the work that can be done. The work that must
be done can be seen as determined by work demands and work supply, whereas the work
that can be done is seen as determined by the personal competence to meet the demands
and the capacity to manage the work supply.
There are different opportunities for intervention, both corrective and preventive, and
there is a role to play for the workers themselves, their supervisors, line management, and
the personnel department. We propose the following options for intervention. Since work
pressure does not occur constantly, but is a dynamic phenomenon, there is an important
role to play for working people themselves. They may first of all regulate work pressure
by: (1) planning their work tasks before they start working, by structuring their work,
(re)scheduling it etc.; (2) spending more effort in order to meet the high demands, or to
reduce the actual demands by changing one's work strategy; (3) doing overtime or taking
work home. These methods have in common that they aim for maintenance of the level of
work performance and adjustment of the individual's work capacity. Typical for the second
group of methods is that they enable workers to protect themselves by lowering the
standards of performance. This is done by: (4) isolating oneself from others in order to
avoid disturbances and concentrate on the task; (5) giving in to constraints, deferring the
work till a more suitable moment, and "giving up", that is, abandoning the task; (6) taking
a break in order to restore one's work capacity. An important role for the supervisor lies in:
(7) planning the overall work flow and (re)allocating the work across workers. In this way
the supervisor may avoid or reduce peak-loads and overload of individual workers.
Moving to the line management there is a more structural and preventive solution, i.e. (8)
(re)structuring the part of the organisation that is susceptible to work pressure or changing
its capacity by deploying a greater number of workers or prolonging the work hours.
Intervention within the scope of line and personnel management are: (9) selection and
placement of workers, with the purpose of adjusting the available competence to the
overall work demands; and (10) providing training to workers as to increase their
In order to decide about the appropriateness of all these interventions a good diagnosis
is needed. Both the average level of work pressure and its distribution across the
organisation would have to be ascertained. When high levels of work pressure are found
among almost all employees of a work unit, or an organisation as a whole, one would think
of organisational restructuring and / or work force expansion as appropriate measures. If
high work pressure is found with particular jobs or at particular moments only, one would
think of training the employees involved or alleviating high demand by better work flow
planning. If level of work pressure is low to average for most of the time, one would put
the emphasis on measures taken by the workers themselves or by their superior. In order
for workers to effectively use the methods 1 through 6, they should have sufficient control
in their work, either individually or as members of a work group.
On the basis of our study we come to the following conclusions:
1. Work pressure should be distinguished from work demands, to work load and work
stress. Although its nature should be investigated further, it can currently best be
understood as a dynamic state associated with the anticipated execution of work tasks.
People experiencing high work pressure are in a state of cognitive and energetic
activation. Subjectively they are aware of the work to be done and are concerned about
their ability to complete the work successfully.
2. The main determinant of work pressure is work load. Generally speaking, high work
load is produced by high work demands with respect to quantity, difficulty, intensity
and hinder (lack of support). High work pressure can be seen as a precursor of elevated
fatigue and stress (burnout).
3. The perception of being properly rewarded for one's work counteracts the emergence of
work pressure, fatigue and exhaustion. On the whole greater rewards are associated
with higher demands.
4. The antecedents of high work pressure are not the same for all workers. They vary
according to the nature of the job, the number of working hours and the number of
hours spent in the household. There are some differences between men and women
5. Practical interventions aiming at reducing or preventing high work pressure should be
based on an assessment of the work demand, work time, and should take the
particularities of the job into account.
6. There is a wide range of possibilities for reducing and preventing high work pressure.
Organisational re-structuring, work force expansion, extension of working hours, and
improved planning are important, but such structural measures can be supplemented by
selection, placement and training on the one hand, adjustments in planning and task
allocation by the supervisor and various adjustments in the work process by the workers
themselves. For this workers need sufficient control.
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... Third, we contribute to an emerging stream of research within the stress and well-being literature focusing on the role of anticipation in employee health and well-being. While stress theories acknowledge that stress not only emerges from the actual experience of stressors but also from the anticipation of future demands (Meurs & Perrewé, 2011;Roe & Zijlstra, 2000), these anticipatory processes have only recently started to attract attention in the occupational health literature (Casper et al., 2017;Casper & Sonnentag, 2020;DiStaso & Shoss, 2020). These studies have provided first insights into relationships between workload anticipation and well-beingrelated outcomes within workdays or from one workday to the next. ...
... Indeed, experience-sampling studies revealed that up to 75% of future-oriented cognitions involve planning (Baumeister et al., 2020). Such planning-related prospective thoughts are a core aspect of work anticipation that allows employees to prepare for future work demands, plan the workflow, allocate resources, and strive toward goal accomplishment in the workdays to come (Roe & Zijlstra, 2000). Another important aspect of futureoriented thinking that regularly occurs alongside pragmatic prospection and planning is worrying (Baumeister et al., 2020), that is, the mental representation of possible future threats and risks that are emotionally aversive in nature (Bulley et al., 2017;Sweeny & Dooley, 2017). ...
... To the extent that stressors are anticipated before they actually occur, coping behaviors can be planned; potential risks are assessed and resources are allocated in an effort to reduce these risks and maximize benefits (Biggs et al., 2017). This is also a central proposition of the "work pressure model," stating that people continuously look ahead and assess the work that still needs to be done in light of the remaining personal capacities (Roe & Zijlstra, 2000). Such anticipation and planning of work and work-related resources are especially instrumental when employees face chronically high workload and have to allocate their time and energetic resources carefully. ...
Affective well-being of employees is a key outcome in the occupational health literature. Yet, researchers of emotions and affect have long called for a better understanding of the dynamic nature of such experiences. Directly addressing this call, we have built on temporal schema theories and the notion of temporal depth to develop and test the anticipation of work account as a theoretical explanation of systematic weekly change patterns in positive and negative affect. Using a 7-day experience-sampling design and latent growth curve modeling, we hypothesized and found that anticipation of work linearly decreased over the course of the workweek, so did negative affect. Supporting our hypothesis that change patterns in work anticipation drive change patterns in evening affect, the linear change trajectory of anticipation was significantly related to change trajectories in positive and negative affect. Furthermore, we identified the structure of the workweek and chronic workload as boundary conditions that interact in shaping weekly change patterns in anticipation. Specifically, patterns of decreasing anticipation were most pronounced for employees with a regular Monday-Friday workweek and high chronic levels of workload, while they were weakest for employees with a regular workweek but low levels of chronic workload. Taken together, our results highlight the role of work itself and working conditions in dynamic aspects of affect. They yield theoretical and practical implications for the study of affect and its work-related experiential and behavioral consequences. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).
... In the psychological literature, work pressure is seen as a short-term consequence of job demands and workload (Chapter 16;Zijlstra & Roe, 2000). Job demands are "physical, psychological, social, or organizational aspects of the job that require sustained physical and/or psychological effort and are therefore associated with certain physiological and/or psychological costs (Bakker and Demerouti, 2017;p. ...
... Based on the data of the European foundation, we calculated trends in quantitative workload (working at high speed and towards tight deadlines), as one of the main indicators of experienced work pressure (Boyd et al., 2011;Demerouti et al., 2004;Zijlstra & Roe, 2000). A comparison of the public with the private sector shows that overall, workload in the private sector is higher than in the public sector (see Figure 1). ...
This chapter demonstrates the importance of work pressure as an HRM challenge. The different ways of conceptualizing work pressure are described as well as the main theories that explain work pressure and under which circumstances work pressure results in work stress. Trends on work pressure experienced by public sector workers based on the EWCS (1995-2015) across European countries and public sectors are discussed. The rising levels of work pressure are linked to contextual developments within the public sector and the wider society. The developments have led to an increase in work demands and a decline of job resources. The chapter concludes with a discussion on HRM challenges, arguing that on the one hand HRM policies have the potential to raise resources of employees working in the public sector, which enable them to deal with a high workload, but on the other hand run the risk to increase demands when the wider organisational context is not taken into account.
... In this regard, stress originates when individual coping resources are insufficient to deal with stressful appraised stimuli. Therefore, we conceptualise perceived time stress as a result of an unfavourable cognitive evaluation of the amount of work to be done in relation to the available time ( Roe and Zijlstra, 2000 ;Syrek et al., 2013 ). ...
... Perceived time stress The result of an unfavourable cognitive evaluation of the amount of work to be done in relation to the available time ( Lazarus and Folkman, 1984 ;Roe and Zijlstra, 2000 ;Syrek et al., 2013 ). Behavioural Strain ISP non-compliance An employee's behaviour that deviates from prescribed ISP rules ( Kolkowska et al., 2017 ). ...
Based on the transactional theory of stress, the study sets out to explore the relationship between occupational stress, information security policy (ISP) designs, and security behaviour. Results from an in-basket experiment reveal that stress elicited by time constraints leads to ISP non-compliance behaviour in the workplace. In addition, the results of the study show that punishment can buffer the effect of perceived stress on ISP non-compliance. While existing research on stress and ISP compliance focus on stress induced by security requirements, our study extends these findings by providing insights how stressful work environments and ISP designs shape ISP compliance behaviour.
... Rau and Göllner (2018) recently formulated a model with work demands that are related to the level of quantitative work intensity. As proposed by Roe and Zijlstra (2000), in this model work demands represent the objective requirements posed by the tasks to be performed and the working conditions. These demands are the same for each job incumbent. ...
... Als eine Arbeitsbelastung, die sowohl als Auslöser für Überforderungserleben, als auch als Risikofaktor für Erkrankungen angesehen wird, gilt die Arbeitsintensität (siehe Überblicksarbeiten von Angerer et al., 2014;Stab & Schulz-Dadaczynski, 2017). Unter dem Begriff der Arbeitsintensität können sowohl qualitative Anforderungen, welche sich in der Regel auf die Komplexität der Arbeitsanforderungen beziehen, als auch quantitative Anforderungen, die sich aus dem Verhältnis von geforderter Arbeitsmenge und verfügbarer Zeit ergeben, verstanden werden (Roe & Zijlstra, 2000;Rau & Göllner, 2018;Stab & Schulz-Dadaczynski, 2017 ...
Der öffentliche Personennahverkehr (ÖPNV) stellt einen zentralen Bestandteil der Infrastruktur dar. Dabei fällt der Fahrberuf seit jeher durch hohe Arbeitsunfähigkeitsraten auf (Badura, Ducki, Schröder, Klose, & Meyer, 2017). Im Gegensatz zu Straßenbahnfahrenden gibt es zu Busfahrenden zahlreiche Untersuchungen, die deren kritische Belastungs- und Gesundheitssituation gezeigt haben (Tse, Flin, & Mearns, 2006). Die Entwicklung der Arbeitsbedingungen von Fahrenden im ÖPNV ist durch Intensivierung und Isolierung gekennzeichnet, was zum einen über einen zunehmenden Kostendruck für die Verkehrsbetriebe, als auch anhand des technischen Fortschritts erklärbar ist (Resch, 2015). Zentrale Belastungskomponenten der Tätigkeit sind die hohe quantitative Arbeitsintensität, bedingt durch das Fahren nach Fahrplan und die sozial isolierenden Bedingungen durch das Arbeiten an einem Einzelarbeitsplatz. Diese wurden in zwei eparaten Teilen in der vorliegenden Arbeit anhand von insgesamt 66 Straßenbahnfahrenden über die Erfassung von subjektiven und objektiven Daten im Tagebuchdesign untersucht. In Teil A der vorliegenden Arbeit wurde Arbeitsintensität anhand von zwei Fragestellungen und auf zwei verschiedene Arten operationalisiert. Zum einen wurden objektive Indikatoren für Störungen im Arbeitsablauf, welche das Potential zur Erhöhung der Arbeitsintensität besitzen, durch geschulte Beobachterinnen und Beobachter im Verlaufe eines Arbeitstages aufgezeichnet (Fragestellung A1). Zum anderen wurde Arbeitsintensität über ein globales Maß zur Tätigkeit im Allgemeinen mittels Fragebogen erfasst (Fragestellung A2). Beide Fragestellungen thematisieren die Beziehung zwischen Arbeitsintensität und kurzfristigen Fehlbeanspruchungsfolgen, in Form von Ermüdung, Monotonie und Stress, wobei gezeigt werden konnte, dass eine hohe Arbeitsintensität mit dem aktuellen Erleben von psychischer Ermüdung in Verbindung steht. Bezüglich Fragestellung A1 konnte außerdem gezeigt werden, dass kurzfristige Fluktuationen der Arbeitsintensität durch auftretende Störungen und verkürzte Pausen im Dienstverlauf mit einer verzögerten Ermüdungs- und Stressreaktion assoziiert waren. Die Ergebnisse werden über eine kompensatorische Anstrengung erklärt, die die Fahrenden aufwenden müssen, um zeitlichen Zusatzaufwand durch Störungen und verkürzte Pausen und damit fehlende Erholungsmöglichkeiten zu kompensieren (Meijman & Mulder, 1998). Bezüglich Fragestellung A2 hat sich gezeigt, dass sowohl die durch Fahrende eingeschätzte Arbeitsintensität als auch die kurzfristigen Fehlbeanspruchungsfolgen mit langfristigen negativen Folgen für die Erholung verbunden sind. Dabei steigt das Ermüdungserleben ab der zweiten Diensthälfte an und nimmt eine vermittelnde Rolle für den Zusammenhang zwischen Arbeitsintensität und Erholungsunfähigkeit ein. Die Ergebnisse weisen auf die häufig angenommene, aber bislang kaum untersuchte vermittelnde Rolle kurzfristiger Beanspruchungsfolgen für die Beziehung von Arbeitsbelastung und langfristigen Beeinträchtigungen der Gesundheit und des Wohlbefindens hin (Geurts & Sonnentag, 2006). Teil B bezieht sich auf die Belastungskomponente der sozialen Isolation und gliedert sich in insgesamt drei Studien. Soziale Isolation wurde zunächst von anderen Bedingungen, wie sozialer Unterstützung und möglichen Folgen, wie einem arbeitsbezogenen Einsamkeits-gefühl abgegrenzt. Für Letzteres liegt im deutschsprachigen Raum kein validiertes Verfahren vor, sodass zunächst die Entwicklung einer Kurzskala zur Erfassung eines arbeitsbezogenen Einsamkeitsgefühls dargestellt wurde (Studie 1 und 2). In der dritten Studie wurden sozial isolierende Bedingungen von Straßenbahnfahrenden sowohl objektiv durch geschulte Beobachterinnen und Beobachter als auch subjektiv über Fragebögen erfasst und in Beziehung zu einem arbeitsbezogenen Einsamkeitsgefühl (operationalisiert als trait- und state-Variante) gesetzt. Zentrale Ergebnisse der Untersuchung waren, dass die Fahrenden den sehr niedrigen Anteil von Kommunikation bei ihrer Tätigkeit überschätzen. Das Ausmaß und die Qualität der Kommunikation mit Kollegen an einem Arbeitstag war mit dem aktuellen arbeitsbezogenen state-Einsamkeitsgefühl assoziiert und die Fahrenden fühlten sich im Mittel zwar einsamer, aber nicht weniger sozial unterstützt als die Mitarbeiter aus der Verwaltung des gleichen Verkehrsbetriebes. Insgesamt sind Bedingungen sozialer Isolation und ein arbeitsbezogenes Einsamkeitsgefühl jeweils mit den Möglichkeiten zur Partizipation an betrieblichen Prozessen assoziiert. In der übergreifenden Diskussion werden aus den Ergebnissen der Arbeit Erkenntnisse zur Gestaltung der Arbeitsintensität und sozialen Isolation für den Fahrberuf und insbesondere die Tätigkeit von Straßenbahnfahrenden abgeleitet. Zentrale Empfehlungen zur Arbeitsgestaltung sind die Verbesserung von Fahrplänen durch eine Erhöhung von Pausenzeiten insbesondere in der ersten Diensthälfte und die Verbesserung der Möglichkeiten zur Partizipation an betrieblichen Prozessen und Entscheidungen für das Fahrpersonal. Diese arbeitspsychologisch begründeten Gestaltungsmaßnahmen wirken den negativen gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen der Fahrtätigkeit entgegen, tragen zur Unfallverhütung bei und sichern eine nachhaltige Leistungs- und Wettbewerbsfähigkeit von Verkehrsbetrieben.
... Second, a comprehensive perspective on work prospection helps refine work stress theories by shedding light on the extent to which future-oriented thinking about work may both harm and benefit recovery. Our work will advance work stress theories that have acknowledged the role of the future in stress experience (e.g., Meurs & Perrewé, 2011;Roe & Zijlstra, 2000). By developing a conceptualization and measure of work prospection, the present study paves the way to actually empirically testing these propositions. ...
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Findings from adjacent literatures suggest that thinking about the future may have implications for employee health, especially when such thoughts are affectively toned. However, existing constructs targeting work-related thinking are predominantly time-unspecific, possibly overlooking a substantial portion of work-related cognitions that occur on a daily basis. We therefore develop a comprehensive, multidimensional conceptualization of work prospection, as well as an instrument (Work Prospection Scale; WPS) that allows the measurement of three types of work prospection (cognitive, positive affective, and negative affective). We place work prospection in its wider nomological network and evaluate its validity across three cross-sectional studies (total N = 825) and a 5-day diary study (N = 199). Psychometric properties of the scale were supported across studies, and the WPS was related to, yet empirically distinct from related constructs. Criterion-related results showed that positive affective work prospection during the evening was associated with less fatigue and more recovery in the next morning. Conversely, negative affective work prospection was related to more evening fatigue, as well as less next morning recovery. Cognitive work prospection had no significant relationship with recovery indicators. Additionally, our findings show that targeting future-oriented cognitions adds to the prediction of employee recovery beyond time-unspecific measures.
... Some examples of job demands in the workplace are work pressure, emotional and cognitive demand, role conflict, and hassle (complexity) [13]. Work pressure is defined as a state that causes tension or pressure related to the work task being carried out [14]. Emotional demand is an aspect of work that requires frequently in contact with customers or clients [15]. ...
... Work pressure is perceived of as a cognitive-energetic state of the individual, creating the feeling of strain or felt pressure, which is related with the continuing and expected execution of work tasks (Roe & Zijlstra, 2000). ...
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The Higher Education sector has been through an array of changes, such as globalisation, massification, lack of job security, decolonisation and a number of technological advancements. These changes have impacted academic workload and have increased work pressure with resultant effects on family and work life balance. A review of the existing literature indicates a lack of clarity when it comes to the job demands and job resources inherent to the academic occupation. In order to determine the job demands and job resources of academics, a systematic review of empirical literature is warranted. This paper systematically reviewed empirical research published from 2014 to 2019 investigating job demands and resources based on the job demands-resources model in the higher education environment. Six articles were identified that met the criteria for inclusion. Thus, a list of quantitative, qualitative and organisational job demands as well as organisational and personal resources specific to the academic environment were identified. This will allow Higher Education Institutions to provide targeted development of job resources and mitigation of job demands for their academic employees and enable the development of specific interventions.
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Zusammenfassung Eine langanhaltende hohe Arbeitsintensität kann eine gesundheitsgefährdende Belastung für Beschäftigte darstellen. Für eine angemessene Gestaltung der Arbeit sind Kenntnisse von Determinanten dauerhaft erhöhter Arbeitsintensität von zentraler Bedeutung. Dieser Beitrag beschäftigt sich mit der Frage, welche empirischen Grundlagen zur Verfügung stehen, um die Verbreitung hoher Arbeitsintensität in Deutschland zu beschreiben und insbesondere potenzielle Determinanten zu identifizieren. Hierfür wurden sechs Erwerbstätigenbefragungen systematisch analysiert. Es konnten insgesamt 662 Fragebogenitems zum Thema „Arbeitsintensität und ihre Determinanten“ identifiziert und anhand von 11 Hauptkategorien – sechs Kategorien für Arbeitsintensität und fünf für Determinanten – und mehr als 65 Unterkategorien klassifiziert werden. Trotz empirischer Lücken zeigt sich damit, dass in Deutschland eine breite Datenbasis zur Analyse des Themas Arbeitsintensität und deren Determinanten zur Verfügung steht. In zukünftigen Erhebungen sollten auch Informationen zur Leistungspolitik, wie Kundenorientierung oder auch Dienstreisen, Zielvereinbarungen, dem Maß der Ergebnisorientierung und auch Eigenverantwortung als mögliche Determinanten von Arbeitsintensität erhoben werden. Ebenfalls sollte die ausführliche Erhebung von betrieblichen Rahmenbedingungen, wie die Unternehmensform oder auch existierende Personalengpässe stärker mitbedacht werden. Praktische Relevanz: Die vorliegende Studie verdeutlicht, welche Datenbasis in Deutschland vorhanden ist, um Determinanten von Arbeitsintensität zu beleuchten und somit auch Gestaltungspotentiale für eine angemessene Arbeitsintensität zu identifizieren.
In this paper, we want to investigate some determinants of work-family conflict. Factors related to job (job insecurity, job demands and resources, type of job, salary level, time spent at work, working conditions in the pandemic) and aspects such as fear of COVID-19 will be explored. The present study involved 301 people, aged between 18 and 65 years, M = 40.10, AS = 8.25. The instruments used were Work and Family Conflict Scale (Haslam et al., 2015), Job Insecurity Scale (De witte et al., 2000, 2010), The Job Demands-Resources Questionnaire (Bakker et al., 2014) and The Fear of COVID-19 Scale (Ahorsu et al., 2020). The results indicated that both job insecurity and workplace pressure are positive predictors of the work-family conflict, while autonomy is a negative predictor. Also, the moderating effect of fear of COVID-19 on the relationship between job insecurity and work-family conflict was analyzed, but it proved to be statistically insignificant. However, it was found that employees working from home during this period have a higher level of work-family conflict. Based on these results, work-family conflict management strategies can be developed, both individually and by organizations.
Research has demonstrated how policy changes are bound to fail without the support of frontline employees. This study examines how performance information influences frontline employees’ support for managerial policy initiatives. We develop hypotheses stating that the exposure to positive and negative organizational performance scores compared to average scores increases frontline employees’ support for managerial policy initiatives and thus facilitate policy change. To test our hypotheses, we conduct a survey experiment on more than 1,500 social caseworkers working in Danish employment agencies. The results show that while the provision of positive organizational scores increases caseworkers’ support for managerial policy initiatives, there is no direct effect following the exposure of negative performance scores. However, additional exploratory analysis reveals that the caseworkers’ experienced work pressure moderates the effect of positive and negative performance information. Specifically, caseworkers that experience a high work pressure are more inclined to support managerial policy initiatives following positive and negative performance scores. Furthermore, the explorative analysis indicates that the caseworkers tend to ignore negative performance information, which strongly suggests that poor performance scores trigger identity-protective cognition. Overall, the study advances our understanding of the link between performance information and support of policy changes on the frontline of public services by showing how different performance scores influence employees’ support for managerial policy initiatives.
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attempt to make a broad sweep of the industrial and organizational psychology and organizational behavior literatures with the intention of uncovering evidence about the effects of employee control in the workplace summary of experimental and social psychological control research / control theories / intrinsic need for control / learned helplessness / distinguishing predictability from control include those studies that measure control beliefs directly as well as studies that assess working conditions that are theoretically causal of those cognitions cover studies that address relevant dispositional constructs such as locus of contol / individual difference variables / type A behavior pattern control theory in organizational settings / participation in decision making / job design research / autonomy research / machine pacing / job decision latitude / tests of an interactive control model workplace interventions and control job attitudes / job performance / stress and well-being (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Because the naturalistic team decision-making environment is highly complex, there is a need to investigate the performance and process effects of variables that characterize such operational environments. We investigated the effects of team structure and two components of workload (time pressure and resource demand) on team performance and communication over time. Results of the study indicated that time pressure significantly degraded performance relative to resource demand and baseline workload conditions. Although teams exposed to resource demand did not exhibit degraded performance, these teams engaged in fewer statements concerning the availability of team resources than did teams in the other two workload conditions. Results regarding performance and communication changes over time indicated that training interventions might be most effective when imposed during the initial stages of a team's development. We discuss the results in the context of implications for complex decision-making teams.
This chapter will address the following questions: What is meant by mental effort? What is its role in human information processing? How can effort be measured? The chapter will consider the ways in which the concept of effort has been used in different theories of human information processing. Effort may be measured in behavioural, subjective and physiological domains. The present approach will focus on the physiological indices. The concept of mental effort has been thought necessary in theories of behaviour for several reasons: (1) To account for individual differences in intellectual performance in terms of differences in motivation and in the availability of mental resources. (2) As an analogy for physical effort in theories of mental workload, and (3) To explain the effects of stressors such as noise, lack of sleep, time-on-task, etc, on human performance.
One of the central themes of this book is the adaptive nature of human response to stress and environmental demands. The basis of adaptive behaviour has not been systematically studied, though it may provide the key to the understanding of individual differences in stress proneness and health-related behaviour. It may also prove fundamental in the development of a general theory of effects of stress on performance and efficiency, for example by focusing attention on the processes which underlie successful and unsuccessful environmental management. The present paper puts forward a model of regulatory activity underlying stress management and coping, based on the “variable state theory” interpretation of stress effects (Hamilton, Hockey & Rejman, 1977). The initial analysis of stress effects leads to a proposal of a broader, more widely — applicable mechanism for adaptive regulation of behaviour. This theory suggests a number of possible sources for the derivation of individual differences. These may arise within the control system itself, or in intrinsic variability in both cognitive and energetical resources.
Two studies were conducted to test for the effects of attentional demand and cost responsibility on psychological strain. One was a field experiment involving operators of computer-based manufacturing equipment, and the other was a cross-sectional investigation of employees in a wide range of jobs. The results showed increased strain only for those in jobs high on both attentional demand and cost responsibility. Implications for job design for new manufacturing technologies are discussed.