Job satisfaction in the Netherlands is high, despite high workload

Dutch workers who experience high workloads, are nevertheless positive about their jobs and derive greater pleasure from them than their colleagues or other employees. There seems to be hardly any connection between job satisfaction and workload, while there is a strong link with challenges and variation. This phenomenon is particularly clear in the fields of health care and education.
From 14 to 17 November, it is Work Stress Week. This year, the attention is on job satisfaction. The idea behind this is that those who enjoy the work they do, are better able to work effectively and healthily. So, less work stress. For many people, however, high workloads are daily practice. Since 2012, workloads have been consistently high, in all sectors, but in particular in education and in health care. One in every two Dutch workers, for example, often experiences peak loads. And for more than 1 in 10, concerns about backlogs and a feeling of being rushed at work, are the order of the day. Is it possible to enjoy working under high pressure?

Research by Flycatcher, completed in October for the fifth consecutive year among a representative group of 1,200 workers in the Netherlands, shows that workloads have hardly any effect on job satisfaction.

In fact, the results indicate that in particular groups that experience high workloads, like their jobs very much. Workers in health care and education, for example, experience the highest workloads of all sectors, but also derive the greatest satisfaction from their jobs. The main reason for the high job satisfaction figure is that 90% of all workers in these sectors find their jobs useful and worthwhile.

A similar link can be found between management and non-management staff as there is for sectors: managers experience higher workloads, but are also considerably more positive about almost all other aspects of their jobs, such as internal communication, challenges, opportunities for personal development, collaboration, etc. Managers therefore have more job satisfaction than non-management workers, despite the high workload.

Job satisfaction is hardly affected by negative stress and other factors, such as workload, but in particular by positive factors that give energy. The most important factor for job satisfaction is the degree of challenges: workers who work below their level have significantly less job satisfaction. Workers also need to be stimulated regularly by new challenges in order to maintain the level of job satisfaction.

So, is workload no problem at all then? It is. Research data collected from 2012 until today, shows that a high experienced workload leads to cynical behaviour, which in due course may cause loss of job satisfaction, less involvement and eventually resignation or absenteeism However, the solution need not always be lowering the workload. It was found that in particular good communication may prevent cynicism.