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Only 4 out of 10 employees find work pressure reasonable.

Since the pandemic, we have been looking at work differently. Job satisfaction and work pressure are receiving increasing attention, as evidenced by research from Antwerp Management School. At the same time, the survey highlights differences in the perception of what employers and employees consider as reasons for stress-related absenteeism.
by Kathleen Vangronsvelt, PhD, Eva Geluk | September 4, 2023
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Only 4 out of 10 employees find work pressure reasonable

Antwerp Management School surveyed employees and employers about job satisfaction and work pressure.

What we know for sure from this research is that both employers (67%) and employees (49%) agree that the well-being of employees receives more attention in their organization today than before 2020 when the COVID crisis began. For employers, a sense of moral responsibility is the primary reason (37%) for implementing a well-being policy, followed by attracting and/or retaining talent (22%). The majority of surveyed employers have a well-being policy (53%), or plan to create one (35%).

Shift in 'work centrality'

Job satisfaction is a shared responsibility of both employers and employees. However, employees seem to look more to their employers for job satisfaction than employers do themselves. While almost half of the employees (45%) now expect more from their employer than in 2020, they are not necessarily willing to give more in return. The willingness to be available outside of working hours, to take additional training, or to perform extra tasks beyond their job description has decreased compared to before 2020.

One possible explanation is the shift in work centrality, which refers to the degree to which work takes a central place in the lives of employees. Employers perceive a shift here: nearly half (46%) believe that work is less central in the lives of their employees than before 2020. This is confirmed by 7 out of 10 surveyed employees.

Work pressure is the number one reason for stress-related absenteeism

Both employees and employers report experiencing increasing work pressure. Only a quarter of employers (23%) find the work pressure reasonable in their organization. For employees, this figure is slightly higher at 38%. Interestingly, more than half of the surveyed employers (56%) admit to losing sleep at night due to high work pressure for their employees.

Furthermore, work pressure ranks first when asked about possible reasons for absence due to stress, also known as stress-related absenteeism, for both employees (91%) and employers (82%). However, these differences in perception indicate that work pressure is even more problematic for employees than employers believe.

Employers and employees have different views on the causes of absenteeism

"It seems that both employees and employers sense that something is amiss but may not immediately know what to do about it," says Eva Geluk, senior researcher at Antwerp Management School specializing in mental health in the workplace. "However, we see significant differences in perception regarding the causes of absenteeism. For example, conflicts at work, the mismatch between talents and job requirements, and excessive bureaucracy and administration. This is problematic because it means that employees see these as significant reasons for stress-related absenteeism, contrary to what employers believe. Employers run the risk of implementing measures that will have little or no effect. It almost seems like employers may not be keeping a close enough eye on what is actually happening."

Shared Responsibility for Job Satisfaction

"You can question whether employers and managers are fully aware of how their employees perceive the actions and initiatives they roll out," says Kathleen Vangronsvelt, professor of work psychology at Antwerp Management School. "Attention should be paid to the differences between the intention to improve mental well-being and engagement through a well-being policy, the implementation by managers, and the perception of employees. For example, you don't want employees to get frustrated because of a well-intentioned after-work event that prevents them from completing their work. Additionally, I want to emphasize that job satisfaction is not solely the responsibility of the employer. Employers are responsible for creating decent jobs without toxic leadership, but within that context, employees also contribute to their own job satisfaction."

About the Research

This survey of employers and employees on the impact of disruptive events at work was conducted by Antwerp Management School, led by Professor of Work Psychology Kathleen Vangronsvelt and Senior Researcher Eva Geluk. For the employer section (N=254), collaboration was done with VBO/FEB and HRPro.be. For the employee section (N=1968), collaboration was done with Professor of Labor Economics Stijn Baert from the University of Ghent. This research was made possible with the support of Indiville, B-Tonic (a subsidiary of Baloise), and SD Worx.

Since individuals decided whether or not to participate, the results cannot be automatically generalized to all employers/employees. When the press release mentions "% of employees," it always refers to "% of surveyed employees." This limitation applies to (almost) every survey published in recent years.

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