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Work Pressure and Job Control

March 1 2013 - A national survey of 6,004 Canadian workers confirms that having control over one's work schedule and job autonomy are associated with lower levels of job pressure. However, having more control of one's work can also have negative consequences for individual employees. It depends on the form of job control, according to research by University of Toronto sociologist Scott Schieman.

In the study "Job-Related Resources and the Pressures of Working Life", published in Social Science Research journal, Scott Schieman measured levels of job pressure by asking participants questions such as:

  • "How often do you feel overwhelmed by how much you had to do at work?"
  • "How often do you have to work on too many tasks at the same time?"
  • "How often do the demands of your job exceed the time you have to do the work?"

About a third of respondents said that they "often" or "very often" felt overwhelmed by work or that the demands of their job exceed the time to do the work. Four out of 10 workers said they had to work on too many tasks at the same time "often" or "very often."

According to Scott Schieman:

"Excessive job demands have detrimental effects.We know that workers who report higher scores on these indicators of job pressure also tend to experience more problems navigating work and family roles, more symptoms of physical and mental health problems and they tend to be less satisfied with their work."

Higher levels of job pressure are associated with challenging work that requires:

  • constant learning of new things
  • engaging in creative activities
  • using skills and abilities to handle a variety of tasks
  • And also with being in a position of authority where respondents were supervising or managing others.

    Noting that greater job pressure was associated with three key indicators of higher socioeconomic status:

    • education
    • higher status occupations (executives or professionals)
    • income

    Schieman said:

    "However, those with high SES face greater pressure mostly because of their more challenging work and greater levels of authority.

    "These findings speak directly to the idea of the stress of higher status. People talk these days about being 'crazy busy' and not having enough time to do all the things at work that need to get done. But being 'crazy busy' isn't randomly distributed in the population. This study demonstrates an unexpected price for higher SES and more control at work - and that price is excessive pressure in the workplace."

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