Which jobs have the highest levels of mental fatigue?
In 2019, mental fatigue complaintsnoot1 caused by work (burn-out complaints) occurred most frequently among employees with a pedagogical profession, such as teachers and educators, and people working in the care and welfare sectors. In both 2018 and 2019, 17 percent of all employees reported mental fatigue complaints. This was still 15 percent in 2015. This is evident from the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey (NEA), conducted jointly by CBS and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).
In this survey, employees answer questions about the conditions under which they work. For example, people are asked about mental fatigue complaints related to work. These can manifest themselves as feelings of emptiness at the end of the working day, or feelings of fatigue on being faced with work.
Nearly a quarter of employees working in education (24 percent) reported feeling mentally fatigued at least a couple of times a month in 2019. For employees in care and welfare professions, the figure was 20 percent. Workers in agricultural occupations suffered the least from mental fatigue due to work (13 percent).
More fatigue complaints associated with a high workload and low level of independence on the job
The survey figures show that mental fatigue due to work is more common among employees who generally experience a high workload. This is to say they are regularly required to work very fast, very long hours or extra hard.
It turns out that the amount of autonomy employees have, i.e. how much they have to say about the way they work, is decisive. Employees who experience a high workload but are able to (co-)decide on how the work is carried out and the order and speed in which the work has to be done, as well as on leave and working hours, report mental fatigue complaints less often than employees who do not have this level of autonomy (in 2019, 22 percent and 37 percent, respectively). Employees with a lot of autonomy and a low workload suffer the least from mental fatigue complaints (in 2019 this was 8 percent).
|Share of employees|
|Low level of autonomy||.|
|High level of autonomy||.|
Little autonomy and high workload in the education sector
The fact that autonomy, work pressure and mental fatigue complaints are interrelated becomes apparent when professions are compared. Managers experienced the highest workload in 2019, but also had the most autonomy. The percentage of managers with mental fatigue complaints was one of the lowest among all employees. Workers in the transport and logistics professions also report relatively few mental fatigue complaints.
While they have little autonomy, they do not experience a high workload. Both a high workload and a low degree of autonomy are common in education and in care and welfare professions.
The service professions are an exception. This sector is characterised by both a high workload and little autonomy, yet relatively few employees reported mental fatigue complaints in 2019. This can in part be explained by the fact that these professions, including the hospitality industry, are staffed by a relatively large number of young people.
|Low level of autonomy||High workload||Mental fatigue symptoms several or more times a month|
|Care and welfare||58||44||20|
|Creative and linguistic
|Public administration, security
|Business economics and
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Work-related mental fatigue
Mental fatigue due to work is measured based on the following statements:
- I feel emotionally exhausted by my work.
- At the end of a working day, I feel empty.
- I feel tired when I get up in the morning at the thought of starting work.
- It takes a lot out of me to work with people all day long.
- I feel completely exhausted by my work.
The possible responses are: never, several times a year, monthly, several times a month, weekly, several times a week, or every day. If someone’s average response to these statements is several times a month or more frequently, this person’s contribution is viewed as representing mental fatigue caused by work.