Labour and income - Trends

More fatigued, less concerned

The past few years have seen a change in the reported psychosocial workload of employees. More employees are reporting work-related mental fatigue. Despite a nearly overall decrease in self-perceived job autonomy over the past decade, this autonomy rose again slightly in 2018. There is also improved job confidence: employees have become less concerned about retaining their job or finding another job with their current employer or another one.

Tired from the moment of getting up

One major trend seen in recent years is a rise in work-related mental fatigue. One out of six employees (17 percent) report this fatigue as occurring at least several times a month, up from 13 percent in 2015. The most commonly cited complaint is feeling drained at the end of a working day: 32 percent of employees suffer from this at least a few times a month. 20 percent get up in the morning feeling tired. Workers on permanent contracts are more likely to experience mental fatigue than those in flexible employment: 18 versus 16 percent. There are varying levels of mental fatigue among the flex workers: workers hired through temping agencies are more than twice as likely to suffer fatigue (22 percent) as on-call or replacement workers (11 percent).

No further decrease in job control

Mental fatigue complaints tend to arise from high work pressure paired with limited autonomy to organise tasks and set one’s own pace. The increased workload (task demands) means workers have to work extra hard, long or fast. In 2018, 46 percent of workers indicated they were often or always given a high workload. Over 1 in 3 employees often or always work fast while 31 percent work extra hard.

Limited workplace autonomy means having no or only occasional control over the way tasks are divided, the order in which they are to be performed or the work pace, not being able to contribute to solutions, determine working hours and time one’s own leave. In 2018, 39 percent of workers were never or only occasionally able to organise their own tasks; 44 percent had limited or no freedom to set one’s own pace. Half of all workers were unable to take up leave whenever they wanted.

Since 2008, the number of employees who experience a sense of job control has decreased; this decrease was faster between 2008 and 2013 than between 2014 and 2017. In 2018, employees experienced slightly more freedom than in the previous year, mainly in terms of taking leave and working hours. 26 percent of workers were able to determine their own working hours against 25 percent in 2017. Workplace autonomy (how work is done) was satisfactory for 60 percent of employees, for example at a similar level as in the three preceding years.

Information overload

In 2018, 28 percent of all employees reported some or persistent difficulty in handling the excessive amount of information they receive through emails, phone calls and social media messages. This was still 25 percent in 2014. Employees with an information overload are less satisfied with their working conditions and more inclined to look for work elsewhere. Information overload is nearly three times more likely among highly educated (40 percent) than among lower educated workers (14 percent). The most significant increase in experienced information overload was among higher educated workers between 2014 and 2018. Highest in the occupational ranking are managers: almost half (46 percent) say they are receiving too much information throughout the day for proper processing.

High workload, high absenteeism

Those with hard working conditions – physically and mentally taxing work, heavy workload – and fatigue complaints are more likely to engage in absenteeism. The harder working conditions are, the higher absenteeism is. Employees with work-related mental fatigue complaints took sick leave on 8.8 percent of their working days in 2018; for workers without such complaints, the absenteeism rate was 3.4 percent. In addition, those who had to work extra long hours or extra hard on most or all days showed a higher rate (5.4 percent) compared to workers without these circumstances (3.9 percent).

Het verzuim van werknemers

                                        is hoger wanneer ze psychisch vermoeid zijn door het werk. Bij deze groep lag het

                                        verzuim in 2018 op 8,8 procent. Bij werknemers zonder klachten lag het verzuim op

                                        3,4 procent. Werknemers die vaak of altijd extra hard moeten werken, verzuimden 5,4

                                        procent van de werktijd. Bij de groep die niet hard moet werken lag het verzuimpercentage

                                        op 3,9 procent.

Fewer job worries

Fewer employees are afraid to lose their job. The share of employees lacking job security stood at 16 percent in 2018; this was similar in 2007. (Figures over the period 2007–2013 are on employees aged 15 to 64 years.) Job insecurity reached its highest level since 2007 in 2013 with 34 percent, but has declined steadily since then.

People in employment are not only less worried about losing their job, they are also more optimistic about finding another one. More than half of all employees (53 percent) are confident about getting another job with the same employer. In 2016 this applied to half, while in 2014 this was true for 47 percent. Finding new employment with another employer was considered easy by 7 out of 10 employees in 2018; in 2014, the share was still over 5 out of 10 employees.

These trends are evident from the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey (NEA) conducted by CBS and TNO.


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Opening page and header: © Hollandse Hoogte / Martijn Beekman

Society - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Patricia Rehe

Economy - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Marcel Krijgsman

Labour and income - Trends: © Hollandse Hoogte / Sabine Joosten


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