Job Satisfaction INDEX 2019
Søren Fibiger Olesen
Your life – your job satisfaction
We spend half our waking hours at work, which makes our job an important part of life for most of us. What happens at work affects our personal life, and vice versa. So if we feel happy in our job, it is very probable that we will also feel happy in life generally. It is about you and your life – and therefore about your job satisfaction too.
It is out of curiosity about this effect, and the link between working life and life in general, that Krifa and the Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre have been working since 2015 to find out what drives Danes’ job satisfaction.
See the potential in the person
Philosopher and businessman Morten Albæk writes in his book ‘Ét liv, én tid, ét menneske’ (One Life. The Art of Living a Meaningful Life) that the individual employee should be seen by both their employer and society as a person with potential rather than a resource to be exploited as much as possible, something I very much agree with. Albæk, 2018.
It is quite fundamental to Krifa’s ethos and view of human nature to see everyone as possessing great innate potential. But people have their limits too, and this can find expression in various ways on today’s labour market.
It might, for example, manifest itself in the form of stress, which is affecting more and more Danes and their families. This is a social problem that we need to do something about. It is one of the reasons why we have chosen in this year’s Job Satisfaction Index to focus on, among other things, stress, why we become stressed and, not least, what is effective in protecting us against stress.
Stress is not the only thing that challenges our job satisfaction in an age of rapid change, however. Another theme that not only characterises modern working life, but also affects it, is the way in which many people worry about the future and future changes in working life. We have examined this and other socially relevant issues in this year’s index.
We are all responsible for ensuring that the individual is able to cope with the challenges, demands and changes presented by contemporary working life. By focusing on the factors that contribute in large degree to wellbeing and the desire to go to work, and by being aware of how to counteract dissatisfaction, both managers and employees can become better at navigating a frequently unpredictable working life.
At Krifa, we want to create a movement aimed at greater job satisfaction and wellbeing, and less stress and dissatisfaction. But we cannot do it on our own. It is a social responsibility that we will have to come together to fulfil – politicians, the trade unions, businesses, managers and employees themselves.
What is affecting job satisfaction in 2019?
Danes’ job satisfaction is high, as our survey shows. The Job Satisfaction Index 2019 focuses on seven factors and three current issues, which help chart and provide a unique insight into Danes’ wellbeing at work.
Since 2015, the Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, the Happiness Research Institute and Kantar Gallup have been investigating what gives Danes job satisfaction, and where action is needed to increase it further.
This year’s Job Satisfaction Index turns the spotlight on the seven factors that we have identified as being most important in terms of Danes’ job satisfaction. The index presents each factor with a temperature and an effect, and then focuses on relevant demographic parameters.
Meaning and mastering are crucial
The seven factors that affect Danes’ job satisfaction are: meaning, mastering, leadership, balance, influence, achievements and colleagues.
Meaning is still the most important factor for Danes’ job satisfaction, as it has been since the first index in 2015. After meaning, the factor of greatest importance in terms of Danes’ job satisfaction is mastering – and, according to this year’s survey, mastering in particular has become more important for Danes than before.
The factors’ importance does not remain constant. If Danes assign greater importance to mastering and balance, for example, it shows up in the survey’s figures for effect. This creates a dynamic understanding of job satisfaction that constantly changes and reflects what Danes are actually experiencing in their everyday lives.
The Job Satisfaction Index therefore both examines what job satisfaction is currently like in Denmark and at the same time shows how the understanding of job satisfaction, its importance and the perception of the factors in the workplace change over time.
Three current issues
In this year’s index, we also take a closer look at three current issues: balance, stress and job-based identity.
- Balance is important in our lives. It can be a difficult puzzle to solve – in terms of both the work-life-balance, and that between the number of tasks we have and how much time we have to perform them. The balance factor is supplemented in this year’s index with a special section in which we examine how worries about the future affect balance and job satisfaction. We also look at how Danes cope with life’s many choices, and how to ensure a good balance between influence and clarity.
- Stress affects thousands of Danes, their families and their workplaces every day, and costs society billions of kroner a year, making stress a socially relevant issue. This year’s index looks at why people become stressed, what the signs of stress are, and how stress can be prevented.
- Many Danes derive much of their sense of identity from their job. Nørgaard, 2018. But how does this affect our job satisfaction. In this year’s Job Satisfaction Index, we delve into the importance of a person’s job as an identity marker and put it into perspective in relation to the seven factors affecting job satisfaction.
Words and numbers explained
Temperature explains how things stand among employees in Danish workplaces with regard to both overall job satisfaction and each of the seven factors. An example would be the extent to which people feel they have balance in their life. Temperature in this case will be calculated on the basis of a number of questions about balance, Such as “To what extent do you feel there is balance between your tasks and the amount of time you have to perform them?” and “To what extent do you feel there is ordinarily balance between your working life and your personal life?” We assess temperature in points on a scale from 0 to 100.
Effect tells us what is important in terms of job satisfaction. Effect expresses how much influence a given factor has on job satisfaction. If a factor’s temperature goes up by 10 points, overall job satisfaction increases by the effect of the factor in question.
To take a theoretical example, Anette is an employee with overall job satisfaction of 70 on a scale of 0 to 100 and balance of 50. In the next survey, Anette feels there is more balance in her job and reports 60 instead of 50. According to our survey, balance has an effect of 1.5 points. This means that Anette’s overall job satisfaction has risen from 70 to 71.5. The factors’ importance in terms of job satisfaction day to day varies from employee to employee, and the report shows the mean effect among employees on the Danish labour market.
Degree of explanation
The degree of explanation expresses how much of the dependent variable (job satisfaction) is explained by the model in the independent variables (the seven factors). In other words, how large a part of job satisfaction we can explain with our model with the seven factors.
Like effect, the degree of explanation is the result of complex mathematical calculations, which Kantar Gallup is responsible for and guarantees the validity of.
At the Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, we differentiate between job pleasure and job satisfaction. According to the dictionary, pleasure is what we feel when we see something we like or otherwise find agreeable or gratifying. Pleasure is connected with delight, joy and exultation. But an ordinary working life will also offer much more.
Job satisfaction is more about wellbeing and motivation. About enhancing or (re)discovering the desire to be involved and make a difference – for oneself and for others. Even when it is hard.
In our survey model, we have broken the concept of job satisfaction down into smaller components.
Deeling that you are spending your working life on something meaningful for yourself and others, and being able to see that your contribution in particular is of value, is good for your job satisfaction.
Meaning is most important
As in previous years, the most important factor of all when it comes to Danes’ job satisfaction is meaning with an effect of 3.0. With a temperature of 75, the sense of meaning is high among Danes too.
This year’s Job Satisfaction Index shows that there are certain differences in people’s sense of meaning, depending on sex and age.
For women, meaning is the highest-scoring factor with a temperature of 77, while men put it in fourth place with a temperature of 74.
Meaning is of vital importance in terms of job satisfaction. A sense of meaning has a particularly large effect for employees working in big teams. And for people who regard their job as crucial to how they see themselves. A sense of meaning also has a large effect on job satisfaction for employees who do not feel worried about the future.
Being surrounded by more than 10 colleagues day to day increases meaning’s effect from 2.7 to 3.3. This increase in effect means that a sense of meaning becomes more important for people’s overall sense of job satisfaction.
Worries affect meaning
Worries for the future also affect the importance of meaning for job satisfaction. If a person is very worried about the future, meaning becomes less important in terms of job satisfaction. In this case, its effect goes down from 4.0 for people who do not worry much to 2.4 for people who worry a lot.
If a person worries about the future, it also indicates that they primarily regard their job as a means of achieving security in their life – in terms of putting food on the table and being able to pay their bills, for example. By comparison, finding meaning in their job is secondary.
On the other hand, the survey shows that the mastering and leadership factors become all the more important for people who are very worried about the future – probably because worries about being fired, etc., can be minimised if a person feels that they are doing their job competently and also get on well with their boss.
Meaning is individual
In 2016, the Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre defined four different dimensions of meaning that are more or less important for the individual employee Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, 2016a . One of these dimensions will typically be more crucial for the individual than others.
The Job Satisfaction Index asks about the extent to which people feel happy and content with life. Whether, all things considered, they feel they have a good life.
Year after year, Danes are judged to be some of the happiest people in the world, and one of the explanations is that most of them enjoy going to work and feel a great sense of meaning in their job Helliwell, Layard & Sachs, 2018. This year's survey shows clearly that if a person feels a great sense of meaning in their work, they also feel a greater sense of happiness and contentment in life generally.
Care staff feel great meaning
People in three job types in particular feel great meaning according to this year's index. People whose work involves leadership score 83 for the meaning factor. Next are people engaged in care work with a temperature for meaning of 82, followed in third place by people working in education and research, who score 79 for the meaning factor.
Employees working in the care sector also feel they make the biggest difference in other people's everyday lives and see their work as meaningful. Here they score 90 and 87 respectively, whereas the mean temperature for both questions is 79.
When you experience mastering, you have a sense of overcoming the challenges you encounter in the course of your working day. It is important in terms of your job satisfaction that your work tasks match your skills, and that you have the chance to develop.
Mastering comes second
The feeling of being able to master their job is of vital importance for Danes’ general sense of job satisfaction. Among other things, this year’s survey shows that mastering has nearly as great an influence on job satisfaction as meaning.
Since 2017, people’s sense of mastering has fallen a touch from a temperature of 75 in 2017 to 73 in 2019. On the other hand, mastering’s effect on overall job satisfaction is much greater in 2019 than in 2017. Whereas the effect was 2.0 in 2019, it has risen all the way to 2.9 in 2019. This means that, by and large, mastering remains just as important for Danes’ job satisfaction as meaning in 2019.
Mastering in different job functions
The mean temperature for mastering is 73. This result conceals a number of differences if we take a look at people’s sense of mastering in different job functions. The people who typically feel the greatest sense of mastering are found among those who work in management day to day. At the other end of the scale, we typically find people in production or transport and logistics, who score their sense of mastering at 69 and 70 respectively on average.
Mastering comes with age
The feeling of mastering one’s job increases with age. Employees over 60 give mastering a temperature of 76. Then come employees in the 40-59 age group with a temperature of 74. The lowest-scoring age group is made up of employees aged 18-29, who score mastering at 70.
Mastering is important for people who worry
There are virtually no differences between respondents when it comes to mastering’s effect in terms of job satisfaction in general. Apart, that is, from people who are worried about the future, where there is a marked difference. For Danes who do not worry much about the future, mastering’s effect on job satisfaction is 2.6. For those who worry a lot about the future, mastering’s effect on job satisfaction is 3.8.
The figures show that having a sense of being good at their job is particularly important for Danes if they also fear what the future will bring.
In the report ‘Mestring og livslang læring’ (Mastering and Lifelong Learning), we investigated how managers see employees’ competence development Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, 2018c. Seven out of ten managers say that their employees will need to upskill to some, a large or a very large extent if they are to cope on the labour market of the future. If they are correct, then employees’ fears for the future may well be justified unless they retrain.
Three dimensions of mastering
Using a theoretical basis, the Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre created an understanding of mastering in several dimensions in the 2018 index Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, 2018a. They are: professional mastering, social mastering and personal mastering. The three dimensions should not be seen as three separate quantities, as they overlap each other.
Perspective - One in four Danes is stressed
Unfortunately, although stress is a foreign word, it is far from foreign to Danish workplaces. This year’s survey shows that one in four Danes suffers from stress. But what is causing it? And what can be done about it in the workplace?
Numerous studies point to a trend towards increased stress in society. Some even talk about a stress epidemic and stress being the greatest health challenge of the age Andersen and Brinkmann, 2016. This year’s Job Satisfaction Index confirms this development, with 24 percent having felt stressed weekly or daily in the last six months. This is equivalent to one in four Danish employees experiencing stress symptoms every single week during the past half year.
Thirty-seven percent of Danes say that inappropriate general conditions in the workplace are the cause of their stress symptoms. Frequent interruptions also come high on the list. Twenty-seven percent say that they frequently feel interrupted in the course of the working day – primarily by colleagues.
Women are more stressed than men
Our survey paints a general picture of women feeling more stressed than men. When women are asked about the extent to which they have felt stressed in the last six months, 30 percent answer that they have experienced stress weekly or daily. For men, the figure is 18 percent. Both sexes were asked in the survey to think about the last two weeks, with 15 percent of women answering that they felt stress frequently or all the time. This figure is 10 percent for the men who were asked.
Talking about stress
In a study carried out by the Men’s Health Society, Denmark, it was found that men often lack a language when it comes to their mental issues Forum for Mænds Sundhed, 2016. The study also concludes that men are less inclined to go to the doctor with mental issues than women.
Part of the explanation for the above figures may therefore be that women are generally better at addressing and talking about stress than men. Consequently, a common language for stress could be a special focus area for organisations, managers and employees in the fight against stress, so that men in particular can become more familiar with talking about their experiences. This would help both male and female employees to be aware of the symptoms of stress at an early stage, and help the individual to become better at putting their experiences into words.
When circumstances cause stress
There is rarely a single obvious solution when stress strikes. Above all, it is important to articulate the issues that the circumstances of the job are causing the employee. Are they, for example, due to reorganisation in the department, too few staff for too many members of the public, lack of clarity and opposing demands or an absent manager? Stress may be due to many things and is often specific to an individual, but employee and manager must discuss whether a solution can be found that works for both parties.
The manager, the employee and the organisation as a whole are responsible for ensuring wellbeing in the workplace Andersen and Brinkmann, 2016. The employee is responsible for speaking up if they become aware that something is causing imbalance day to day. In this case, it is the manager’s responsibility to take the problem seriously and try to tackle it. In some cases, there will be circumstances and conditions in the organisation that management will be compelled to respond to and change. In other cases, it will not be possible to change these conditions and it may be necessary to equip the employee to thrive in the conditions that exist in the workplace.
We interrupt ourselves and each other
Frequent interruptions are near the top of the list of causes of stress. International studies show that 40 percent of an average working day is taken up by interruptions and unscheduled tasks Microsoft, 2005. When Danes are asked who or what is the most frequent cause of interruptions in the course of a working day, 52 percent say their colleagues, while 11 percent say their boss. Why do we interrupt each other? And what can be done about it? Time management coach Trine Kolding has some suggestions.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR INTERRUPTIONS
Trine Kolding teaches people how to put a stop to stressful interruptions. Her first tip is to start with yourself: Do I interrupt others unnecessarily? People frequently do not realise when the music is too loud, that they are raising their voice or asking a lot of questions. While some people think best in peace and quiet, others think better while they are talking. This makes it important to talk to each other about how to accommodate everybody.
Trine Kolding maintains that stamping out unnecessary interruptions is a joint responsibility. It is not just about the individual employee becoming more efficient and learning to cope with all the interruptions. The team or organisation can work together to reduce the number of interruptions in the course of a working day. In all probability, you are not the only one on the team or in the workplace who finds interruptions stressful and disruptive.
AGREE EXPECTATIONS FOR TASKS
When we asked about the main reasons for feeling stress, 28 percent said it was down to their work tasks. When we asked about work tasks in more detail, 83 percent of these respondents answered that the most frequent cause is a lack of balance between the number of tasks and the time available in which to perform them. A possible explanation might be a failure on the part of manager and employee to agree expectations regarding the employee’s work tasks Netterstrøm, 2014. According to Trine Kolding, it may be necessary for manager and employee to work together to get a picture of the employee’s tasks.
It is also important that the employee actually declines any new tasks if they really do not have the time to perform them.
CONDITIONS AND POSSIBLE CHANGES
Both our own actions and the circumstances around us can help to create stress. It is therefore important to address how to cope when problems arise – what should be tackled and what has to be accepted as a condition. The Control Circles below can help with exploring this very issue:
Another explanation for work tasks causing stress may lie in employees imposing tougher requirements on themselves or the standard to which a task is performed than their boss. In this year’s survey, 13 percent say that it is their own ambitions that caused them stress. Nearly half of these respondents say that they did not meet the goals they had set themselves. This trend was also apparent in the Job Satisfaction Index 2018, where 34 percent answered that it was their own fault if they did not succeed in their work. Cite: Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, 2018a.
It can be difficult to know in advance how much time a specific task will take. The better manager and employee coordinate their expectations, the more precisely the quality level and time needed for the specific task can be assessed.
DRAW UP A TIME BUDGET
Time management coach Trine Kolding has one especially good piece of advice for bringing tasks and time into line with each other: draw up a time budget.
It is about being realistic with your time and energy, and avoiding the risk of estimating time too optimistically. People forget to consider how long things take and how much energy they actually demand. One tip is to regard time as a financial quantity.
A financial budget provides an overview of when the coffers are empty, and when money needs to be found. Looking at time and energy in the same way reveals times when there is simply nothing left to work with. So you have to refuel and find time from somewhere else or through other tasks.
It may also be necessary to have something in the bank as far as time and energy are concerned. If you use up all your time and energy every day, there will be no reserves or leeway for unforeseen expenditure, such as a particularly demanding task.
SOLUTIONS AND PREVENTION
There is no one solution when it comes to avoiding stress. Everyone is different, and we all have different challenges and resources with regard to combating stress in our everyday lives. It is important for workplaces to be able to accommodate these differences. Some people like a set framework, while others prefer flexibility. Some people need one task at a time, while others prefer to juggle several tasks.
The important thing is that the individual workplace develops a common language for talking about stress. Cite: BrancheFællesskabet for Arbejdsmiljø, Velfærd og Offentlig administration, 2018. And that colleagues and management become good at detecting signs of stress in themselves and each other.
A stress study carried out by the Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre in collaboration with Kantar Gallup in 2016 reveals that 34 percent talk to their boss if they experience signs of stress, and 33 percent talk to their colleagues. Cite: Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, 2016b. Seventy percent say that they spoke to a colleague if they noticed signs of stress in the person in question.
TALK TO EACH OTHER!
Good stress prevention is therefore dependent on good communication, which enables employees to influence the circumstances or tasks that may be helping to cause stress. Manager and employee talking to each other about these matters also gives the individual employee a feeling of influence over the planning and performance of work. This creates a sense of control and being able to do something themselves.
The common language must accommodate both people who are at risk of stress and those who are unable to recognise that they are under stress. Stress can affect everyone, and everyone has to take responsibility for preventing it. Cite:Andersen and Kingston, 2016
Preventing and reducing stress is a good investment for the individual employee, the organisation and society alike. Cite: Stressforeningen: Stress og statistik.
Your job satisfaction is affected by your perception of whether there is balance between the number of tasks you have and the amount of time you have to perform them. But you are always more than your job. So there also has to be balance between your working life and your personal life.
Balance can increase job satisfaction significantly
Balance is the factor scored lowest by Danish employees. It is, however, the factor with the third-largest effect on job satisfaction. But what does it mean in terms of people’s overall sense of job satisfaction?
Balance is the factor with the lowest temperature, making it the area that, on average, Danes think is lagging furthest behind. Its temperature rose from 67 in 2017 to 68 in 2019, however.
The balance factor has the third-largest impact on Danes’ job satisfaction with an effect of 1.5. It is only exceeded by meaning and mastering. This year’s survey also shows that balance has overtaken leadership, which has now dropped to fourth place with an effect of 1.3.
The low temperature for balance combined with its high effect means that it offers great potential for boosting employees’ job satisfaction. What is required is a targeted initiative for improving people’s feeling of balance.
THREE TYPES OF BALANCE
The index looks at three types of balance:The balance between work and leisure The balance between number of work tasks and the time available in which to perform them The amount of time in which to deliver the desired quality
The survey shows that Danes are experiencing balance between the number of tasks they have and the time available in which to perform them more than before. The temperature for this type of balance has gone up from 64 to 66 in two years. The temperature has also risen from 70 to 71 for balance between work and leisure, and from 67 to 68 for the sense of delivering the desired quality in their job.
The rise in the feeling of balance may seem surprising given that we can also detect a high stress level among Danish employees. It is important to point out, however, that a feeling of stress is often due to numerous interacting factors in a person’s working and personal life. For this reason, it is important not to equate the feeling of balance in working life directly with stress level.
BALANCE IS IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE
Balance is important for all employees and managers regardless of sex, age and occupation, as this year’s survey shows. It also indicates that balance is just as important for people working in small teams as in large ones. What is more, balance has the same effect on job satisfaction irrespective of how much a person worries about the future.
A difference in the importance of balance is perceptible in terms of a person’s identification with their job. For people who do not identify with their job much, the effect of balance on job satisfaction is 1.7, whereas it is 1.3 in the case of people whose job is crucial to how they see themselves.
In other words, the more a person identifies with their job, the less important balance becomes. One reason for this may be that people who identify strongly with their job are also willing to put more time and energy into their work. In consequence, the desire to work exceeds the importance of feeling balance in everyday life.
This is supported by the finding that people who consider their job crucial to their identity are also motivated by finding meaning in their job to a much higher degree – compared with colleagues who do not regard their job as crucial to their identity. We come back to this in the section ‘To be or not to be one’s job.
DIFFERENT FOR THE SEXES
The mean feeling of balance for Danes has a temperature of 68 out of a 100, but there is a difference if we consider sex. The temperature for balance is 70 for men, while for women it is 67. This difference is particularly apparent when people are asked whether there is sufficient time to deliver the desired quality in their job, and whether there is balance between tasks and time. Women score four points lower than men for both questions.
The difference between the sexes can partly be explained by the survey finding that employees in the health, care and education sectors feel the least balance, all areas where women are overrepresented. Cite:Larsen, 2016.
BALANCE AND WORRIES – A BAD COCKTAIL
According to this year’s index, the more people worry about the future, the worse their feeling of balance. This gives no indication of what comes first, however – the worries or the stress. But there is a link all the same, and the truth of the matter is very likely that imbalance and worry have a negative effect on each other.
If you feel more or less insecure regarding the changes happening at work, it can be difficult to shake that off in your free time. Your job exceeding the hours in your contract can create imbalance in everyday life – regardless of whether it is due to real tasks, or because it takes up space on a mental or emotional level.
The leadership to which you are subject is very significant in terms of your job satisfaction. It is important to feel that you have a good and trusting relationship with your boss, and that your boss is competent – both professionally and socially.
Leadership offers untapped potential
In this year’s survey, the leadership factor has the fourth-largest effect on Danes’ job satisfaction. But there is untapped potential in focusing on good leadership, which can boost job satisfaction as a whole.
This year’s survey shows that the temperature for leadership has dropped a touch compared with 2017. In 2019, the overall temperature for leadership is 70, making it the lowest-ranked factor after balance. Leadership’s effect on overall job satisfaction has dropped to fourth place, having been overtaken by balance. The effect for leadership this year is 1.3, whereas in 2017 it had an effect of 1.9.
This means that the leadership factor still offers great potential when it comes to boosting Danes’ job satisfaction. A temperature of 70 leaves room for improvement, and an effect of 1.3 makes it possible – with a targeted focus – to increase Danes’ job satisfaction appreciably.
According to the leadership report entitled Når ledelse skaber arbejdslyst (When Leadership Creates Job Satisfaction) from 2018, employees and managers do not perceive manager competence in the same way. Cite:Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, 2018b. Managers themselves rate their sense of mastering their work at a temperature of 80, whereas employees rate it at 61. There is, therefore, a big difference between managers’ self-image and employees’ assessment.
SEX AND AGE MAKE NO DIFFERENCE
Men and women have a very uniform perception of leadership, with both sexes scoring the leadership factor at a temperature of 70 out of 100. Nor are there big differences when we look at the perception of leadership among the various age groups – with the exception of 50-59 year olds, whose overall temperature comes to 68.
The big difference is when we look at whether the manager can set a clear direction. Here, the temperature for people in the aforementioned age group is only 64. This particular question regarding leadership also scores the lowest temperature for all the other age groups.
GOOD LEADERSHIP IS EXTRA IMPORTANT FOR WORRIED EMPLOYEES
This year’s survey investigated the extent to which Danes’ are worried about their working future. There is a marked difference between the most and the least worried. The effect of leadership on job satisfaction among the most worried Danes is 1.7, making leadership the third most important factor after meaning and mastering. For the least worried, leadership comes in fourth place with an effect of 1.2.
People who worry a lot about the future are therefore more in need of clear leadership than the least worried in order to achieve high job satisfaction.
COLLEAGUES AND MANAGERS EQUALLY IMPORTANT IN LARGE TEAMS
If there are more than 10 employees in a team, leadership is very important for job satisfaction with an effect of 1.4. Leadership is less important for job satisfaction for people in small teams, where the effect is 1.2. For large teams, good leadership therefore has a greater effect on job satisfaction. It is interesting in this context that the colleagues factor also has an effect of 1.4. Colleagues are therefore just as important for job satisfaction as leadership when an employee is surrounded by a lot of people in their day-to-day work.
LEADERSHIP HAS MORE POTENTIAL
When Danes are asked how things stand with regard to the various aspects of leadership, there are large differences in temperature for the individual questions. Employees’ relationship with their boss does best. When Danes are asked whether they have a good relationship with their boss, the temperature is 74. This is above average for the leadership factor overall, which has a temperature of 70.
Managers’ ability to set a clear direction for the work to be done scores worst. The temperature here is just 66. The extent to which managers are regarded as competent does marginally better, scoring a temperature of 67 in this year’s survey. The overall temperature for leadership can therefore be raised by managers working on their ability to set a clear direction for work and create meaning for employees.
Perspective - To be or not to be one’s job
For a large proportion of employees in Danish workplaces, their job is crucial to how they see themselves, as the Job Satisfaction Index shows. But how does this affect their sense of job satisfaction?
It is difficult to dodge the question of what you do for a living in social situations. It is something you are frequently asked when you meet new people. In this year’s survey, we looked at how job satisfaction and identity influence each other.
Generally speaking, people judge their job to be of great importance in terms of how others see them regardless of sex or age. And it is of even greater importance in terms of how they see themselves. This might be a cause for concern: Can identifying closely with one’s job cause stress – and impair job satisfaction?
There is nothing in the survey results to indicate this, whereas we do see the following positive correlations:
- People who identify with their job to a large extent report higher job satisfaction – and greater meaning
- The more a person identifies with their job, the more positively they also perceive the balance between working life and personal life.
The difference in temperature for the balance question between those who do not identify much and those who identify a lot is very marked: 12 points in fact. In other words, the more a person identifies with their job, the easier they themselves think it is to find the right balance between work and leisure.
The same applies to those who believe their job is very important in terms of how they think others see them: The more important they believe their job to be in terms of how others see them, the better they perceive balance to be. Here the temperature difference is a whole 14 points between those who feel to a high and low degree respectively that their job is crucial to how others see them. This may seem a bit surprising, but it tallies well with the finding that close identification with one’s job also means a high score for meaning.
WEAK IDENTIFICATION WITH ONE’S JOB MEANS POOR BALANCE
The fact that doing something with which you do not identify also has a negative impact on balance can be explained by your perceiving time spent at work in this case to be ‘time wasted’ – something that interferes with your ‘real life’.
This assumption is backed up by results from previous years’ indexes, which showed that high job satisfaction does not necessarily correlate with a 37-hour working week. Cite: Job Satisfaction Knowledge Centre, 2016c og 2017. Here we saw a correlation between long working hours and high job satisfaction – although there is a turning point at 51-55 hours a week, where job satisfaction declines before increasing again at 55+ hours. The explanation here must be that the people who put in long hours include quite a number of enthusiasts who identify with their job to a high degree.
MANAGERS TOP THE LIST
This year’s survey shows that managers in particular identify with their job. One of the reasons for this may be the fact that they find the greatest meaning in their job compared with other job functions. It is also conceivable, however, that the correlation between a managerial job and identity may be influenced by the manager’s own motivation, with those who identify with their job a lot often being the same people who choose to make an extra effort or take extra responsibility.
Managers are followed by people in communications, who feel their job is crucial to how they see themselves and how others see them. Production employees, on the other hand, identify much less with their job than the average Dane.
IDENTIFICATION AFFECTS WHAT IS IMPORTANT IN TERMS OF JOB SATISFACTION
As described above, the extent to which an employee identifies with their job influences their perception of how things stand with regard to the factors affecting job satisfaction. In other words, there is a correlation with temperature level.
The results from this year’s survey show that there is also a correlation with effect – that is to say between strong or weak identification with one’s job and the importance of some of the index’s seven factors in terms of job satisfaction. This is especially true when it comes to leadership and balance:
- People who do not regard their job as crucial to how they see themselves are more dependent on leadership and balance for retaining their job satisfaction
- People who regard their job as very crucial to how they see themselves are more dependent on their job being meaningful in order to retain their job satisfaction – whereas leadership and balance are less important
WHAT MOTIVATES WHOM?
Employees who do not identify with their job much are therefore more motivated by leadership and balance – i.e. their wellbeing will typically suffer more if their boss is inattentive or absent, for example. These employees’ sense of job satisfaction will also suffer during periods with a heavy workload, when they have trouble coping in their personal life.
Employees who identify with their job to a high degree, on the other hand, are driven by meaning, whereas their motivation and wellbeing are not dependent on their having a boss to rely on day to day. Nor will they perceive balance to be a crucial factor in terms of their job satisfaction to the same extent as colleagues who do not use their job as an identity marker. As already mentioned, whether it is crucial to their job satisfaction or not, employees who identify closely with their job feel that the balance in their working life is fine. Something that is also confirmed when we take a closer look at who perceives themselves as feeling stressed.
STRESS AND IDENTITY AT WORK
The fact is that seeing the job as a crucial identity marker does not seem to cause stress at all. On the contrary, it turns out that the people who say they have felt stressed “daily” (during a six-month period) are the same people who regard their work as crucial to how they see themselves/how others see them to a low degree.
The Job Satisfaction Index 2019 therefore shows that close identification with one’s job does not result in a high stress level, but instead ensures a good balance – and we can also demonstrate that a high stress level results in weak identification with one’s job.
One explanation for this last finding could be that people who do not regard their job as crucial to how they see themselves will typically perceive work as something that simply has to be got through – which can be challenging. This explanation is reinforced by the finding that it is the most stressed who find their job the least meaningful. As already mentioned, meaning and identity are closely linked, which means that, when the sense of meaning disappears, there is a risk that the sense of identification with one’s job will too.
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE
For people who identify strongly with their job and also score high for balance, it might be of interest to investigate what those close to them say. Would they also think that these people have a healthy balance between working life and personal life? Or do things come together for them in a way that may well provide job satisfaction here and now, but where they are actually under threat from stress? It is not uncommon for the press to carry stories about people who lived life ‘in the fast lane’ and experience a sudden breakdown, where they are even unable to remember their own name. Cite: Hedelund, 2018. Several people report in this context that it came as a shock to them that this was where they were, while family, friends and colleague have a completely different view of the matter.
IDENTIFYING WITH ONE’S JOB IS GOOD, BUT...
Identifying closely with one’s job is not without its problems. A job can be lost – and for reasons completely beyond one’s control. For a person who identifies closely with their job, the risk of losing their identity if they are dismissed and then having trouble coping is greater than it would be for someone who finds their identity elsewhere. Cite: Nørgaard, 2018.
It may, therefore, be a good idea to reflect on what you find crucial in terms of who you are as a person. Having your identity defined by leisure interests, family, friends and other things not related to work will, all else being equal, helps prevent you being left devastated if you suddenly lose your job.
Having a feeling of influence over your job can have a noticeable effect on your job satisfaction. Influence is about being in control and being able to organise your own work tasks. It is also about your feeling of balance between freedom and control.
Influence – more important for some than for others
Employees who worry about the future generally have a greater need for influence over their job than their carefree colleagues.
In this year’s index, influence comes fifth on the list of factors that affect Danes’ job satisfaction. This means that Danes have not changed their perception of the importance of influence, with the factor coming in the same position as in 2017.
It also keeps the same effect: 1.1. Its temperature this year is 73 out of 100, one point up on 2017.
INSECURITY CREATES A NEED FOR INFLUENCE
This year’s survey shows that the importance of influence for Danes varies widely. If a person worries a lot about the future, having an influence becomes even more important for their job satisfaction. The effect of the influence factor is 1.5 for employees who worry. If, on the other hand, a person does not worry much about the future, the effect of influence is 0.9.
If a person is uncertain about what the future will bring, it is particularly important for them to meet with involvement and influence, enabling them to take control of the things they worry about. By ensuring openness and transparency, management can also help to demystify and eliminate some of the worries that can consume employees.
INFLUENCE AND COLLEAGUES
Influence is more important for people who are part of small teams than for those working in large teams – with an effect of 1.3 and 1.0 respectively. For employees surrounded by a small number of colleagues day to day, the feeling of influence is therefore more important in terms of their job satisfaction.
When we looked into where employees typically work in small teams, development and innovation came top of the list: In this area, 74 percent of employees work in teams with fewer than 10 colleagues. We also find the third-highest temperature for influence in this area, namely 78 points compared with the national average of 73.
There are probably several explanations for why employees for whom influence is important are drawn to work in small teams to a particularly high degree.
There is reason to assume that, all else being equal, the ability to influence one’s own tasks is greater the smaller the team one works in. How work is organised in small teams may also affect the feeling of influence.
If, for example, you work in development and innovation, it makes sense that the working day typically involves trying things out, with every member of the team having a very direct influence over how tasks are performed. There is also a tendency for operational tasks to be performed in large teams, whereas development tasks are performed more in smaller teams.
OLDER EMPLOYEES FEEL MORE INFLUENCE
The picture painted by this year’s survey is that the older a person is, the more they feel that they have influence over their job. For 18-29 year olds the temperature for influence is 69, while for employees over 40 it averages out at 73.
Young people in particular feel that they have less influence over important decisions affecting their job. The older age groups generally feel a greater sense of having influence.
This is clearly related to the fact that, by virtue of their experience, older employees have achieved a certain position in the workplace, while their younger colleagues have to work to demonstrate their value more before being able to exert the same influence.
TWO JOB AREAS LAG BEHIND
When it comes to feeling that they have influence over their job, people who work in management, advice and consultancy, and development and innovation do best. Within these job functions, employees score their feeling of influence at 75, 79 and 78 points out of 100 respectively, putting them well above the average of 73 points. The feeling of influence is worst among employees working in transport and production, who score influence at 63 and 66 points respectively.
This is, of course, related to the fact that many factory workers and drivers, for example, are employed to perform very clearly defined tasks within a very rigid framework.
Knowing what you have to achieve in the course of your working day and being able to see concrete results from your work has an impact on your job satisfaction. It is about clear goals and feeling that you are accomplishing something.
Achievements that count
In general, employees in Danish workplaces have a sense of doing well in terms of results and achieving goals. In fact, the achievements factor has the second-highest temperature in this year’s survey./p>
Danes feel progress in their job and can see concrete results from their efforts in their workplace. These are the findings of the Job Satisfaction Index 2019, where the temperature for achievements is 75, making it the factor with the second-highest temperature, only exceeded by colleagues.
The effect of the achievements factor, on the other hand, is 0.8, putting it next to last in the list of seven job satisfaction factors.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN YOUNG AND OLD
When it comes to the feeling of achieving results in one’s job, this year’s survey shows a notable difference between Danish employees under 30 years of age and those over 60. Young people give the achievements factor a temperature of 72, whereas the older age group scores it at 78.
If we take a closer look at the achievements questions, the one about the extent to which people feel there are well-defined goals in their job produces a particularly low temperature among young people – 67 out of 100 in fact. By comparison, older employees score this question at 75.
The marked difference may simply be a reflection of these employees being at opposite ends of their working life. While young people are still trying to establish themselves, and get tasks and expectations straight, older people have typically had a long working life in which to define their place and goals in their job. There were no appreciable differences between the sexes. Men and women have the same sense of achievement whether we look at the factor overall or the individual questions in the survey.
SKILLED TRADESPEOPLE SEE CONCRETE RESULTS
The majority of job functions score the achievements factor the same, but there are three that stand out:
First come people who work in management. They have the greatest sense of achieving results in their job with a temperature of 82. They are followed by skilled tradespeople with a temperature of 78 and salespeople with a temperature of 77. The high temperature in these job functions may be due to their work tasks, which often produce very concrete results.
At the bottom of the scale, we find people working in education and research. Employees in this category give the achievements factor a temperature of 69. One explanation could be that people working in this field may find it harder to know when their work task has been performed with a satisfactory result.
A LONG EDUCATION IS NO ADVANTAGE
The higher a person’s educational attainment, the lower the temperature. In fact, this year’s survey shows that employees with long-cycle higher education give their sense of achievement at work a temperature of 73. Unskilled workers, on the other hand, come in at 79.
The difference is particularly marked for the question about the extent to which people feel there are clear and well-defined goals for what they have to do at work.
Here, people with long-cycle higher education have a temperature of 70, while unskilled workers score 79.
MOTIVATION MUST COME FROM INSIDE
Author and motivation expert Daniel Pink, whose book Drive about motivation in the labour market is a bestseller, points out that inner motivation produces the best results. Cite: Pink, 2011. External motivators – such as pay – will not, therefore, help produce results to the same extent. Quite the contrary, in fact.
According to Pink, inner motivation is lost if bonus schemes or rewards are linked to performing a work task. This applies not just to work, but also to many other tasks in life, such as painting the lounge or giving up smoking. If you want to do something and see a point to it, it is much easier to perform the task and achieve results than if you have it foisted on you by somebody else.
Morten Münster, a behavioural expert specialising in motivation and results, explains that you need to be motivated whenever you have to perform a task. The sense of meaning in the task can in itself create motivation, which will also have a longer-lasting effect. Cite: Münster, 2018. Referring back to Daniel Pink’s theories, this means that if you want to see progress in your work and feel a great sense of achievement, inner motivation is the key.
A BONUS SCHEME DOES NOT PRODUCE RESULTS
According to Morten Münster, relying on bonuses or other forms of direct reward for employees’ work is therefore a waste of money. Concrete rewards make employees consider whether the task is worth the reward rather than performing it because they want to, or because the task contributes to a sense of meaning for themselves and their colleagues.
Nor is it unusual for competitions or choosing an employee of the month to be counter-productive when it comes to job satisfaction. Rewarding a single employee risks everyone else in the department being left with a feeling of inadequacy. This can create a competition culture in which everyone who does not come first is a failure. Cite: Nyholm, 2013.
YOU GET WHAT YOU MEASURE
What you measure is what you get – if you ask Steen Hildebrandt, Professor Emeritus of Management Studies at the University of Aarhus, at least. Cite: Hildebrandt, 2009. There is, however, a lack of appreciation of precisely this connection, which can prevent someone achieving their goals by performing their tasks.
He finds that workplaces focus on results in the form of growth, employee turnover or expenses, for example, instead of wellbeing or meaning. When management meet to work out a strategy for the new year, they usually look at financial figures. Therefore, according to Steen Hildebrandt, it is not surprising if tasks are prioritised and recognised on the basis of whether they generate profit.
In such cases, there is a risk of job satisfaction or meaning being forgotten. This correlates strongly with a sense of achievement, making it important to focus on if employees are to feel they are making progress.
Steen Hildebrandt therefore recommends measuring what you actually want to achieve – such as job satisfaction, customer satisfaction and good finances. Cite: Ibid.
Your colleagues are important for your wellbeing and job satisfaction. Good colleagueship is characterised by trust-based relationships and valuable social and professional interaction.
Colleagues – when everyone pulls together
As in the indexes for previous years, the colleagues factor has the highest temperature. But what strengthens and challenges the social community?
When Danes are asked to make a stab at what is most important for job satisfaction, the majority guess colleagues.33 But effect calculations from this year’s survey and index surveys for previous years show that colleagues are not quite as important for job satisfaction as many people might think. For example, we can see that, with an effect of 0.7, the colleagues factor is actually of least importance in terms of job satisfaction.
If, on the other hand, we look at how things actually stand with people’s sense of community with colleagues in Danish workplaces, the colleagues factor comes in first place with a temperature of 76. This makes it the factor with the highest temperature of the seven job satisfaction factors.
If we look at the individual questions for the colleagues factor, the temperature is highest for the question about the extent to which people get on with their colleagues – 81 in fact. With a temperature of 69, the question about the extent to which people feel their colleagues make them perform better in their job ranked lowest. So we can see that social wellbeing is in fine fettle among colleagues in Danish workplaces, whereas professional interaction is lagging behind slightly.
COLLEAGUES ARE VERY IMPORTANT IN LARGE TEAMS
There is a marked difference in the importance of colleagues for job satisfaction depending on whether you work in a large or a small team. For employees who are part of a small department of between two and 10 people, the effect is 0.9. This means that colleagues are less important in terms of job satisfaction. For those working in teams of more than 10 people, on the other hand, colleagues are more important in terms of job satisfaction, and the effect is 1.4. This is the same effect as the leadership and balance factors for employees in large teams.
This means that it is just as important to have a good sense of community with colleagues as it is to experience good leadership and balance if you work in a large team.
SMALL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AGE GROUPS
Broadly speaking, employees in Danish workplaces feel that it is relatively easy to be part of the collegial community. Danes score this question at a temperature of 77. There is no difference between the sexes, but a small difference is apparent when the different age groups are considered. Employees between 30 and 39 years of age are the group who find it hardest to be part of the community. They score the question at a temperature of 75 in fact, whereas the remaining age groups score it at 78 on average.
FROM HEADHUNTING TO TEAMHUNTING
According to futurist Louise Fredbo-Nielsen, in the future the ability to form binding working communities will become even more important than it is today. She points out in this context that more organisations have started to switch from headhunting to teamhunting, where they look for a team of able candidates with the ability to enhance each other’s performance. This boosts the team’s combined skills, so the ability to form binding communities will be just as important as the individual’s ability to perform their specific work tasks. In other words, social mastering will become as important as professional mastering.34 But working in teams can also present challenges, something that both managers and employees should be aware of.
POTENTIAL PITFALLS IN TEAMS
Social psychology recognises a concept called conformity.35 It means that people like to fit in with the group to which they belong. In the workplace, an employee will want to be part of the community and conform to the prevailing culture. Successful teams in the workplace can help an employee find their place among colleagues and at the same time feel comfortable.
There are also risks with close-knit teams, however. If the culture becomes too dominant, it can be difficult for an employee to break with the norm and make changes. There is a risk of the attitude in the team becoming too conservative because everyone confirms each other in a certain norm or point of view in order to preserve unity in the team. This can make it difficult to introduce new ideas or flag up faults. If there is a strong culture, employees can be faced with a dilemma when it comes to doing what they think is right if it does not conform to the team’s norms.
Another important parameter affecting whether a person dares to challenge and possibly break away from the group is rooted in the mutual trust within the group, both the trust that a person will stand by their own opinions and ideas, and the trust that the community will not expel someone for disagreeing. Our studies show that trust among colleagues in Danish workplaces is very high. The overall temperature is 78 without appreciable differences between the sexes or age groups.
THE INDIVIDUAL IN THE COMMUNITY
Several psychological experiments involving boring work tasks show a clear tendency for each individual in a team to work less than if they were performing the task on their own.36 People generally relax more when working together, and rely on the others in the group to get the job done. It is a common finding of social psychological experiments that the team as a whole achieves less than the individuals themselves can produce if they are on their own.
If, on the other hand, a team is working on an interesting and meaningful task, they produce more together than the sum of each individual’s work. This shows that the members of a group like to help achieve even better results, provided the work is meaningful. The meaning of the task in hand is therefore important if a team is to give of its best.
This year’s survey also shows the importance of colleagues for the individual’s sense of achievement.
People working in a small team generally score achievements lower than people working in large teams. For people working in teams of between two and five employees, the temperature for the achievements factor is 74, whereas it is 78 for people collaborating with more than 20 colleagues. Similarly, people’s sense of meaning is greater in large teams than in small teams.
A difficult balance
Balance is important for job satisfaction. But how do you make the best choice when there are infinite possibilities? And how do you balance demands and expectations with your own worries?
The international Global Happiness Policy Report sheds light on what is important for the individual employee’s feeling of balance in their job. It concluded that it is more the utilization and quality of the hours put into the job than the number of hours worked that are crucial to the feeling of balance.
Awareness of whether employees have enough tasks to fill their time, or maybe too many, is also important for balance. Are working hours convenient in relation to the individual employee’s personal life, or is it possible to be flexible? Here it may be necessary for management to know the individual employee’s needs.
Focusing on the individual’s needs creates flexibility in the workplace, with some people being able to work 30 hours and others 37 for example, while others still can perhaps work 42 hours a week at times. This flexibility also provides scope for change over time, as life changes for the employee. Flexibility also means the ability to turn the workload up or down.
SIGNIFICANTLY LESS BALANCE IN CARE JOBS
According to this year’s survey, there is essentially not much difference in how Danes in different job functions perceive balance. There is one exception however: employees working in education and care. Here the feeling of balance is much lower than for other job functions. Employees in these sectors score the balance factor at a temperature of 58, as compared with 63 for other job areas. In particular, it is with regard to the question about whether people have enough time to perform their tasks that this group differs.
For employees working in the care sector, the time available for performing their tasks can be especially challenging. So in this year’s survey, this is also the job area that experiences the second-lowest temperature of 58.
BALANCE DOES NOT UNCONDITIONALLY EQUAL FLEXIBILITY
In the search for more balance in everyday life, the solution is not to create unconditional freedom and flexibility that give each individual employee as many choices day to day as possible.38 Instead, research shows that we in Denmark and the rest of the West suffer from what is known as Tyranny of Choice.
In short, the theory is that people have more options than they are able to foresee the consequences of. This means that they regret their choices or are afraid of rejecting something. Ultimately, it has a negative impact on their general contentment with life. With more options, more freedom and more flexibility, the probability of making the right choice is smaller.
‘THE VERY BEST’ OR ‘GOOD ENOUGH’
According to the theories behind the Tyranny of Choice, people can be divided into two groups, depending on how they handle choice:
- MAXIMIZERS - Only the very best is good enough. Maximizers investigate all their options before choosing. They also change their mind frequently when new options emerge, whether it is their phone company, employer or leisure interests. Even when they have made a choice, they continue investigating other options so as to be constantly sure that they have found the best solution.
- SATISFICERS - Okay is good enough. Satisficers have some criteria and choose the first solution that meets them, regardless of whether there is a better option elsewhere. They are often very loyal to their phone company or employer and are easily satisfied. Once they have chosen, they stop investigating other options.
MAXIMIZERS HAVE TROUBLE FINDING BALANCE
Maximizers often struggle when faced with a lot of options and a high degree of freedom and influence. This can have a negative impact on balance, as there are many different areas in life where they want to make the right choice and only the very best is good enough.
It can, for example, be challenging to be in the best shape of their life, spend all their evenings at home with the family, be a top salesperson who does a lot of unpaid overtime, and enjoy a rich social life all at the same time. This requires them to choose and reject, which maximizers find hard.
Great freedom and lots of options mean that there is always something better ‘out there’, and that scares the maximizer. The risk is, therefore, that having a lot of options will not necessarily give people a greater sense of freedom, and there is not necessarily much joy to be had in the choice they have made.
SATISFICERS FIND BALANCE IN A CHOICE THAT IS GOOD ENOUGH
Satisficers cope well when there are a lot of options, and they perceive a high degree of freedom and influence as something positive. A high degree of freedom provides more solutions that are ‘good enough’, which gives satisficers a sense of security.
Satisficers are typically happy with their choices, and they rarely feel a sense of regret when they reject something. This means, among other things, that they are less demanding about being the best in their department, producing a home-cooked dinner or possessing a marathon runner’s body. Satisficers find it easier to achieve balance than maximizers because they do not always need to optimize and be best in every aspect of life.
Whether a person is a maximizer or satisficer inevitably affects the extent to which they feel balance.
RISK OF UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS
As previously mentioned, the balance factor has the lowest temperature of all in this year’s Job Satisfaction Index – so according to employees, balance is lagging behind in Danish workplaces. Part of the explanation for this can be found in the concept of reference groups, which is used in both the Tyranny of Choice and happiness research.
Reference groups are the groups of people you compare yourself with in everyday life and in connection with decision-making. They are also in evidence when you go to work. In the workplace, people like to compare themselves with their colleagues, and assess how they perform and act in relation to others.
When you compare yourself with other people, you assess whether your decisions and you yourself are better than, worse than or on a par with the reference group. Every time you come off worst in the comparison, there is a risk that it will have a negative impact on your self-image and contentment with life.
To have a sense of being in balance in your everyday life and with yourself, it is important to have realistic reference groups and therefore a realistic basis for comparison.
There is risk involved in dividing your life into several categories, such as exercise, work, friends and family, and comparing yourself with the very best in each category. This creates unrealistic expectations of yourself compared with the options you actually have.
It is not always realistic to hold down a job with no upper limit on working hours while training for a marathon, picking the kids up early and being there for friends and family. There is a risk with unrealistic expectations that they will lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction with your commitment both at work and at home, which can lead to imbalance.(41) It may therefore be necessary to set different priorities or dial back your expectations.
INFLUENCE CREATES BALANCE
In this year’s survey, we can see a correlation between influence at work and balance in everyday life. In fact, the former helps create balance among Danes. The explanation for this may be that greater influence at work means that you are better able to organise your working life and so ensure that there is also space for everything outside work.
If you also find a great sense of meaning in your work, the correlation with balance becomes even more marked. In particular, the combination of a high temperature for both meaning and influence helps create a great feeling of balance.
INFLUENCE COUNTERACTS WORRIES
There is also a correlation between influence and worries for the future when it comes to balance. There is a risk that worries will turn into a negative spiral of thoughts, which can affect and hamper a person’s everyday life and sense of being able to perform their work tasks. This year’s Job Satisfaction Index shows that Danes who score low for influence worry more about the future than other people. Ultimately, there is a risk that this will affect their feeling of balance.
As the temperature for influence rises above 50, the level of worrying about the future falls. This indicates that a high degree of influence creates greater scope for the individual in managing and preventing the things that might otherwise become a breeding ground for worries.
YOUNG PEOPLE WORRY MOST ABOUT THE FUTURE
The figures from this year’s index show that Danes worry a great deal about the future. Worrying is highest in the younger age group and lowest among older people. Twenty-nine percent of employees under 30 years of age worry a great deal or a very great deal about the future, while only 13 per cent of employees over 60 do so. When we ask about worries regarding future changes in working life, it is once more young people who are most worried. Thirty-nine percent of 18-29 year olds and 26 percent of 30-39 year olds worry either a great deal or a very great deal, which is far higher than for the group over 39 years of age, where an average of 20 percent worry about future changes in working life a great deal or a very great deal.
SUCCESS ON ALL FRONTS
According to Jens Christian Nielsen, a youth researcher at the University of Aarhus, work is not the only thing that young people worry about in the Denmark of today. They also worry about being a success in other life arenas, where they demand a lot from themselves. He says: “Young people feel that society requires them to perform on all fronts – in terms of career and networking, as well as on a personal level. And there is pressure to get through the education system quickly.”43
There is a risk that the high level of worry among young people will affect their everyday lives, because, as described above, it can be unrealistic to have to come top in every area of life.
A high level of worry can lead to a feeling of paralysis, as every decision has to be weighed carefully. It can also be difficult to prioritise, as every aspect of life is perceived as equally important.44 This risks creating imbalance, as worries end up taking up time that should really be spent working or relaxing.
WHEN BALANCE IS CHALLENGED
There are many factors that can challenge Danes’ feeling of balance in everyday life. Employees in different job areas face different challenges when it comes to ensuring balance. What they all have in common, however, is that good balance is crucial to a sense of job satisfaction and wellbeing. Balance that the employee themselves, their boss and the organisation as a whole are responsible for ensuring.
The accelerating society
A large proportion of Danes, and young Danes in particular, worry about the future and changes in working life. Young people also experience a higher level of stress. What does this say about Danish society, and how can the problem be tackled?
The Job Satisfaction Index 2019 shows that one in four Danes experiences symptoms of stress on a daily or weekly basis. This, combined with one in four Danes – and young Danes in particular – worrying about changes in working life, is reason to dig deeper and come up with some suggestions regarding what the structures are in society that are making Danes increasingly stressed and worried.
THE RED BULL SOCIETY
Rasmus Willig, a sociologist at Roskilde University, has been researching modern working life for years and is critical of developments on the labour market. He refers in colloquial terms to a Red Bull society – from the energy drink of that name – because our society is demanding more and more from the individual. Among other things, Rasmus Willig has the following to say in this context:
“The combination of an uncertain labour market, where it has become harder for young people to find a permanent job, and the constant need to be online and compare yourself with others creates a constant sense of falling short.”
In a labour market where nearly 40 percent say that inappropriate general conditions cause a feeling of stress, where worries for the future dominate, and where the search for meaning is unending, it is not very surprising, perhaps, that many people are left with a sense of never quite succeeding.
But what is the dynamic or logic behind a trend in which ever more people are feeling stressed in their working life and worrying about the future on the labour market?
PERFORMANCE SOCIETY LOGIC
Sociologist Hartmut Rosa offers an answer in his book Alienation and Acceleration.
According to Hartmut Rosa, contemporary society is characterised by a performance logic in which “... the struggle for recognition in modern society has also become a struggle for speed. As we achieve social respect through competition, speed is crucial (...) We have to be fast and flexible to gain (and preserve) social recognition.”
Hartmut Rosa argues that it is largely people’s own constant struggle for recognition that helps fuel the performance society – or the accelerating society, as Hartmut Rosa chooses to call it.
The sociologist’s principal conclusion is that the speed with which the labour market and society in general are changing can lead to a state in which modern people are alienated from themselves, each other, and the physical and social frameworks surrounding them. The results from this year’s survey may, perhaps, help Danes navigate a society and working life that are both changing rapidly.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM LESS STRESSED PEOPLE?
Although this year’s survey shows that many Danes feel stress and worry about the future to a greater or lesser degree, it is also worth remembering that 76 percent did not feel stressed either daily or weekly in the last six months. The question is, what else characterises those who are less stressed – and can we learn anything from them?
The survey shows that people who in general report a low stress level also score highly for feeling they have time to deliver the desired quality of work, and feeling able to cope with demands and changes in their job.
TIME FOR MASTERING
This might suggest that Danish workplaces – and employees themselves – would benefit from prioritising the necessary time for employees to be able to deliver the desired quality in their job. But time alone is hardly enough, and it may be necessary to combine this approach with a continuous focus on mastering.
The Job Satisfaction Index shows that the sense of being able to master their work is very important in terms of Danes’ job satisfaction. So if an organisation or manager wants to help more employees gain a sense of being able to deliver the desired quality, it will be necessary to prioritise time for mastering.
FOCUS ON GENERAL CONDITIONS
Among other things, managers can help employees feel able to cope with demands and changes by focusing on inappropriate general conditions in the workplace. After all, this year’s survey shows that 37 percent cite inappropriate general conditions as a significant cause of stress. So there is every possible reason for managers – and the managers’ managers – to focus on this.
A society, and a manager in particular, is responsible for ensuring that employees can cope with the changes and demands with which they are faced in modern working life. Psychology professor Svend Brinkmann put it like this:
“People can cope with a lot if they can see the point, but if employees can’t see the rationale behind it, it’s no good.”
It may not be directly possible to change performance society logic, but we can focus on the factors that best enable the individual employee and manager to navigate a labour market in rapid change – without jeopardising wellbeing and job satisfaction.
Job satisfaction does not happen by itself
The work of ensuring wellbeing demands prioritisation and commitment. From the organisation, from the manager and from the individual employee.
You can find loads of inspiration for working to improve job satisfaction in your workplace at krifa.dk. Choose from online courses, podcasts, specialist articles, tests and dialogue tools for use in both one-to-one interviews and discussions in teams.
There follows a sample from one of the tools: Krifa’s conversation cards. The questions are based on the seven factors that we know to be important in terms of job satisfaction from our index surveys. And reflecting on them can be beneficial – alone or together with others. The conversation cards can be downloaded free here.
Albæk, Morten: Ét liv, Én tid, Ét menneske. Gyldendal, 2018
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