Press release 2.6.2006

New information about changes in working life

The expectations from supervisory work have grown and diversified, and at the same time organisational structures have been radically changed - how are supervisors coping? Why have problems related to coping and job satisfaction increased among women, especially those in upper-level salaried positions, more than among other employees? How do new ways of working flexible hours and changes in information work show up in working life? Does gender influence retirement plans? How does ageing influence commitment to work? These are among the questions relating to changes in working life and working conditions that are discussed in Statistics Finland's new publication "Kaikilla mausteilla. Artikkeleita työolotutkimuksesta" (With full trimmings. Articles based on findings of the Quality of Work Life Survey).

The article collection is based on the 2003 Quality of Work Life Survey, for which over 4,000 employees representing all occupations and industries were interviewed. The main themes of the publication are:

  • Changes in information work, working hours and possibilities for flexibility
  • Working conditions and supervisory work in different work communities
  • Experiences of uncertainty and time pressure, and thoughts about retirement
  • Job satisfaction, absences and mental symptoms.

The publication contains 15 articles, written by more than 20 experts from universities, research institutes and other working life organisations.

Squeezing the last drop out of supervisors

Supervisors are worst affected by the blurring of the line between work and free time, information overflow, and fragmentation and lengthening of working days. Timetables also impose considerable pressure: one-fifth of supervisors feel that they cannot influence timetables in their work at all. This weakens their possibilities to ensure that their subordinates can cope. From the organisation's perspective, supervisors' time pressure hampers long-term planning and causes operational problems.

The more subordinates a supervisor has, the more commonly he or she views his or her work as mentally demanding. Yet, supervisors did not show any more mental symptoms than the average. Supervisors' coping is improved by diverse factors dependent on resources, the most important of which include the possibility to influence own job tasks and working conditions.

As team and project work have become increasingly widespread, a growing share of employees are in supervisory positions, despite the efforts made everywhere to dismantle hierarchical structures. Some supervisory tasks have ended up outside the official supervisory hierarchy. A new group of operational supervisors has emerged, who have supervisory duties but no administrative subordinates. From the point of well-being and coping at work these operational supervisors form a risk group because they do not have at their disposal the same resources as the supervisors higher up have.

Women employees in upper-level salaried positions riding the riptide of work and time-related pressures

Problems related to coping and job satisfaction have increased more among women in upper-level salaried positions than among other employees. The employees in this group often work in the private and public sector as unit or team leaders or responsible supervisors. Their well-being is undermined by pressures arising from, for example, cut-backs in public finances and customers' multiplying problems. They are simultaneously responsible for the productiveness of work and the well-being of their subordinates.

In this group, women feel more often than men that they have little possibility to influence the organisation of work or the division of responsibilities. Keeping own competence up-to-date, and planning and development tasks are often done outside normal working hours. Independence of work is viewed as a positive thing but is not regarded as a heavy enough counterweight to growing demands.

Proactiveness improves organisations

Proactiveness means giving an employee increasing possibilities to influence the organisation of his or her own work, and also more individual responsibility. For the first time, this publication studies proactiveness in different sectors.

Proactiveness of work has been found to have positive effects in both the public and the private sector. The effects are stronger in the private sector than in the public sector, but the initial set-up for proactiveness is better in the public sector. In this sense, the significance of a proactive mode of operating is greater in the private sector than in the public sector. On both the public and the private side, men appear to benefit more than women from a proactive approach.

Ageing and continuing in employment

Society expects employees to continue their working careers and maintain their working capacity for as long as possible, preferably right up to their full retirement age. Two articles in this new publication focus on the impacts from ageing and on retirement intentions.

According to research, continuing in employment is more likely if an employee has a high level of education, remains in good health, is satisfied with his or her work and has a secure job. Feelings that work is becoming arduous usually arise from mental rather than physical factors. They can also be increased by diverse measures taken to improve efficiency or make changes, which have been implemented in abundance at workplaces. On the other hand, learning new things adds to enjoyment at work, even in the case of ageing employees.

Measures aimed at improving working life support women's and men's staying in employment equally. However, family factors, such as a spouse who is already retired, weigh more heavily in women's than men's decisions to continue in employment.

Source: Kaikilla mausteilla. Artikkeleita työolotutkimuksesta. (With full trimmings. Articles based on findings of the Quality of Work Life Survey) Eds. Anna-Maija Lehto, Hanna Sutela & Arto Miettinen. Statistics Finland, Research Reports 244. Helsinki, 2006.

Inquiries: Anna-Maija Lehto, tel. +358 9 1734 3223, Hanna Sutela, tel. +358 9 1734 2907, Arto Miettinen, tel. +358 9 1734 2963

Orders: Statistics Finland's Sales and Customer Services +358 9 1734 2011, sales@stat.fi