Labour shortage increases stress levels among employees

The current labour shortages means that every fourth IDA member has had to handle more than one position at a time. The stress level increases especially when the management does not handle the challenges that arise.

There are not enough hands and heads to do all the work in IDA members' workplaces.

In a survey by IDA, 42% of respondents said their department or team was affected by labour shortages to a 'high' or 'very high' degree.

The consequence is that work pressure and stress levels increase because employees have to run faster to get everything done. In workplaces where there are labour shortages, 57% say their workload is increasing. 47% have less time to do their jobs and 27% have had to do more than one job at a time.

High work pressure is poison for job satisfaction, and members who say they experience a "high extent" of labour shortages have the highest stress levels and lowest job satisfaction of survey respondents. While 21% of survey respondents have felt stressed in the past 2 weeks, this is true for 28% of those who are short of colleagues.

One in five IDA members is stressed: "A warning sign"

Malene Matthison-Hansen, chair of the IDA Council of Employees, is concerned about the figures and calls on employers to match workloads with available resources.

"It's no good having staff running faster because there's an imbalance between tasks and resources. The predictable consequence is poorer well-being and more sick leave due to stress," says Malene Matthison-Hansen and continues:

"Every time an employee has to take sick leave, it increases the burden on the other colleagues, and then there is a risk of getting into a vicious spiral."

Sense of duty makes members run faster

When IDA members have too many tasks on their desks, the main reason is not over-ambitious managers, but that they are responsible and therefore take on too much work themselves.

In the survey, 55% say they are given too many tasks because there are no others to do them, and 40% say they take tasks because they are within their area of expertise. By comparison, 21% have too many tasks because they are given them by their manager.

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"When IDA members work too hard, it's often because they're hugely responsible. They want to do their best for their colleagues and workplace, but unfortunately this sometimes ends up being at the expense of their own health and well-being," says Eva Jakobsen, IDA's work life consultant.

She explains that this is a risk factor that applies to knowledge workers in general.

"Most IDA members are self-directed, and while it's important to have a say in your working hours and tasks, it's no use if the framework for your work is impossible. It also places very high demands on employees to be able to speak up and set limits. This is difficult for many people, and they may find it hard to let go of their work because they are unsure when they have done it well enough," says Eva Jakobsen.

According to her, the challenge has become even greater in the wake of the corona pandemic because more people are now working from home.

"Work is increasingly creeping into all hours of the day. Many just answer a few emails on the sofa in the evening or spend a few hours at the weekend to finish their tasks. As a result, they never get to relax properly, but many also don't tell their managers and colleagues that they work so much from home, which makes it difficult for them to see how heavy their workload really is," says Eva Jakobsen.

Managers have a big influence on well-being

Although it is not primarily managers who impose excessive workloads on employees, how well they cope with labour shortages has a significant impact on well-being.

Among the members who responded to the survey that their manager 'does not take responsibility at all' for finding solutions, 48% say they are stressed. This compares with 9% of those who say their manager 'takes a lot of responsibility' for finding solutions.

"It is the responsibility of management to distribute tasks so that each employee has a manageable workload, and if there are too many tasks, management must prioritise what is most important to solve," says Malene Matthison-Hansen, who acknowledges that it is a challenging situation for management.

"Labour shortages are a structural problem and many workplaces cannot provide enough employees, almost no matter what they do."

The problem will be bigger in the future

According to IDA forecasts, the labour shortage will worsen in the coming years. By 2025, there will be a shortage of 10,000 engineers and science graduates, and by 2030 there will be a shortage of 22,000 IT professionals in Denmark.

According to Malene Matthison-Hansen, Chair of the Council of Employees, it will take a determined effort from politicians, the education system and employers to avoid that scenario.

"It's vital that more young people enter STEM education, but employers also have a responsibility to create good, supportive workplaces where employees can continue to learn and where more people want to keep working well into their later years. A prerequisite for this is that people thrive and do not get sick from going to work."