: Issue 01/2020

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2020, pp. 3-10

Nick Kratzer

Work intensity and work intensification


In the face of the high and increasing levels of psychological demands at the workplace, work intensity is seen as a key dimension for work research and labour policies, and work intensification is regarded as a significant trend in current developments of labour. Against this backdrop, the article pursues two questions: First, how can work intensity be recorded and perhaps even measured? Several analytic approaches are presented and compared, with the result that a combination of quantitative inquiries and qualitative task analyses seems most promising. Second, the theory that work intensification is a growing trend in today’s world of work is questioned. The author argues that work intensification is by no means a new phenomenon but that together with trends such as digitalisation, changes in performance policy and the subjectification of work, new instruments, forms and actors have emerged. Hence, a case can be made to link the analysis of the development of work intensity to the analysis of performance control. more... (in German) 

WSI-MITTEILUNGEN 1/2020, pp. 11–18

Christian Korunka

Work intensification: Causes, trends and risk groups


This article presents an overview of empirical studies dealing with work intensification. Work intensification is in part a result of the developments in late capitalism and the ever-increasing possibilities of information and communication technologies (ICT). The results of large international panel studies and longitudinal studies confirm an increase of work intensification since the 1990s. Whereby since about 2010 this increase has declined somewhat. A large number of employees are affected by work intensification, which could be shown as a health relevant stressor in addition to time pressure. Even workplace safety may be negatively affected by work intensification. Those especially affected by intensification are younger employees and managers. Intensive use of ICT may further increase work intensification, although well-known job resources (job autonomy, social support) may serve as protective factors. Conditional prevention, like the definition of legal requirements, is of special importance. more... (in German) 

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2020, pp. 19-28

Lena Hünefeld, Sophie-Charlotte Meyer, Elke Ahlers, Serife Erol

Work intensity as an object of data collection The potential of representative employee surveys for research


The debate on work intensity and work intensification is often emotional and sensitive, not least because it is frequently accompanied by the feeling of overstrain and inadequacy on the part of the affected employees. There are also numerous indications that long-lasting work intensity at a high level can be detrimental for the employees’ health. Against this background, scholarly studies that contribute to objectifying this debate are of particular importance. For this reason, the article aims to portray avail­able representative datasets that are adequate to describe the distribution and, in particular, the determinants of work intensity in Germany. The authors compare the distribution of high work intensity across various data sets. Furthermore, they focus on empirical gaps that can be identified in current surveys against the background of more complex work environments and identify opportunities for further development. more... (in German) 

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2020, pp. 29-37

Elke Ahlers

Work intensification within companies Problem definitions and fields of action for works councils


For works councils, the topic of work intensification is an important field of action. They see limiting work intensification as being one of the biggest challenges for workplace representation. For years, there have been calls for a reduction of the workload, especially through the recruitment of more staff, adequate leadership and better health and safety. The findings of the WSI Works Council Surveys 2018 reported in this article make clear that in addition to the high volume of work and the increased expectations of performance, operational conditions such as permanent staff shortages or restructuring are also blamed for work intensification within companies. Furthermore, the representative findings show that although some companies have taken steps towards doing something about work intensification, there is little evidence of any coordinated strategies to date. more... (in German) 

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2020, pp. 38-46

Yvonne Lott

(The lack of) self-determination over working hours and the ability to switch-off after work What roles do work intensity and extension of working hours play?


How is self-determination (i. e. flexitime and working-time autonomy) and the lack of self-­determination (i. e. fixed schedules and employer-oriented flexible schedules) related to cognitive work-to-home spillover for women and men, meaning the ability to switch-off after work? And do they experience this cognitive work-to-home spillover and the lack of self-determination because of work intensity and extension of working hours, i. e. work pressure and overtime hours? The author discusses these questions with the help of multivariate analyses based on the German Socio-Economic Panel Study of 2011 and 2012. It is shown that for men working-time autonomy is related to a higher cognitive work-to-home spillover, mainly due to overtime hours. For women, working-time unpredictability and unreliability seem to be reasons for higher spillover with employer-oriented schedules. Employees, both women and men, experienced the least spillover with flexitime and fixed schedules. more... (in German) 

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2020, pp. 47-54

Thomas Haipeter

Development, challenges and perspectives of performance regulation


Traditionally, workers’ performance in Tayloristic forms of production has been regulated by defining “normal performance” according to management and works councils, referring to standards of decent work given in collective bargaining agreements. This practice took place mainly in big companies and was based on co-determination rights of works councils to regulate performance in the production areas. The article argues that this style of performance regulation is eroding for several reasons, including new forms of rationalizsation, the crisis of performance-based pay and, above all, the growth of areas not covered by the traditional compromise such as white-collar and service work in which performance demands are on the rise. However, new developments in the strategies of unions and works councils can be observed that might support a revitalisation of performance regulation. The author appeals for a renewal of performance regulation based on the participation of employees and on close interaction between trade unions and works councils. To this end, performance regulation has to play a more important strategic role in the employee representative bodies, focusing on influencing the staffing issues in the companies. more... (in German) 

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2020, pp. 55-62

Anne Goedicke, Emanuel Beerheide, Kai Seiler

A fair day’s work? High work intensity and occupational health and safety at work


High work intensity may lead to increased accident rates and work-related health risks for employees. For this reason, the state system regulating health and safety at work is generally required to prevent workloads endangering the well-being of employees. Due to its institutions and functioning, however, this implies considerable challenges because job requirements for employees are complex and result from multi-layered processes of coordination, control and work design in companies. In this context, the article discusses three conditions that influence how the occupational health and safety inspectorate may deal with health risks caused by high work intensity: its hazard-related approach, its commitment to a defined state of research in ergonomics and work sciences as well as its focus on the workplace level and the need for ex-ante specifications of generally binding protective measures that employers should take to combat stressors and hazards. Together with the right to carry out inspections and to impose sanctions, these three institutional givens define the scope of action for the state administration for health and safety at work concerning high work intensity. more... (in German) 

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2020, pp. 63-70

Arno Georg, Kerstin Guhlemann

Occupational safety and individual health literacy Perspectives of prevention of work intensification in “work 4.0”


The article discusses the question of whether the existing occupational health and safety (OHS) system can provide the necessary protection for employees and design measures for the prevention of labour intensification associated with digitalisation processes. Another aspect is the role of competency development. The proposed concept of individual work-related health literacy provides potential for safety and work design. The starting point is the finding that especially in the context of digitalisation the share of psychosocial demands on work is rising and that work intensification can be a result of the blending of work and private life. This is indicated by the results of an exploratory study on the question of the effectiveness of OHS structures. The results provide a deep insight into structures, conflicts and ambivalences in the search for healthy and safe working conditions and show that operational procedures have to be adapted as well as institutional OHS structures. Otherwise work intensification becomes a blind spot in operational design endeavours. more... (in German) 

WSI-Mitteilungen 1/2020, pp. 71-75

Eva Aich

Work intensity in the process of risk assessment


Risk assessment is a complex process that is embedded in the general organisational structure of occupational health and safety. It is often reduced to determining hazards and deriving measures, resulting in a lack of significant knowledge and opportunities to improve working conditions. For risks that are difficult to grasp, such as work intensity, a complete risk assessment that is firmly embedded in the company's structural occupational health and safety system is required. The author argues that it is indispensable for the employer to assume responsibility, as is the appraisal and processing of (partly unconscious) attitudes, fears and wishes of all those involved. more... (in German)