Workload and job satisfaction

25th March 2013

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The IEMA practitioners' survey 2013 reveals changes to environmental professionals' workloads and how happy they are in their roles

Two-thirds of environment professionals are happy in their work. As figure 9 shows, 66.1% are either satisfied or very satisfied in their role, with just 8% of respondents reporting they are unsatisfied or very unsatisfied at work.

Job satisfaction depends on a wide variety of organisational factors as well as an individual’s personal needs and circumstances. Some of these, such as pay and paid leave, are extrinsic and related to the context of the job, while intrinsic factors, such as job content, are closely related to the work itself. Both intrinsic and extrinsic factors are crucial drivers of job satisfaction, and this is demonstrated by the anecdotal feedback from respondents to the 2013 IEMA survey on why they feel satisfied at work.

For example, many respondents report that they enjoy the varied and challenging nature of their environment work, while others refer to the good level of pay or a supportive working environment.

“Making a difference” was also mentioned as a key motivator by many who are happy at work. One respondent said simply: “I love my role.” Another said: “My job role is now more varied and challenging and I have far more job satisfaction.”

Unsurprisingly, given the harsh economic environment that continues to affect the UK labour market, job security was also flagged up as an important factor in job satisfaction. One respondent said they were just “happy to have a job in the current economic climate”, for example.

The poll also asked respondents who were not satisfied in their roles why this was the case. Again, the feedback suggested a range of reasons for dissatisfaction, but common themes included: poor leadership or management within the organisation; a lack of clear career progression; heavy workloads; and insufficient pay.

Most of the feedback related to frustration with organisational issues rather than discontent with working in an environmental role or the nature of the work. “I am only dissatisfied with the organisation I work for. I am not convinced the organisation is committed to the environment or sustainability,” said one.

Survey respondents were also asked whether they had experienced any changes in their workload in the past year. The type of changes they were asked to describe focused on the scope and variety of practitioners’ work; the volume of work they were responsible for; and the amount of time they spent doing it.

As figures 10 and 11 show, more than six respondents in 10 report an increase in the scope and variety (66%) and/or the quantity (61.7%) of their workload in 2012.

An increase in the scope and variety of an environment professional’s workload could be a positive influence on job satisfaction and may have contributed to some respondents’ comments about how they enjoy the challenging nature of their work.

Whether an increase in the scope and variety of work is viewed as a welcome challenge or an added pressure depends largely extent on whether additional support and training, from the employer.

It is less likely that an increase in the quantity of an environment professional’s workload will have a similarly positive impact on the quality of someone’s working life.

The Health and Safety Executive’s “management standards” cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and wellbeing, lower productivity and increased sickness absence. One core area is “demands” which includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.

There is some evidence to suggest that reduced resourcing budgets have prompted an increase in the workloads of some employees since the onset of recession in 2007–08, and it appears that many IEMA members who took part in our survey have not been immune from this trend.

A similar inference could be drawn from the change in working hours experienced by many environment professionals in the 2013 survey sample – nearly one-third (32.6%) reported that their working hours had increased during 2012. Some respondents who indicated that they were dissatisfied in their roles also mentioned increased workloads in their anecdotal feedback.

Read the full 2013 practitioner survey results:

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