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Employee Reactions to High Daily Workloads

Daily workload can be defined as employees’ perceptions of the work demands placed on them in a given day. Employee perceptions of high daily workloads occur when they feel that they have been given more work in a given day than they can effectively complete. Perceptions of a high daily workload can negatively impact employee well-being in two major ways: 
  • Perceived increases in daily workload throughout the work day are related to increases in employee blood pressure during the work day, and when the employee punches out at the end of the day.
  • Perceived increases in daily workload throughout the work day are also related to increases in the employee’s emotional distress throughout the work day, and when the employee punches out at the end of the work day.
Because employee perceptions of a high daily workload can have negative consequences for the employee’s well-being, it is important for supervisors to be aware of ways to minimize these negative reactions.

Ways to Alleviate Negative Reactions to High Workloads

It is possible to lessen the negative impact of a high daily workload on employee well-being. Two important considerations for reducing this negative impact are as follows:
  • Job Control. Job control is a stable job characteristic that refers to how much freedom an employee has in completing his or her daily work tasks. The more control an employee has over how to complete a high daily workload, the less likely that employee will be to experience emotional distress or increased blood pressure.
  • Organizational Support. Organizational support refers to the degree to which employees feel that the organization values their contributions, cares about their well-being, and supports them in carrying out their job successfully and managing a high daily workload when necessary. Employees who feel that they have adequate support from the organization as a whole are less likely to have negative reactions to a high daily workload.

Practical Implications

Because high daily workloads can lead to decreased well-being in employees, supervisors should capitalize on ways to protect the well-being of their employees. Certain job characteristics, such as job control and organizational support, help diminish negative reactions to high daily workloads. Ultimately, by implementing these job characteristics, supervisors can also potentially decrease long-term strain, emotional burnout, and cardiovascular risk in their employees. In return, organizations will also benefit from promoting greater well-being in their employees and minimizing the strain that a high daily workload can place on their employees.

Mackenzi Harmon


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Ilies, R., Dimotakis, N., & De Pater, I.E. (2010). Psychological and physiological reactions to high workloads: Implications for well-being. Personnel Psychology, 63(2), 407-432.