Job Demands are to “I can’t” as Job Resources are to “I won’t”

Topic: Burnout, Job Analysis, Job Performance
Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior (OCT 2009)
Article: How changes in job demands and resources predict burnout, work engagement, and sickness absenteeism
Authors: W.B. Schaufeli, A.B. Bakker, W. Van Rhenen
Reviewed By: Benjamin Granger

There are many theories that explain the causes and effects of experiencing work strain and work engagement. Schaufeli and colleagues (2009) investigated one such theory known as the Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) theory which focuses on what needs to be done on the job (i.e., job demands) and the social, psychological, physical resources that the job provides for the employees (i.e., job resources).

In their study of 201 managers in a telecommunications company, Schaufeli et al. examined how several specific types of job demands and job resources impact employee absenteeism, burnout, and work engagement. Surveys were distributed to participants at two time points one year apart.

Schaufeli et al. found that as job demands such as work overload and emotional demands increase over time, so does burnout. Alternatively, an increase in job resources such as job control, social support, and opportunities to learn tend to lead to decreased burnout.  Moreover, these job resources also lead
to increased employee work engagement.

Interestingly, Schaufeli and colleagues’ results suggest that while burnout is related to involuntary absenteeism (e.g., illness), work engagement is related to voluntary absenteeism (e.g., low motivation). This implies that changes in job demands ultimately have an impact on employee health (“I can’t” go to work today) whereas job resources tend to relate more to motivation (“I won’t” go to work today). Finally, Schaufeli et al. found that work engagement and job resources have a reciprocal  relationship and build on each other over time.

Ultimately, the authors note the important link between employee health and well-being and  organizational performance. So, it’s not just in the interest of the employee to have reasonable demands and available resources – it’s good for the organization too.

Schaufeli, W.B., Bakker, A.B., & van Rhenen, W. (2009). How changes in job demands and resources predict burnout, work engagement, and sickness absenteeism. Journal
of Organizational Behavior, 30, 893-917.Schaufe