Employees feel less autonomous

According to the Netherlands Working Conditions Survey 2013, conducted by TNO and Statistics Netherlands, the percentage of employees in the Netherlands who say they can organise their own work has decreased in recent years. Short-tenure workers, in particular, feel less autonomous. This decrease is partly caused by the rise in the share of employees with flexible employment contracts.

Steady decrease

The share of employees who can organise their own work, i.e. decide how and when to carry out their tasks, fell from 61 percent in 2008 to 56 percent in 2013.  While 65 percent of employees in 2008 reported regularly being able to decide how to carry out their tasks, this had fallen to 60 percent last year. In the same period, the share of employees who could organise the order and rate of work also fell.

New workers in particular less autonomous

The decrease in employee autonomy was strongest for employees who had been with their present employer for a relatively short period (up to three years). Autonomy in this group was 45 percent, compared with 56 percent in 2008. This decrease is partly related to the larger share of new employees with a flexible labour contract. Flexible workers are usually less likely to be able to organise their own work than permanent staff. Other causes of the decrease in autonomy require further study.

Decrease across nearly all industry sectors

The decrease in employee autonomy was reported in nearly all sectors of industry, except construction, information and communication, and financial institutions. In the construction industry this is related to the decrease in the share of employees doing physical work, in the financial sector it was caused by an increase in the share of employees with higher education levels. 

Autonomous employees less likely to report burnout symptoms

According to TNO, previous research shown that employees who can decide how and when to carry out their tasks are less likely to suffer from burnout symptoms than employees who cannot do so. In addition, autonomy is a contributory factor to the innovative strength of organisations.

For further information, please contact:

TNO: Monique de Geus, tel. +31 88 8661 017, e-mail: pressinfo@tno.nl;
Statistics Netherlands: Press office, tel. +31 70 3374444, e-mail: persdienst@cbs.nl