American Workplace Is Physically and Emotionally Taxing; Most Workers Receive Support from Boss and Friends at Work

The American workplace is physically and emotionally taxing, with workers frequently facing unstable work schedules, unpleasant and potentially hazardous working conditions, and an often hostile social environment, according to a new study that probes working conditions in the United States.

The findings stem from research conducted by investigators at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation, Harvard Medical School and UCLA, and are from the American Working Conditions Survey — one of the most in-depth surveys ever done to examine conditions in the American workplace.

Highlights from the report include:

  • The intensity of work such as pace, deadlines and time constraints differ across occupation groups, with white-collar workers experiencing greater work intensity than blue-collar workers.
  • Jobs in the U.S. feature a mix of monotonous tasks and autonomous problem solving. While 62 percent of workers say they face monotonous tasks, more than 80 percent report that their jobs involve “solving unforeseen problems” and “applying own ideas.”
  • The workplace is an important source of professional and social support, with more than one half of American workers describing their boss as supportive and that they have very good friends at work.
  • Only 38 percent of workers say their job offers good prospects for advancement. All workers — regardless of education — become less optimistic about career advancement as they become older.
  • Four out of five American workers report that their job provides “meaning” always or most of the time. Older college-educated men were those most likely to report at least one dimension of meaningful work.
  • Nearly two-thirds of workers experience some degree of mismatch between their desired and actual working conditions, with the number rising to nearly three-quarters when job benefits are taken into account.
  • Nearly half of workers report working more than their preferred number of hours per week, while some 20 percent report working fewer than their preferred number of hours.

The report, “Working Conditions in the United States: Results of the 2015 American Working Conditions Survey,” is available here.

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