Job Quality Indicators » Computers At Work

<< Back to list of all indicators

Effects of PCs on Job Quality

What effect does computer use have on job quality? This is an important issue given that technological change has become a defining feature of many Canadian jobs. While the diffusion of computer technologies in many Canadian workplaces is making much of our work easier to perform and more interesting in scope, computers are also cited as a source of stress and increased workload by many Canadian workers.

 

In 2000, Three Quarters Of Frequent PC Users At Work Say
Their Job Has Become More Interesting

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

As the pie chart shows, frequent use of computers at work is associated with work becoming more interesting. About three quarters of Canadians who use computers daily at work, and who feel that their job has been somewhat or highly affected by computers during the previous five years, report that their job has become more interesting as a result of technological change. Conversely, only two percent of such users report that their work had become less interesting.

Computer use also appears to be associated with workplace skill development. While only 15 percent of employed Canadians reported learning new skills in 2000 as a result of software or hardware upgrades, this was the case for one-third (33 percent) of high-intensity computer users (data not shown). This suggests that intense computer use at work is to some extent associated with learning new work skills.

 

Perceptions Of Overqualification Decline With Computer Use

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

The use of computers at work also seems to be associated with skill use on the job. As the chart indicates, employee perceptions of overqualification declines as the level of computer use increases, even among university educated workers. This suggests that frequent use of computers at work is to some extent associated with a feeling of challenge and a good fit between a person's skills and the demands of the job.

 

PCs as a Source of Stress

While intense computer use seems to be associated with making work more interesting and with skill development, frequent use of PCs at work also seems to be associated with certain negative outcomes.

 

Learning New Computer Skills A Source Of Stress For One In Ten  

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

As the chart shows, the need to keep computer skills up to date was reported to be a source of worry or stress by just over one in ten Canadian workers in 2000 (11 percent). There is very little difference in this respect between men and women, or between the employed and self-employed.

 

Stress by Occupation

Professionals Most Stressed About Keeping Computer Skills Up-To-Date

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

The need to keep computer skills current as a perceived source of workplace stress varies noticeably by occupation. The incidence of such stress appears to reflect intensity of use by a given occupational group. Indeed, clerical and professional workers are the most likely to report daily use of a PC at work (73 and 69 percent respectively: see Computers in the Workplace Indicator) ; these are also the two occupational groups that are most likely to report that the need to keep computer skills current is a source of workplace stress.

Conversely, blue collar and sales/service workers were among the least likely to report using a computer at work and were also among the least likely to say that the need to keep computer skills current was a source of workplace stress. It appears that the more likely one is to use a computer at work, the greater the likelihood that an employee will report the need to keep computer skills current is a source of stress or worry.

 

PCs and Workload

Intense Use of PCs Associated With Aspects of High Workload

Source: Statistics Canada General Social Survey (2000).
 

Intense use of computers on the job appears to be associated with certain job characteristics related to high work demands. As the chart indicates, frequent use of computers at work is associated with stress that results from work demands or hours, working 50+ hour workweeks, and bringing work home. It should be pointed out that these variations are not solely attributable to intensity of computer use per se but also reflect other factors such as occupation and education. Nonetheless, there is little doubt that computers make it easier for people to work from home 24 hours a day, seven days a week - and the newest technologies extend this possibility even further, allowing people to work anywhere, any time, without the necessity of being either at home or at the office.

Additional Charts and Information