Work intensity: potential
antecedents and consequences
Ronald J. Burke
Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada
School of Human Resource Management, York University, Toronto, Canada,
Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health, York University, Toronto, Canada
Purpose – The purpose of this exploratory research is to examine the relationship of a measure of
work intensity with potential antecedents and consequences.
Design/methodology/approach – A questionnaire was developed and pre-tested. It included a new
15-item measure of work intensity. Data were collected from 106 respondents enrolled in three
university business courses using anonymously completed questionnaires. Regression and factor
analyses were used in developing the measure and testing the relationships.
Findings – The 15-item measure of work intensity was found to have high internal consistency and
reliability. Work intensity was signiﬁcantly related to respondents’ organizational level and work
status. In addition, respondents indicating higher levels of work intensity also reported working more
hours, a higher workload, and greater job stress. Work intensity was unrelated to organizational
values supporting work-personal life imbalance, three workaholism components, or to indicators of
work engagement. Factor analysis of the work intensity measure produced three factors: emotional
demands, job demands, and time demands, the ﬁrst two were fairly consistently related to other study
variables, whereas time demands was not.
Research limitations/implications – The sample was relatively small and the data were collected
using self-reports. The design was cross-sectional, thus limiting causal inferences.
Practical implications – Managers will ﬁnd the study useful in assessing the effects of work
intensity and working long hours for employees, including stress levels and work engagement.
Originality/value – The study developed a work intensity measure and examined its properties and
correlates, something that is lacking in the literature.
Keywords Job satisfaction, Hours of work, Family friendly organizations, Mental illness, Overwork
Paper type Research paper
Issues related to work, including long work hours and work intensity, have been
attracting increasing attention from scholars and practitioners (Bell and Freeman,
2001; Burchell and Fagan, 2004; Burke, 2007; Eastman, 1998; Filer et al., 1996; Green,
2001; Feldman, 2002; Ng et al., 2007; Hochschild, 1997; Schor, 1991). This interest is not
surprising given the importance of work in the lives of people. Work is an important
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Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by York University and the School of
Human Resources Management, York University.
Received 5 November 2008
Revised January 2009
Accepted 26 June 2009
Vol. 39 No. 3, 2010
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited