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Computer Use and Job Satisfaction

Using a computer to get the job done is now obligatory for many of us. But what is the relationship between computer use and job satisfaction? Are employees who use a computer more satisfied than others who do not use computers at work because they get to perform more cognitively demanding job tasks and/or because they can do their work at their own discretion?

A new comparative study by Saverio Minardi (University of Bologna), Carla Hornberg (WZB), Paolo Barbieri (University of Trento), and Heike Solga (WZB) explores the relationship between computer use and job satisfaction in Germany and the UK. The study contributes to the ongoing upskilling/deskilling debate by examining the association between computer use, tasks performed at work, and task discretion as two distinct dimensions of occupational skills. It suggests that the use of computerized work equipment is complementary to less routine and more abstract tasks, leading to higher levels of task discretion and workers' job satisfaction, consistent with an upskilling perspective.

However, the direct effect of computer use on task discretion and job satisfaction differs between the two countries, suggesting that – irrespective of computer-tasks complementarities – the association between computers and job satisfaction is contingent on the context in which technology is introduced. Accounting for differences in job tasks performed, a negative direct effect of computer use on both task discretion and job satisfaction was found in the United Kingdom but not in Germany. These results indicate that national institutional arrangements shaping firms' organizational structures and practices are a central factor influencing whether technology is adopted according to an upskilling or deskilling logic.

For their study, the team of authors analyzed data from the Skills and Employment Surveys for the UK and the BIBB/BAuA Employment Surveys for Germany.