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Situational factors and wellbeing

Exploring some of the situational factors, those related to the job and workplace, that can have a strong impact on employee wellbeing.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
According to Arnold and Randall (2016: 403), a number of factors have an influence on employee wellbeing.
These factors can be broadly classified as either situational factors or factors that relate to employees’ individual differences.

Situational factors

Situational factors are elements of a job that may have an effect on employee wellbeing.
There are a number of different factors which could affect wellbeing, some of which are discussed briefly below:

1. Demands

Job content

This can refer to a number of elements that are involved in doing a job, including long working hours, intense physical or cognitive work, or a job that constantly requires meeting deadlines.


Employees may have too much work, referred to as quantitative overload, which means they may have to work long hours in order to complete their work. Alternatively, they may have work that they perceive as too difficult, this is referred to as qualitative overload.
In addition, workers may have too little work to do or work that is boring and repetitive, which is equally capable of affecting employee wellbeing.

2. Working hours

The number of hours an individual works can have an impact on wellbeing. Research illustrates a positive correlation with increased working hours and health. According to Seong-Sik et al.:
‘An increasing number of studies have reported the association between long working hours and negative health outcomes, including sleep deprivation, depression and anxiety disorders, and cardiovascular diseases, especially stroke. The relative risk of stroke is 1.33 for those working 55 hours or more than those working 36 to 40 hours (standard working hours).’
(Seong-Sik et al. 2018: 475)

3. Emotional labour

Is when an employee has to manage their own emotions in response to other people’s emotions. An example might be a person who works in a customer services job who is dealing with frustrated customers on a daily basis.

4. Work-life-balance

This is the balance between a person’s work life and their home life. When these boundaries become blurred, a person may feel a certain amount of conflict that can have a negative impact on their wellbeing.
Arnold and Randall (2016: 409) argue that there are three main types of conflict:

Time-based conflict

When time pressures in one domain (work) conflict with the other domain (home).

Strain-based conflict

When engagement in one domain impacts the other. It can be a physical strain, cognitive or emotional. An example might be a person who works as a counsellor not having the emotional energy to deal with the demands of family life.

Behaviour-based conflict

This may occur when a person has one role at work and a very different role at home. For example, a person who works as a police officer and who is dealing with violent situations on a daily basis may be expected to behave in an impersonal and ‘tough’ way at work, but a calm and personal way at home, which may cause conflict.
The boundaries between work and home are becoming increasingly blurred, especially with the increased use of technology and flexible working hours, which means we no longer have traditionally fixed-working hours or locations. We will explore this in more detail later in the program.
We will look at further situational factors affecting employees’ wellbeing in the next step.


Arnold, J., Randall, R. (2016) Work Psychology: Understanding Human Behaviour in the Workplace [online] Harlow, England: Pearson. available from [10th May 2019]
Seong-Sik, C., Young-Su, J., Domyung, P., Hyunjoo, K., Kyunghee, J. (2018) ‘The Combined Effect of Long Working Hours and Low Job Control on Self-Related Health: An Interaction Analysis’. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 60 (5), 475-480
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Wellbeing at Work: An Introduction

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