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An empirical investigation of the relationship between workload and performance

Alexander Bruggen (Accounting & Information Management Department, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Management Decision

ISSN: 0025-1747

Article publication date: 16 November 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine the effect of workload on quantitative and qualitative job performance. Different levels of workload can affect performance of employees, and it is important for firms to assess the effect of this in order to improve capacity decisions. The literature is not entirely clear on the relationship and calls for further empirical evidence on that matter.


The study uses field data from a mid-sized grocery supplier. In total, 9,210 observations of 27 employees over three years and eight months are analyzed with different statistical models. Employees all work in the same department so that it is a very homogenous data set.


Results show that there is an inverted U-shape relationship between workload and performance. Output of employees increases up to a certain point after which it decreases. Similarly, the quality of performance is highest under moderate levels of workload, which provides evidence against a tradeoff between quantity and quality.

Research limitations/implications

The study uses a unique set of data from one firm, which limits generalizability, but adds to an important stream of literature.

Practical implications

Results show how workload has a direct effect on performance. Consequently, firms need to balance the workload in order to be able to maximize the performance of their employees.


Despite the relevance of the topic, there is hardly any empirical evidence on the relationship between workload and performance. This study thus contributes to the management literature and provides significant evidence on an inverted U-shape between workload and quantitative performance.



Bruggen, A. (2015), "An empirical investigation of the relationship between workload and performance", Management Decision, Vol. 53 No. 10, pp. 2377-2389.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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