The purpose of this study was to examine what work conditions predict voluntary job mobility, and whether good health or burnout predicts voluntary job mobility. The respondents in this study had a high degree of job mobility. After two years, 12% had left their organization compared with the average workplace mobility in Sweden of 8% during the same period [22
]. The study population was not only well-educated; in all likelihood they also had a good knowledge of the labour market, since they worked as employment officers. High employability and good opportunities for changing jobs may therefore be a possible explanation for the high degree of job mobility in the study population.
Younger individuals were more mobile. It can be assumed that trying different types of jobs or occupations while building up a career is more common among younger individuals. As individual characteristics are important for being able to change jobs [21
], sex, age, education level, civil status, and having children living at home were controlled for in the analysis.
Work conditions and voluntary job mobility
The results showed that work conditions were related to voluntary job mobility. Low variety (i.e. a low degree of variety in work tasks or procedures) was associated with high voluntary job mobility. According to the activation theory, stimulation by variety and complexity of tasks increases the activation level, which is suggested to improve motivation and job satisfaction [41
]. Repetitive tasks may decrease motivation, job satisfaction, and performance [42
]. Low variety has been associated with increased turnover intentions in several studies [7
], and according to Castle and Engberg [17
] job dissatisfaction is the first step towards the decision to change jobs. Thus, as high variety is related to job satisfaction [44
], low variety may be assumed to predict voluntary job mobility due to job dissatisfaction.
Employees scoring high on autonomy, i.e. the extent to which employees have a major say in planning, performing, and controlling their work, had higher voluntary job mobility. In previous research, low autonomy was associated with high turnover intentions [8
] and decreased job satisfaction [45
]. It is reasonable to assume that respondents who scored high on perceived autonomy in this study changed jobs for other reasons than dissatisfaction with their current job, such as career development and advancement to higher skilled jobs. This confirms the statement by Mobley, Griffeth, Hand and Megliano [18
], that in addition to job dissatisfaction, voluntary job mobility may be related to the decision to change to a more attractive job. According to the gravitational theory [27
], people move to a job that matches their ability level, but some people may have higher goals and strive for advancement that matches their future goals and career plans. Changing jobs seems to be triggered by individual motives and people change jobs in the expectation that the new job will be an improvement on their current job, in terms of better work conditions, career development, etc. [27
]. This may also gain support from the expectancy theory, which perceives individuals as rational beings who choose between action options in order to maximize outcomes and minimize costs [48
], or to maximize pleasure or minimize pain [49
]. The expectancy theory also proposes that individuals’ choices about a certain act depend on their beliefs in their own capabilities and the reward from it [50
]. Thus, voluntary job mobility may be due to different reasons: job dissatisfaction but also career development and new challenges.
Voluntary job mobility and health
Despite using instruments that were expected to capture the spectrum from good health to bad health, the associations between health and voluntary job mobility did not quite reach significance. One possible explanation for the null results is that the instruments for measuring global health are too coarse for a healthy, working population. Furthermore, they are also designed to capture symptoms. As the respondents in this study were all white-collar workers with no physically demanding work tasks, this may also have affected the null results.
Voluntary job mobility is most likely due to two forces for mobility: job dissatisfaction and career development. These forces may, in turn, define individuals who are able to act and mobilize themselves to a new job. According to a holistic approach to health, health is related to an individual’s ability to act, and an individual has full health if, in a given standard situation, he or she has the ability to fulfil vital goals [51
]. Drawing on this health approach, work itself may be important for health, which, in turn, may be important for voluntary job mobility.
A weakness of this study is the homogeneous population. The respondents were all well-educated white-collar workers and worked in the same organization with similar work tasks. This may have caused imprecise estimation of associations, compared with a more heterogeneous population.
The strength of this study is the two-year follow-up data and the high response rate.