Research results of the survey: “Are DPO’s happy in their job?”

DPO’s Peter Berghmans and Jolien Ghyselinck, in cooperation with Michelle Lenaerts, investigated the answers to that question through a survey that was sent and discussed in light of the first dpo day in May 2023.


Research description

The study “Are DPOs happy in their job?” focuses on the psychosocial well-being of Data Protection Officers (DPOs) and delves into the complexity and satisfaction within their professional roles. This research utilizes data gathered from a survey conducted among Belgian DPOs, aiming to understand their experiences, challenges, and the factors influencing their job perceptions.
The DPO role, as defined by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), entails advising and informing organisations about data protection obligations, overseeing compliance with these obligations, and acting as a liaison for both data subjects and regulatory authorities. This position demands a high level of independence and expertise, but also presents unique challenges that can impact the psychosocial well-being of a DPO.


The DPO now: research results


Survey results reveal a wide range of experiences among DPOs, with varying degrees of satisfaction. A significant number of respondents state that they feel a high level of autonomy in their role, in correspondence with the GDPR requirements that emphasize DPO independence. However, this autonomy does not come without its challenges: DPOs report pressures from within the organisation and external parties, sometimes leading to conflicts or challenging situations.


A critical aspect highlighted by the survey is the variability in the level of resources and support DPOs receive from their organisations. Some DPOs report having sufficient access to information, management support, and adequate resources to effectively fulfil their tasks. Others, however, face limitations in these areas, affecting their ability to meet GDPR requirements and their overall job satisfaction.


Collaboration within organisations emerges as another significant theme from the survey results. DPOs who experience effective collaboration with other departments and colleagues generally report higher job satisfaction. These positive working relationships not only aid in the efficient execution of their duties but also contribute to a better understanding and appreciation of the DPO role within the organisation.


Recognizing the value and contribution of DPOs is essential for their satisfaction and motivation. The survey results suggest that there is still a significant need for greater recognition and appreciation of the DPO role within some organisations. DPOs who feel valued and see their work making a positive impact on data protection within their organisation state to have a higher level of satisfaction and engagement.


The survey also emphasises the need for ongoing professional development and networking opportunities for DPOs. Rapid technological advancements and constantly changing regulatory landscapes require DPOs to keep their knowledge and skills up to date. Those actively involved in professional networks and with access to training opportunities feel more confident and better equipped to perform their role adequately.


In conclusion, the survey results underline the complexity of the DPO role and the multifaceted factors that influence their well-being and satisfaction. Autonomy, resources, support, collaboration, and recognition are crucial for creating a positive work environment for DPOs. The study shows that, despite the challenges, many DPOs find significant satisfaction in their work, especially when their efforts are recognised and valued within the organisation.

A notable finding from the survey is the impact of professional networks and communities on DPOs’ well-being. Those who are part of such networks often experience a greater sense of support and are more able to navigate the challenges of their role. These communities offer not only a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences, but also a sense of belonging and recognition beyond the immediate work environment.


The DPO tomorrow and in the future: challenges ahead

Future challenges for DPOs, as illuminated by the survey results, include adapting to new technologies and keeping up with constantly evolving legislation and standards in data protection. Additionally, the study highlights the need for organisations to cultivate a culture where data protection principles are integrated into all business processes, with the DPO playing a central advisory and facilitative role.

The survey results also underscore the diversity within the DPO community, with variations in experiences, backgrounds, and the specific context of their organisation. This demonstrates the importance of tailored support and development programs that consider the unique needs of each DPO.


In summary, the study “Are DPOs happy in their job?” reveals that, despite clear challenges, there are also significant opportunities for DPOs to have a fulfilling and impactful career. By focusing on the positive aspects of the role and actively working to improve areas that need enhancement, organisations and DPOs can collaborate not only to meet legal data protection requirements in addition to promote a culture of privacy and data ethics that benefits the entire organisation.


Read the full study: Happines of the DPO

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