Chapter 14: Quality of work

Gainful employment is determined twofold: It belongs to the economic system as well as to the way of life. Companies place demands on the utilisation of manpower, but working people too have demands regarding the quality and design of the work process. This chapter is concerned with the effects of transformed production and work systems on the pressure and resource structure of workplaces which, apart from income conditions, are essential for the (subjectively) perceived quality of work. The main dimensions of observation – health conditions, subjective and economic health effects, qualification requirements, work experience (e.g. job satisfaction), relation to the company, interactions with family and recreational life – describe the employee’s scope for action and thereby the realisation of participation through labour.


Pressures and resources

Concepts for the evaluation of work take as their criterion a work design which does not impair the workers’ psychophysical health; which does not – or only temporarily – affect their psychosocial wellbeing negatively; which corresponds with their needs and qualifications, makes individual and/or collective influences on working conditions and work systems possible and contributes to the development of their personalities in the sense of the unfolding of their potentials and the promotion of their competences. These concepts, hitherto predominantly used in individual studies, will be applied for a regular monitoring of the quality of work. What has to be described, therefore, is the development of perceived pressures and potentials as well as their interaction. It is intended to integrate as much as possible the demand structure of extraprofessional work into an overall balance of work-related resources and pressures. Thus, the chapter aims to typify work from an employee’s perspective.


Health and wellbeing in the context of the quality of work

Health can be broadly defined as the (continually to be achieved) equilibrium of a person’s physical, mental and social condition which is closely related to the specific development options, objectives and living conditions. Health as well as sickness have to be seen as results of a process which is influenced by several factors. Therefore, wellbeing is determined subjectively too and not exclusively bound to a (at least seemingly) objectifiable diagnosis. Only the knowledge of the overall pressure, but also of resources and recreational possibilities in everyday life, makes it possible to analyse comprehensively the consequences of these pressures and to give hints as to how to organise and distribute work in a health-promoting fashion.

What has to be examined is the assumption that with altered working conditions and forms of work organisation the various work pressures cumulate: psychological strains like stress and excessive demands, new bodily strains as a result of work with modern technology, emotional and social strains. For this question, too, other demands, apart from employment, will have to be taken into consideration, for example those caused by unpaid labour and other activities:

  • Which cause-effect-chains can be identified concerning the experienced strains and their health-related consequences?
  • Under which conditions does the simultaneity of professional and family responsibilities have positive or negative consequences?
  • Under which conditions do employees assess the preservation of their working ability as favourable or unfavourable?
  • How does the quality of work affect the emotional life of the employees (joy in working, frustration, satisfaction, ties to the company etc.)?
  • In which relation does this development stand to the dynamics of chronic diseases and certificated disability or work-related accidents?
Results (German)
Fuchs, Tatjana (2008): Qualität der Arbeit. Literaturstudie. soeb-Arbeitspapier 2008-5. PDF
Anhang Dokument 1: Methodische Erläuterungen zu den Bibb-IAB-/BiBB-BAUA-Erhebungen PDF
Anhang Dokument 2: Arbeitsbedingungen im Zeitverlauf - unter Berücksichtigung von Intensität und Häufigkeit PDF
Anhang Dokument 3: Verbreitung von häufig auftretenden körperlichen und psychische Arbeitsbelastungen in verschiedenen westdeutschen Branchen im Zeitverlauf PDF

Responsibility for this chapter

Internationales Institut für empirische Sozialökonomie (INIFES)