Nowadays the balance between professional and personal life is relatively unstable. If employees are stressed-out in their personal lives this could greatly affect them in their work activities. Also, it can be the other way around, where stress from work could greatly affect the social interaction, relationships, and mental health of a person. Quality of work life (QWL) and mental well-being of employees are essential for their investment and commitment leading to the financial stability and prosperity of your company.
What is QWL? How to set up an efficient QWL approach?
Stressed-out employees could lead to severe burnout. This reason among others too is greatly affecting the absenteeism rate in companies. The absence of employees could cost greatly to the economy and finance of a company and its country.
For example, in the United Kingdom, poor mental health at work was the dominant reason for absenteeism in 2021, costing companies up to £43 billion (€51.6 billion). The previous estimation of the cost of workplace absenteeism for the year 2020 was around £21 billion. This number has doubled because of the global pandemic. This only includes the cost of absence from work and doesn’t take into account the replacement costs and training.
As for the United States of America, the Integrated Benefits Institute has estimated the cost of absenteeism due to poor health around $575 billion (€509.11 billion) in 2020, meaning absence from work costs employers between 2660$ and 3600$ per employee every year. These numbers have more than doubled since 2015 according to the study held by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which was estimated at around $225.8 billion and 1685$ per employee.
Employees, in general, are now looking for jobs where they can feel safe (mentally and physically), recognised, where democratic management is implemented and where gender equality is respected. In other words, they are looking for companies that have a good “quality of work life”.
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What is QWL?
It was during an international labour relations conference in New York when the first time term “Quality of work life” was used in 1972. But the concept of QWL started in the United States of America and the Scandinavian countries in the late 60s.
Quality of work life is the creation of an HR strategy. There are numerous definitions for QWL, and each scientific researcher has given his definition for QWL since 1972. However, QWL, no matter the definition, is always about the “well-being of employees”.
Since the late 90s until now, a lot of studies have been conducted on QWL and its effect on the quality and performance of employees at work, in all types of organizations and industries. QWL aims to provide a better working environment for employees for better human satisfaction and more importantly to increase their productivity, adaptability, and performance in their organisations.
European Observatory of working life generally defines the quality of work as better jobs and more balanced ways of combining working life with personal life
Implementation of a QWL approach
The implementation of a QWL approach is an essential part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices. In this approach, CSR aims to provide a healthy and safe work environment for employees. This practice will lead not only to the financial growth of the organisation but also will improve the national economic performance.
Key elements of QWL
Successful implementation of the QWL approach will create a positive environment where employees work together to achieve collective goals. To achieve this, there are key elements to consider:
- Collaborative or democratic management allows your employees to participate in the decision-making process, this will give them more responsibility and be active actors in your company.
- Professional career path to develop and achieve goals both at the individual and team levels. Setting achievable goals will open opportunities for employees to develop new skills and training. Teamwork is essential, but as an employer, you should never forget individual performance and rewards. Each employee has his attitude, potential, etc. Transparency of the company's activities and great communication will lead to better team cohesion and efficient performance.
- Equity, respect and professional equality regardless of the sex, age, origin, political or religious beliefs of the employee. There should be a balance between effort and reward.
- Protection of the physical and moral integrity of the employees (OHS approach). Employees should feel safe and stable in terms of keeping their jobs.
Objectives of QWL
All companies wish for their employees to be more invested in their work and to keep up a high level of performance. To do so, a company should have a clear QWL approach to create a certain level of commitment in the employees towards their facility. By doing so, the company can have a high retention rate of their employees and be attractive to newcomers.
Based on the key elements of QWL, before implementing a QWL approach, a company should define the objectives. They are usually defined by creating a focus group with representatives of each department and division to cover all the company's assets and work activities. Each company will define its objectives. If a company is facing difficulties in defining its objectives, there are existing QWL models that can help in the process.
But here are some global goals that are generally present in all activities:
- Work-life balance (flexible hours, telework, vacations …)
- Opportunity for growth and development (training, compensation, promotions …)
- Safe and healthy work conditions (OHS approach)
- Work Environment organisation (team support, values, decision making, reputation …)
- Job security
- Communication …
Assessment and measurement of well-being
Once the focus group has determined the objectives, an assessment of the current situation in the organisation is necessary to establish the “how” to implement the QWL approach. This will determine the areas and the weaknesses to improve.
It is also the opportunity for employees to propose and express their ideas freely. Thus, they will feel involved in the decision-making process and make the implementation of QWL in the organisation more effective. This step, which can be defined as a measurement of well-being, can be achieved through various questionnaires and surveys. They can either be created especially to suit your company, or based upon known ones. For example, there is “the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire” that is derived from the “Oxford Happiness Inventory” created by Argyle, Martin and Crossland in 1989.
This approach is essential to engage all employees and give them real added value within the organisation of the company.
Implementation and feedback
Once the actions of improvement are defined for a certain QWL theme, the team starts the testing phase. The defined approach must be tested to check if the new organisation and changes in the management process are well suited for the work activity and the employees.
Good communication and information sharing should be put in place for a successful implementation:
- Presenting the objectives, informing and helping the employees to understand the approach;
- Q&A sessions to exchange information and concerns;
- If needed establish training sessions for employees;
- Day-to-day support program for the work teams.
A successful testing phase is conducted in real working conditions. More importantly, a satisfactory survey can be conducted to get the employee's feedback. Their feedback is the backbone of a successful implementation of the QWL approach, as they are the first concerned in this process. Their feedback can help the employer to take corrective actions; adjust and resolve conflictual situations.
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Why not use a digital tool?
The QWL approach is a necessity today for companies who are aiming to enhance their performance by guaranteeing the health and safety of their teams.
To manage the QWL approach an employer can rely on dedicated and fully automated tools. These tools will help in the digital transformation of the processes in the company, which can play a major role in lightening the administrative burden. This feature can indirectly contribute also to a higher quality of work life.
Gathering data from digital satisfaction forms will allow better and fast reactions and the results can be in the form of performance indicators and graphical representation.
The gain in productivity, reduction in absenteeism, fewer turnover rates, and attractive environment leading to successful recruits, all are advantages that provide the company with a well-being environment for the employees and a better quality of life on a social and economical scale.
To go further:
> Why use the “Quality of work life” application in your company? The answer here (available on BueKanGo’s Marketplace)