Workplace Innovation and well-being at work

EUWIN  is preparing an evidence based report which will go farther than just demonstrating the positive association of workplace innovation (WPI) and individual well-being. 

The report is being prepared by EUWIN partners Steven Dhondt (TNO) and Peter Totterdill (UK WON), and by Maria Karanika-Murray, a work psychologist at Nottingham Trent University. Its aim is to help managers and decision-makers in organisations build the business case for workplace innovation, and complements EUWIN’s earlier summary of evidence linking workplace innovation and performance (available here).

The new report drives home how WPI can be empowering and enabling and that improvements in quality of working life have a strong association with improvements in economic performance.

Some of the key findings include:

  • As well as enhancing productivity, empowering work practices such as self-organised teamwork play a particularly important role in reducing employee stress, enhancing job satisfaction and mental health, and improving retention.

  • Interventions to improve both quality of working life and economic performance in an organisation can have mutually reinforcing effects.

  • There is clear evidence that high-quality work has positive direct and indirect effects on occupational health and injury.

  • There is also evidence that such high-performance work systems increase job satisfaction and decrease employee fatigue. This will be of particular significance to older workers, and can influence the length of working lives.

This position paper offers hard evidence to support claims that

  • Where positive improvements are made in physical workload, ergonomics, work organisation, safety, style of leadership, and stress management, improved performance results both from a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in social and vocational competences.

  • Effective high-performance work systems based on employee engagement positively influence safety directly at the company level and indirectly at the employee level and are associated with lower turnover rates.

  • In high quality work environments, attention to safety activities is not compromised when employees focus on achieving high performance.

  • Broadening job design can lead to enhanced quality of working life and job satisfaction, resolving potential sources of stress through co-operation and problem sharing.

  • Levels of consultation and communication have a significant impact on job satisfaction scores, and employee involvement and participation has been linked to positive effects on well-being.

  • Participative and empowering working practices are the main driver of convergence between economic performance and employee well-being.

  • Organisations that support employees by developing effective policies based on ability, motivation and opportunity will create higher levels of organisational commitment, motivation and job satisfaction.

The paper goes on to discuss how WPI can be improved through targeted interventions to support well-being and engagement, and how organizations can ask themselves some key questions:

  • Do workers have sufficient autonomy? 

  • Are there sufficient opportunities for contacts and communication?

  • Are “real” team working practices based on co-operation in place?

  • Is sufficient information available?

  • Do line managers coach and support employees?

  • Are consultation and participation arrangements sufficient?

Conclusions

When employees have access to jobs that provide them with opportunities for autonomy, their increased involvement over time promotes learning, provides feedback from the job, enables them to become more proactive, heightens problem-solving, and enables preventive action. In such circumstances older workers can make fuller use of their accumulated knowledge and experience. 

When considering the indirect effects of high-quality work, there is ample evidence to show that job satisfaction is enhanced when employees believe that the organisation is investing in them - an issue of particular significance for the retention and motivation of older employees. In turn, employees who experience higher levels of satisfaction work more safely and enjoy a greater safety orientation.

Job design and work organisation are relatively neglected dimensions of employee well-being and engagement in many European countries. There is a need to share evidence of its importance more widely amongst employers, policymakers and trade unions.

In addition there is a need for practical tools and learning resources to support the evaluation of job design and work organisation at enterprise level, and to resource workplace innovation interventions that lead to better well-being and engagement.

Such interventions are typically those also associated with higher performance against a wide range of business indicators. Measures to improve well-being offer the potential for win-win outcomes which benefit employers and employees alike. 

This potential for convergence is demonstrated by an evaluation of 470 workplace projects undertaken in Finland between 1996 and 2005, showing that improvements in quality of working life have a strong association with improvements in economic performance, and indeed may actually enable them. Findings suggest that participation is the main driver of this convergence between economic performance employee well-being. 

The full paper will be published in a EUWIN Bulletin soon!


Footnote

The lack of empirical evaluation of age management interventions is being addressed by a EU-funded WORKAGE project led by Nottingham Trent University and UK WON. WORKAGE draws on research evidence of the organisational factors such as quality of job design, work organisation and participation which increase work ability and which are therefore likely to delay decisions to retire and to enhance the continuing engagement of older workers. 


Business Case for Workplace Innovation Public Policy Case for Workplace Innovation