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Quality of Life at Work, a winning challenge for the company

Reading time: 11 minutes
24/06/2022

Is attracting and retaining talent an impossible challenge? What do you think? 

Is this the new business dread? 

On the one hand, the urgency to recruit, on the other, the shortage of talent or the difficulty of convincing them to be hired... It's unheard of! So what to do? What are the solutions? 

What if you focused on quality of life at work? 

We would like to share with you a reflection on this subject which is often talked about but sometimes not really put into practice.

By the way, do we say QWL OR QWL? 

What about Quality of Life at Work or well-being at work? 

Whether you are an expert on the subject or a beginner, you know that thinking about QWL or QWL is never a finished chapter, but rather an inexhaustible open-air site. 

Why don't we take a few minutes to review and share this together? 

Come on, we're on the same team, right? So we stick together. 

Quickly, we explain it all to you, 

In a few moments, we will know more about this useful tool...

Quality of life at work (QWL/QWL): definition

What exactly is the Quality of Life at Work (QWL) or the Quality of Life and Working Conditions (QWLC)? 

But if you know well, it is this important thing to avoid PSR which is part of CSR and which should be entrusted to the IORPs such as the CHSCT without forgetting the HRDs...easy, no? 

This may sound complex, but it is quite simple. 

A reminder:

  • QWL: "Refers to and groups together under a single heading the actions that make it possible to reconcile both the improvement of working conditions for employees and the overall performance of companies, all the more so when these organisations are transforming.
  • QWL: "Conditions in which employees perform their work and their ability to express themselves and act on it, thus determining their perception of their quality of life at work.

Some explanations

 The first step takes place in 2013 with the QWL:

The objective of QWL is clear: it is to develop a strategy for successfully reconciling the improvement of employees' working conditions and the company's performance .

QWL therefore aims at equal access to quality of life at work and professional equality for all employees. It thus represents the environment created for employees to feel good at work.

Often confused with the notion of Workplace well-being (WB)), QWL is, in reality, the means or actions implemented to achieve this well-being. 

Three pillars serve as fundamental benchmarks: employment and working conditions, the ability to express oneself and act, and the content of work.

There are three main topics:

1. The quality of life of employees

What does that mean? 

It's quite subjective for everyone, but we imagine a pleasant working environment, a balance between professional and private life, but also the possibility of doing physical activity at work or during working hours, etc. In short, everything that contributes to the well-being of your employees. In short, everything that contributes to your employees' well-being at work.

As everyone has their own ideas on what can improve their QWL, it is necessary to co-construct with your employees to better understand their expectations ...

A questionnaire or survey could sometimes save you some unnecessary expense. 

2. Working conditions

It is the way in which work is carried out with all that influences the working day: managerial practices, the level of autonomy granted to employees, stress, workload, etc.

3. The performance of the organisation

We know that in a company, no two days are alike. Everyone has to be agile and adaptable according to the pace and urgency of the moment. Sometimes the company has to evolve and implement transformations that will also affect employees, such as the digital transformation that accelerated during the health crisis. These needs must not be at odds with the well-being and QWL of employees. It is necessary to anticipate and know how to support employees, for example through appropriate training, and thus maintain well-being and performance.

We can then seek to cultivate together (management, staff representatives, HRD and employees) the many sources of QWL. 

Non-exhaustive examples: 

being aware of the meaning of one's work and its usefulness, being autonomous, having a clear vision of the roles in one's team, obtaining recognition for one's efforts, working in a good atmosphere and with confidence having prospects for the future, having a clear vision of the operating processes, finding the right balance between professional and private life, and finally feeling pride in belonging to one's company and team, etc.

Then, 2nd step in 2020:

  • Another ANI clarifies and transforms the concept of QWL into Quality of Life and Working Conditions (QWLW ). It is definitively present in the Labour Code in 2022. 

The addition of the "C" (working conditions) thus insists on the core of QWL: "work, working conditions and the possibility that they open up or not to do a good job in a good atmosphere" already written in 2013.

The employer is thus reminded that he or she must first and foremost be concerned about the functioning of the company and its consequences on working conditions. Managerial practices, the recognition system, career management, organisational justice, the steering of transformations and interpersonal relations are some examples of the points to be closely observed.

The aim is to alert us to certain interpretations of QWL which have led to actions that seek to improve the framework and atmosphere of the workplace without addressing the multiple causes of ill-being in depth. 

Thus, QWL should not be reduced or summed up as moments of conviviality and/or relaxation: aperitifs between colleagues, table football or games rooms, yoga or meditation classes cannot fully bear fruit if one neglects the profound elements that affect working conditions. These initiatives are in fact complementary to QWL actions and should be used in the context of broader objectives. 

A concept that has come a long way: 

Historically, the notions of Quality of Life at Work (QWL) and hardship appeared in the years 2005-2008. But more concretely, the subject is part of a long tradition of studies on working conditions, particularly concerning the employee experience.

As early as 1929, in the midst of the economic crisis, Elton Mayo, considered the founding father of the sociology of work, made a critical analysis of Taylorism: "The main problem of management is to maintain or develop team cohesion, and to promote the motivation and involvement of individuals in the company's objectives. You have to maintain a good atmosphere," he says in summary, according to Michel Tougne

In the 1950s/60s, the work of psychologists Fred Emery and Eric L. Trist already defined the needs of workers as follows:

  • The need for variety in the tasks to be performed
  • The need to know the nature and purpose of the work to be done
  • The need for social recognition, autonomy in work and decision-making power
  • The need for a perspective on the evolution of one's work, one's situation

The conclusion is that " a happy employee will be a loyal and successful employee ". Does this sound familiar? QWL before its time! Hats off to you!

A few years ago, the term QWL was still little known in France, but the concept has been around since the 1970s. The National Agency for the Improvement of Working Conditions (ANACT) has been working on it since 1973, but it was not until 2003 that the French discovered the term with the first edition of the QWL Week. Each year, ANACT organises a week on a key QWL theme. In 2022, the 19th edition will focus on meaning at work.

Source : https://demainlequotidien.up.coop/equilibre-vie-pro-vie-privee/cartographie-de-la-qualite-de-vie-au-travail

The QWL approach, an asset for the company

Let's face it: it is in the company's best interest to make its employees happy at work.

Figures to back this up:

A study conducted by MIT and Harvard (2018), shows that happy employees are 2 times less sick, 6 times less absent, 9 times more loyal, 31% more productive, 55% more creative... Shall we continue? 

According to the IBET© study (the Workplace Well-Being Index) by the APICIL Group and Mozart Consulting, the average annual cost of unhappiness at work amounts to €14,580 per year and per employee in France in 2019. 

In short: the happier your employees are at work, the better they perform, the more money they lose...

All specialists are unanimous on this point: QWL/QCW participates in and contributes to the performance of companies; your employees perform better, work stoppages are reduced and a good working atmosphere is created in your premises.

By concentrating your efforts on the well-being and job satisfaction of your employees, you obtain de facto improved productivity on their part. Because feeling good about your work creates motivation and improves the performance of your employees, and therefore of the company. CQFD!

Adopting QWL is therefore a win/win system, which should bring on board even the most reserved or unconvinced by the subject. 

However, there are still 53% of companies that have not yet implemented any QWL action. Surprising, isn't it? 

Source: Sodexo quality of life services infographic

What are the objectives?

Before we start, let's ask ourselves: what do we want? 

Overall, obvious priorities can be defined as: avoiding Psychosocial Risks (PSR) at work, the main objective of the QWL approach.

Burn-out, bore-out, brown-out... The different manifestations of stress at work are quite well known. Employees say so: according to a Gallup study, 43% of employees are stressed and the health crisis has not helped.

Examples: MSDs (Musculoskeletal Disorders) are increasing by 20% per year and the global average turnover is 23%, etc.

This infographic from INRS provides further details:

Source:https://www.inrs.fr/risques/psychosociaux/ce-qu-il-faut-retenir.html

It is a question of making a successful transition from the risks mentioned above to the benefits of the QWL approach, namely : 

  • Reduction in the cost of ill-being (absenteeism, turnover, presenteeism) 
  • Development of motivational benefits (creativity, commitment, teamwork). 

But also: improved productivity, a stronger corporate culture, fewer accidents at work, improved attractiveness of the company, team cohesion, motivation, more innovation and, above all, loyalty among your employees, etc.

In this time of talent shortage, 'war for talent' or BIG QUITIn these times of talent shortage, "war for talent" or BIG QUIT, knowing how to retain or attract talent is a luxury that should not be neglected, and engaging in the QWL approach is a guarantee of success in these aspirations. This is a good reason for us to take an interest.

Let's not forget that itis also a legal obligation... In fact, it is 2 legal obligations for the employer:

  1. Ensure the health and safety of employees(Article L4121-1 of the Labour Code).
  2. Negotiate on this issue (LAW No. 2015-994 of 17 August 2015 on social dialogue and employment, known as the Rebsamen law).

Negotiations on QWL are therefore compulsory for certain companies. With the "health at work" law of 2 August 2021, the QWL can now include issues of working conditions from 31 March 2022. These negotiations concern "remuneration, in particular actual salaries, working time and the sharing of added value in the company", as well as " professional equality between women and men, in particular concerning measures to eliminate pay gaps, and the quality of life and working conditions".

In the absence of a method agreement setting out the framework for these negotiations, they should be undertaken annually. If there is an agreement, negotiations can take place every four years.

Tips for carrying out the QWL approach 

Where to start? 

Two levels for action:

The hypothesis is that agreement between the players on work, its issues and organisational choices will be easier to build by strengthening both professional and social dialogue.

  • Social dialogue: within the framework of the company's IRP (Instance représentative du personnel), work must be done to propose a single agreement covering several topics. 
  • Professional dialogue: by encouraging continuous training of managers and IORPs on work issues, creating spaces for discussion on work, using economic and social indicators to obtain a shared diagnosis and set up experiments. 

Points of support :

1. Measuring the QWL regularly

First, carry out a diagnosis to assess the physical and psychological health of your employees. You can also look for risk factors that may be present in your company. This assessment can be repeated regularly to check the consequences of your decisions in terms of QWL. 

It can also be used to update the single risk assessment document(DUERP).

2. Favouring collective construction

Firstly, make sure that you have a fair and diverse representation of positions in the company on the steering committee.

It is essential that each employee participates and expresses his or her views within the framework of the QWL approach. It is essential to set up a real dialogue between the people in charge of the project and the employees in order to define the QWL but also to propose solutions. 

As we have seen, these are subjective elements that belong to each person's experience, and we cannot ignore the feeling of problems 

3. Have an organised and experimental approach 

To be effective, QWL action must be framed, planned and monitored over time.

It is also recommended to know how to test, evaluate and adjust the actions implemented. Having a reflex of experimentation and regular evaluation of the health of employees thus leaves an interesting place for innovation, especially in these periods of great change.

Please note that this advice is not exhaustive and, as you will have understood, it is above all a question of sharing ideas that each company will want to discuss and adapt according to its particular characteristics.

Should the table football be burnt?

While it is true to say that the shift from QWL to QWL marks a certain criticism of the perhaps too "surface" responses that some companies had been able to take on QWL. 

However, company parties, table football, massage or games areas, or yoga and meditation classes are not in themselves bad ideas when they are part of an overall strategy that addresses the root causes of employee unhappiness. If, on the other hand, it is just a matter of providing 'bonuses' without looking at the organisation of work in the company, then the benefits of sports, games or any other initiative would be quickly lost. 

However, no one ever enters the company with their emotional baggage at the office door. Each employee is a unique individual, with his or her own joys, fears and wounds. Any initiative to help them reduce this stress is welcome and an asset for the company.

Encouraging team spirit through games or festive gatherings, supporting physical and moral health through physical activity, etc., all of this also makes it possible to act on your employees' "baggage". But beware, this does not constitute a QWL approach in itself. 

It is therefore up to each company to adopt the approach with its employees and to construct its own definition, while keeping in mind the founding principles, namely the complementary links between QWL and company performance, but also the right balance between the objective aspect of working conditions and the subjective aspect of QWL, without forgetting the three pillars of the perception of QWL (employment and working conditions, the ability to express oneself and act, and the content of work). 

The subject is complex and vast but, as you will have understood, it is necessary to embark on this adventure because everyone benefits from it. The QWL challenge for the company is undoubtedly a major step forward in reconciling talent with new work organisations that meet their expectations and needs... Teleworking, the 4-day week, a better work/life balance, new types of management, etc. It is up to each company to commit itself in collaboration with all levels of the structure to start the different projects and achieve years of success in QWL and thus obtain the happy marriage between employee well-being and company performance. Whether you are well ahead of the game or a little behind, there is always something to learn in the collective search for well-being at work... Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us, we invite you to comment on them and to send us your ideas and remarks. Your experiences are essential in order to provide you with more and more suitable proposals. Thank you and see you soon with SPART.

Edmond Kean

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