quality of working life


Also found in: Acronyms.

quality of working life (QWL)

an approach to organizational and work design which advocates the merit of considering the well-being of employees, their participation in work-related decisions, and, relatedly organizational effectiveness. The term originated in the US in the 1960s, but the underlying theoretical impetus derives from earlier European SOCIOTECHNICAL SYSTEMS writings and experiments, and QWL programmes have occurred in various countries. The QWL movement has been concerned with employee health, safety and job satisfaction, and has been associated with attempts to develop techniques and methods for improving the experience of work. These include JOB REDESIGN, autonomous work groups, and labour-management committees (Huse and Cummings, 1985). Critics of such programmes suggest that managers are the main beneficiaries. Autonomous work groups, it is argued, help to resolve management problems of control which typically arise from a Taylorian approach to work design (see SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT), and do so in ways which involve insignificant adjustment to managerial prerogative. Moreover, traditional work design is seen to be less suited to conditions of tight labour markets and turbulent environments. This kind of reasoning underpins some of the more critical assessments of QWL programmes, the popularity of which appears to have waned since the 1970s (Hill, 1981). Such views have to be placed alongside those of theorists and practitioners who suggest that employees also derive considerable benefits from participation in the redesign of work (Mumford, 1980).
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