QWL: three letters that have lost their meaning?

Happiness at work, well-being at work, quality of life at work… what does it mean?

The genesis of QWL

The idea of QWL emerged in the 1950s following Taylorism. After a long period of mass production leaving very little room for human beings, Eric Trist and Fred Emery highlighted the link between efficiency and quality of working life. New priorities arose from their work: giving autonomy, breaking monotony, but also prioritising the collective.

Later, in 1972, An International Labour conference was held in New York with the aim of defining “conditions for a more humane working life”, a first major milestone marking the beginning of the story of QWL.

The birth of QWL in France

While the Millennial generation embodies the quest for meaning, the topic remains universal. The need to belong to the company, the sharing of vision and values are prerequisites for employment, both for the employer and the future employee. Without a bond there is no engagement. Beyond the global understanding of the company’s purpose, the employee wants to understand their own role within the collective. Putting people back at the centre of strategy.

Taking into account the expectations of the employee.

In France, the concept of quality of working life is taking time to take shape. In 2007, the National Agency for the Improvement of Working Conditions (ANACT) advocated “the improvement of working conditions” with the primary aim of limiting “occupational risks”.

It was only in 2013 that a National Inter-Professional agreement (ANI) was drawn up between social partners and employers in order to precisely define Quality of Working Life as: ” The conditions in which employees perform their work, and their ability to express themselves and to act on the content of their work determine the resulting perception of their quality of working life ».

“In 2017 the jobs site Qapa.fr saw CHO job offers increase explosively by 1000% between 2014 and 2016. An increase that fell to 15% in 2017.”

What is left of QWL today?

The digital transformation and the boom of start-ups have changed the rules within the world of work. The digital transformation and the boom of start-ups have changed the rules within the world of work. The search for well-being, the importance of the working environment, the constant search for fellowship. Then in 2014 a new profession appeared, that of “Chief Happiness Officer” (CHO), officially responsible for the well-being of employees. A quest for happiness often experienced as an order. In 2017 the jobs site Qapa.fr saw CHO job offers increase explosively by 1000% between 2014 and 2016. An increase that fell to 15% in 2017.

Today it is difficult to find one’s way through the range of subjects covered by “QWL”. Employees enjoy a pleasant working environment and appreciate the new types of services offered by the modern company, but what’s at the root of this?

If we use the official definition of QWL, we are not talking about happiness but about working conditions. Are employees given sufficient resources to carry out their duties effectively (information, training, provision of tools)? Do they have the opportunity to express themselves (give their opinion, propose ideas)?

Improving the employee experience and creating engagement require continuous alignment between the company and the employee. A symmetry of attention between organisation – client – employee: satisfaction of each for the success of all.

Isn’t the secret to fulfillment participating actively in the creation of the future?