Quality of work life (QWL) can be defined as “The quality of relationship between employees and the total working environment.” QWL is a process by which an organization responds to employee needs by developing mechanisms to allow them to share fully in making the decisions that design their lives at work. The QWL approach considers people as an “asset” to the organization rather than “costs.” It believes that people perform better when they are allowed to participate in managing their work and making decisions.
This approach motivates people by satisfying not only their economic needs but also their social and psychological ones. To satisfy the new generation workforce, organizations need to concentrate on job designs and organization of work. Further, today’s workforce is realising the importance of relationships and is trying to strike a balance between career and personal lives. Various programmes such as flexi time, alternative work schedules, compressed work weeks, telecommuting, etc. are being adopted by these organizations.
Technological advances further help organizations to implement these programmes successfully. Organizations are enjoying the fruits of implementing QWL programmes in the form of increased productivity and an efficient, satisfied and committed workforce that aims to achieve organizational objectives.
1. Factors Influencing and Deciding the QWL
The factors that influence and decide the quality of work life are attitude, environment, opportunities, nature of job, people, stress level, career prospects, challenges, growth and development, risk involved and reward.
Attitude: The person who is entrusted with a particular job needs to have sufficient knowledge, required skill and expertise, enough experience, enthusiasm, energy level, willingness to learn new things, dynamism, sense of belongingness in the organization, involvement in the job, inter-personal relations, adaptability to changes in the situation, openness for innovative ideas, competitiveness, zeal, ability to work under pressure, leadership qualities and team spirit.
Environment: The job may involve dealing with customers who have varied tolerance level, preferences, behavioural pattern, level of understanding; or it may involve working with dangerous machines like drilling pipes, cranes, lathe machines, welding and soldering machines, or even with animals where maximum safety precautions have to be observed which needs lot of concentration, alertness, presence of mind, quick with involuntary actions, synchronization of eyes, hands and body, sometimes high level of patience, tactfulness, empathy and compassion and control over emotions.
Opportunities: Some jobs offer opportunities for learning, research, discovery, self development, enhancement of skills, room for innovation, public recognition, exploration, celebrity status and loads and loads of fame. Others are monotonous, repetitive, dull, routine, no room for improvement and in every sense boring. Naturally, the former is interesting and very much rewarding.
Nature of job: For example, a driller in an oil drilling unit, a driver , a fire fighter, traffic policeman, an engine driver, construction labourers, builders, miners, lathe mechanics have to do dangerous jobs and need to be more alert in order to avoid any loss of limb or loss of life. Whereas a pilot, doctor, judge or even a journalist have to be more prudent and tactful in handling the situation. A CEO, a professor, a teacher have more responsibilities and accountability but a safe working environment. A cashier or a security guard cannot afford to be careless in his job as it involves loss of money, property and wealth. A politician or a public figure cannot afford to be careless for his reputation and goodwill is at stake. Some jobs need soft skills, leadership qualities, intelligence, decision making abilities, abilities to train and extract work from others; other jobs need forethought, vision and yet other jobs require motor skills, perfection and extreme carefulness.
People: Almost everyone has to deal with three sets of people in the workplace. Those are, namely co-workers at the same level and subordinates. Apart from this, some professions need interaction with people like patients, media persons, the public, customers, thieves, robbers, physically disabled people, mentally challenged, children, foreign delegates, gangsters, politicians, public figures and celebrities. These situations demand a high level of prudence, a cool temper, tactfulness, humour, kindness, diplomacy and sensitivity.
Stress level: All these above mentioned factors are interrelated and interdependent. Stress levels need not be directly proportional to the compensation. Stress is of different types— mental stress/physical stress and psychological or emotional stress. A managing director of a company will have a lot of mental stress. A labourer will face physical stress. Psychiatric stress causes more damage than physical stress.
Career prospects: Every job should offer some career development. This is an important factor which decides the quality of work life. An improvement in status and recognition from the management are the motivating factors for anyone to take a keen interest in his job. The work atmosphere should be conducive to achieve organizational goals as well as individual development. It is a win-win situation for both the parties; an employee should be rewarded appropriately for his good work, extra efforts, sincerity. At the same time, a lethargic and careless employee should be penalized suitably. This will motivate the former to work with more zeal and deter the latter from being so and strive for better performance.
Challenges: The job should offer some challenges at least to make it interesting. This enables an employee to upgrade his knowledge, skills and capabilities. A monotonous job makes a person dull, unenthusiastic, dissatisfied, frustrated, complacent and uninteresting. Challenge is the fire that keeps the innovation and thrill alive. A well accomplished challenging job yields greater satisfaction than a monetary perk; it boosts one’s self-confidence also.
2. Evaluation of QWL Programmes
QWL programmes can be evaluated on the basis of following points:
- Fair compensation and job security: The economic interests of people drive them to work at a job and employee satisfaction depends, at least partially, on the compensation offered. Pay should be fixed on the basis of the work done, responsibilities undertaken, individual skills, performance and accomplishments. Job security is another factor that is of concern to employees. Permanent employment provides security to the employees and improves their QWL.
- Health is wealth: Organizations should realise that their true wealth lies in their employees and so providing a healthy work environment for employees should be their primary objective.
- Provide personal and career growth opportunities: An organization should provide employees with opportunities for personal/professional development and growth and to prepare them to accept responsibilities at higher levels.
- Participative management style and recognition: Flat organizational structures help organizations facilitate employee participation. A participative management style improves the quality of work life. Workers feel that they have control over their work processes and they also offer innovative ideas to improve them. Recognition also helps to motivate employees to perform better. Recognition can be in the form of rewarding employees for jobs done well.
- Work-life balance: Organizations should provide leisure time for the employees and offer tips to balance their personal and professional lives. They should not strain an employee’s personal and social life by forcing on them demanding working hours, overtime work, business travel, untimely transfers etc. Box 9.4 discusses an initiative of the NASSCOM Foundation to promote work-life balance among the members of the Indian IT industry.
- Fun at the workplace: This is a growing trend adopted by today’s organizations to make their offices a fun place to work.
The aim of QWL is to identify and implement alternative programmes to improve the quality of professional as well as the personal life of employees.
Source: Poornima M. Charantimath (2017), Total Quality Management, Pearson; 3rd edition.