Research

Work and Wellbeing

Many pressing political, economic, and social issues are closely linked to work – this concerns climate change or the effects of the covid-19 pandemic and inflation just as much as social inequalities between regions, income groups or genders.

This project was initiated to explore how the quality of work can be measured in the future in order to effectively improve the situation of working people as well as work research and policymaking.

This page provides information on the research process behind this website.

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Core Argument

Work: a Universal Process

This project’s core argument is that work, while contributing to individual wellbeing, can also provide a framework for wider societal wellbeing analyses. Wellbeing can be analysed and compared through the lens of work quality because, if defined broadly enough, it represents a universal process behind how people engage with their natural and social environment.

Research Design

Steps of the research process

To find out how work quality could be captured and compared more rigorously, a mixed-methods research design was developed.

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Exploring interdisciplinary academic literature

To conceptualise work appropriately, literature from multiple areas like political economy, philosophy, economic history, development economics, social statistics, management, occupational medicine, and occupational psychology was taken into consideration.

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Theoretical framework development

Based on this literature, gaps in the academic and political treatment of work were identified. A first draft of a more inclusive framework of work quality was developed.

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Quantitative analysis of established surveys

Next, some established surveys were analysed to find out whether there are already sufficient empirical data for engaging with work in the way the framework proposes.

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Qualitative panel discussions with working people

Working people’s voices were included into the project through small-scale panel discussions with working people from heterogenous fields. The aim was to trial and adjust the framework while also filling in the gaps of established survey instruments.

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Expert interviews

In order to interpret the panel results, four complementary expert interviews were held. Excerpts from these interviews are embedded into this website to contextualise the information provided.

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Impact and communication

Panel participants emphasised it matters to them that research has consequences. Hence, a particular focus was placed on communicating results in various ways, making them accessible and useable for researchers, decisionmakers, and working people themselves.

All research presented on this website was conducted for a doctoral thesis in Politics at the University of Manchester between 2020 and 2023.

More details on methodology, research design, and data analysis will be made accessible on this website as soon as the thesis and its potential revisions are completed. If you have any questions about the research in the meantime, feel free to get in touch via the contact form.

Results

Work research: a new agenda

Each step of the research process has led to insights that can help transform work quality and the research of it.

Different academic fields and approaches set differing priorities when conceptualising work 

To overcome their weaknesses, their strengths ought to be unified into a single approach – such an approach is the foundation of the further research process

Some work-related inequalities are frequently absent from political debates

A broader definition of work (quality) is necessary to overcome intersecting crises 

Work quality encompasses other dimensions beyond conditions

Not all dimensions of work quality are sufficiently captured

Data collection tools are not designed to capture ‘work’ but ‘employment’

Capacities for capturing diverse experiences are therefore limited

Participants report very strong link between work and wellbeing

They support theoretical considerations especially regarding character and recognition

Further, they emphasise the political relevance of including different activities 

Experts confirm work’s multidimensional impact

They recognise the importance of capturing different activities

Simultaneously, they see barriers regarding research practices

The thesis offers detailed insights for work research

The website offers accessible information surrounding work

Events, meetings, and presentations foster communication and exchange between different agents

Oliver Suchy, German Trade Union Confederation (DGB)

In Conversation

Transformation

Oliver Suchy explains which challenges formal employment could face in the future:

Anna-Maria Köhnke

Doctoral researcher | Politics Department
University of Manchester

BA Politics, Philosophy & Economics 
MA Political Economy

Researcher and Website Lead

Who's behind this research?

Anna-Maria Köhnke researches work and wellbeing as a PhD candidate at the University of Manchester. She has taught at the University of Manchester (UK, in Economics) and the Leuphana University Lüneburg (Germany, in Politics). Moreover, she works as a quality manager (focusing on the quality of work) at Pflegeteam Hamel, an in-home care service near Hamburg (Germany), where she applies her research insights into occupational practice. You can find her published academic literature in our reference collection under the tag "Anna's work".

Team

Contributors

Various people have contributed over a longer period of time to this project's development.

Sherilyn MacGregor

Professor of Environmental Politics

University of Manchester

John O'Neill

Hallsworth Chair in Political Economy

University of Manchester

Prof Sherilyn MacGregor and Prof John O'Neill supervise Anna-Maria's thesis at the University of Manchester. They have accompanied the entire research process in an advising and supporting role. They draw from many years of experience in theoretical and empirical research in the interdisciplinary field of political economy.

 

 

Jonah Bernhold studies social work in Hamburg, previously in Vechta, and contributed to the empirical research as a voluntary assistant. He has experience in social work and pedagogy, which enabled him to take on an advising and supporting role during panel research with a heterogenous group of working people.

Jonah Bernhold

Student (Social Work)

Rauhes Haus

Benjamin Graf

Conceptional Design

Benjamin Grafik

Benjamin Graf is a web designer and was part of the design and planning of this website from the very beginning; thus, the responsibility for its creative and technical realisation was his. Through his efforts, this website facilitates communication of research results to a wider audience and establishes a versatile collection of ressources for working people.

If you're looking for support with conceptual design or visualisations of projects, use these links to get in touch.

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