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The changing work environment and employee wellbeing

In this article, we explore the major changes to the workplace that have happened since the 1980s and their effect on employee wellbeing.
Hour glass and calendar concept for time slipping away for important appointment date, schedule and deadline
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
The workplace has changed dramatically in recent times, particularly in the last few decades. This has had a significant effect on employee wellbeing.

The 1980s

This decade saw a number of changes in a short space of time including the start of the ‘enterprise culture’, the Americanisation of the workplace, privatisation of public sector, company mergers and acquisitions. The result of which was that jobs were no longer ‘safe’.

The 1990s

This decade saw the start of a change in psychological contracts. The psychological contract exists between an employee and their employer and refers to the subjective expectations, beliefs and obligations as perceived by both (CIPD 2018). Changes in the psychological contract are the result of the changing organisation.
In the past, employment was a long-term contract with an employee acquiring skills ‘on the job’ and rising through the ranks, today it is increasingly characterised by time-limited contracts even for technical workers and highly-skilled professionals. The result of which is high workloads, decreased job security and a decline in organisational commitment (Smithson and Lewis 2000).

The new millennium

The beginning of the new millennium saw a number of developments, such as the start of the short-term contract culture, job insecurity, outsourcing, downsizing, as well as delayering.
In addition, a new culture of long hours began to develop, and along with it the ‘flexible’ workforce, the working day was no longer restricted to the traditional nine to five.

Long hours

The culture of long hours is having an impact on employee wellbeing, motivation, morale, and loyalty. On a frequent basis, the Chartered Institute Personnel and Development report frequent surveys of long hours cultures and lack of work-life balance (CIPD 2015).
In addition, the Chartered Management Institute reported in a study of 10,000 managers that:
  • 56% were working long hours and this had seriously damaged their health
  • 54% adversely affected their relationship with their children
  • 60% damaged their relationships with their partners
  • 46% damaged their productivity at work
  • There was an average of 10 days sick leave per year

Organisational restructuring

Organisational restructuring is a regular occurrence in an increasingly competitive market, which has resulted in many changes, including:
  • Zero hour contracts – young people/ageing population
  • Increase in part-time roles
  • Individuality, lack of loyalty, moving organisations for promotion
  • Globalisation, geographic locations, virtual teams, work roles and time patterns for working hours
  • Flexible working
  • Impact of technology ‘virtual organisations’
  • Freelance working
  • Leaders, managers, union relationships, legality and litigation
  • Job insecurity

Specific workplace factors that impact workplace wellbeing

Robertson and Cooper (2011: 78) argue that there are a number of specific workplace factors that impact employee wellbeing, which they categorise into four main clusters:

Work and its context

  • Work demands
  • Access to resources and equipment
  • The effectiveness of communication in the organisation

Relationships at work and the work-home interface

  • Relationships with colleagues
  • Social support

Purpose and meaning

  • Clarity about work goals
  • Feeling that work goals are worthwhile

Leadership, management and supervision

  • Impact that manager has on the workgroup
  • Leadership commitment to employee wellbeing

Your task

Which, in your point of view, is the most prominent challenge that millennials are called to deal with in the changing work environment? You might want to think about Mary Lucas from the welcome video.
How might this adversely impact their levels of wellbeing? Base your answer to your own or other people’s working experience.
Explain your answers in the comments area and like or reply to posts you find useful or interesting.


Robertson, I.T., Cooper, C.L. (2011) Well-Being Productivity and Happiness at Work [online] Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. available from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=COV_ALMA5156240180002011&context=L&vid=COV_VU1&search_scope=LSCOP_COV&isFrbr=true&tab=local&lang=en_US [10th May 2019]
Cooper, C., L. (2009) ‘The Changing Nature of Work: Enhancing the Mental Capital and Well-being of the Workplace’ Twenty-First Century Society [online] 4 (3), 269-275. available from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=TN_tayfranc10.1080/17450140903197393&context=PC&vid=COV_VU1&search_scope=Primo_Central&tab=remote&lang=en_US [10th May 2019]
Cooper, C., L., Field, J., Goswami, U., Jenkins, R., Sahakian, B. (2010) Mental Capital and Well-being [online] Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. available from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=TN_scopus2-s2.0-75849150189&context=PC&vid=COV_VU1&search_scope=Primo_Central&tab=remote&lang=en_US [10th May 2019]
Smithson, J., Lewis, S. (2000) ‘Is Job Insecurity Changing the Psychological Contract?’ Personnel Review [online] 29 (6), 680–702. available from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=TN_proquest31026454&context=PC&vid=COV_VU1&search_scope=Primo_Central&tab=remote&lang=en_US [10th May 2019]
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
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Wellbeing at Work: An Introduction

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