Jobs have changed dramatically in the last four decades. Mergers, reorganization, downsizing, and offshore hiring have led to job insecurity in many organizations. Technology and competitive markets are driving increased work demands with 24/7 work environments replacing the stereotypical working conditions of the mid-twentieth century. Organizations have expectations that non-work responsibilities will be arranged around work, and that employees demonstrate commitment to their work by their willingness to put in long hours, regardless of any outside, personal responsibilities.
Workers, particularly those in low- and middle-wage occupations, who are unable to access supportive workplace policies, must absorb increasingly insecure, fluctuating or high workloads, putting their health and well-being are at risk. U.S. life expectancy ranks near the bottom of OECD countries, and we have a higher prevalence of cardiovascular and metabolic disorders than nearly any Western European country. These trends are particularly striking among women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
We hypothesize that this American health disadvantage has its roots in the challenging social environment faced by working women, older Americans, and many others in the context of limited social protection policies and highly variable corporate practices. Key strategies for reducing the health disadvantage may revolve around reorganizing and redesigning the workplace.
The Workplace and Well-Being Initiative (WWBI) is a multi-disciplinary, broad-based research and policy initiative designed to develop and implement evidence-based workplace change for worker well-being. The goal of the initiative is to provide a deeper understanding of worker well-being, and to identify the workplace policies and practices that enhance the lives of workers in the workplace and throughout their lives. Our efforts will ultimately contribute to enhancing the ability of workers to engage in the workplace, with families, and in their communities.
The core research project of the Workplace and Well-Being Initiative is the Robert Wood Johnson Pioneering Ideas funded project, Workplace Redesign for Worker Well-Being: Blueprint for Resilience. This project examines sustainable practices for enhancing worker well-being and will assess evidence that investing in employee well-being and engagement leads to better organizational efforts.