W@W: Wellbeing @ Work

by L. Ratti, C. Vögele and A. Kornadt

Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the debate on the future of work revolved around two concurrent narratives: the omnipresent automation of working environments and the emergence of new forms of work, facilitated by technology.

Research on workers’ fundamental rights and wellbeing, therefore, was mainly focused on digitalisation-driven concerns. With the start of the pandemic, such focus proved to be incomplete since reality turned towards unprecedented perspectives. Lockdown measures were introduced globally. In all European countries, essential workers were overexposed and most intellectual workers suspended or confined to homeworking. This initiated a radical change in the working paradigm: the matrix of work – namely the workplace – unexpectedly disappeared in its original features, leaving working people and employers alike without a stable anchor. Some policy makers are attempting to address such changes prematurely by suggesting the introduction of new laws (e.g. the legal right for a fixed number of home office days, as is the case in Germany). Actions are clearly called for, but should be based on empirical evidence.

The W@W Project aims to provide this evidence by addressing some crucial questions: How does the Covid-19 pandemic impact the concept and notion of workplace? How will telework be regulated? How will employees’ privacy at work be preserved? How will wages and productivity be measured? How will Covid-19 related changes to the work-environment and changes to its regulation affect employees’ health and well-being? How will the diversity of the workforce in terms of age and resources impact those relations? We will investigate these questions in six European countries (Luxembourg, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Sweden), through a legal analysis of the regulatory measures taken and their implications. This will be empirically complemented by data from a representative, longitudinal survey, which tackles the individual consequences of the measures in the different countries. In addition, we will conduct a case study with a Luxembourg-based industrial partner. We will integrate these findings and propose policy measures by introducing the concept of the “work-sphere”, which might replace the workplace as we know it.

The current pandemic continues to severely impact our way of life in all contexts and at all levels, individual societal and globally. It may be that once it is over, we will return to normal. Business as usual, regulations as usual, wellbeing as usual. Or maybe not. This project will help us to be prepared.

Prof. Dr. Luca RATTI

Prof. Dr. Claus VÖGELE

Prof. Dr. Anna Elena KORNADT