Poland: Recent Developments in Work Organisation in the EU 27 Member States and Norway

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 24 Listopad 2011



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Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

Generally speaking, there has not been any national research conducted on work organization in Poland. Neither at the national nor regional, local or sectoral levels has statistical data been collected. One can find some information only in European research based on sources such as Eurofound’s European Company Survey or the Fourth European Working Conditions Survey. Lean management and discretionary learning are the most frequently used forms of work organization in Poland, but it is not possible to provide full description of the existing forms of work organization, their evolution in time, and influence on working conditions, especially during the current crisis. There are no agreements signed between social partners to support changes in work organisation. Social partners seem to be uninterested in taking up and developing work organization patterns.

Block 1: Existing main sources of information dealing with the issue of work organisation at national level and its relation with working conditions, innovation and productivity

  • Are there national statistical sources (censuses, special surveys, other surveys, etc.) that analyse the issue of work organisation or are used for analysing the issue of work organisation in your country? If so, identify them and explain the way work organisation types are defined and asked in these surveys.

  • Are there any other main sources of information published after mid-2000s that may provide valuable information on the issue (i.e. ad-hoc studies, sectoral studies, administrative reports, articles, published case studies, etc.)? If so, identify them.

  • Have there been any innovations introduced/expected in the existing national statistical sources intended to take into account the issue of work organisation in your country?

There are no national statistical sources that analyse the issue of work organisation. Neither is it covered by statistical research or other information sources. The main fields of research are more often issues of the Human Resources Management field than work organization stricto sensu.

However, some data, on employees’ opinion about work organization within their workplace, is provided in surveys (“Working Poles 2005” “Working Poles 2007”. According to the research results more than 75% of employees in Poland rated the following aspects of their workplace as a good: organization of work, occupational safety, work discipline (focus on proper supervision and careful fulfilment of the assigned tasks), professionalism of supervisors (supervisors are solid professionals), encouraging teamwork (encouraging employees to work as a team, and making effort to create positive atmosphere of cooperation among employees), respect for supervisors (supervisors are respected by their employees) and access to training programmes (the employer provides employees with training opportunities ). Data shows it is possible to define a hierarchy of enterprises in terms of the above described conditions of work: at the top of the list there are small public sector enterprises, followed by foreign-owned enterprises, medium-sized public sector enterprises, large private Polish-owned firms, and large public sector enterprises. The list closes with private Polish-owned enterprises: medium-sized, small firms, and micro-enterprises in a descending order. Unfortunately, one cannot describe patterns of work organization within companies located in Poland. The surveys present only employees’ opinions, and not the real work organization patterns (one does not know what “work organization” is within these companies).

Due to the lack of national data sources a more comprehensive description can be derived from the non-national research, such as:

- “The transformation of work? A quantitative evaluation of change in work in the New Member States”, WORKS, May 2008

- “Fourth European Working Conditions Survey”, Eurofound 2007

- “European Company Survey 2009 – Overview”, Eurofound, 2010

- “European Company Survey 2009. Part-time work in Europe”, Eurofound, 2011.

- “Working conditions in the European Union: Work organisation”, Eurofound, 2009

Block 2: Identify existing patterns of work organisation at national level and recent evolution in time

  • Describe existing patterns of work organisation at national aggregated level (according to existing used national definitions) and their associated characteristics per pattern, based on the existing information. Provide information on the (quantitative and qualitative) importance of the different forms of these work organisations in the national context. In order to reflect the workplace practices, NCs are also requested to provide information on different work organisation-related-items, based on the national Working Conditions surveys that stress the main changes that have taken place in the last 5-7 years (i.e. higher/lower presence of team work; higher/lower presence of autonomy at work; higher/lower presence of job rotation; higher/lower assistance from colleagues or hierarchy; higher/lower task complexity; higher/lower degree of learning, higher/lower problem solving capacity, etc.), stressing existing differences by sectors and enterprise sizes, and identifying the main reasons behind these changes.

  • Identify (if possible), the recent evolution in time of work organisation patterns in your country (last 5-7 years). Pay special attention to the effects derived from the current economic crisis.

  • Identify existing differences in work organisation patterns accordingly to sector and company size considerations, as well as (if possible) recent changes in these patterns.

  • Identify work organisation patterns associated with high performance working environments/enterprises.

  • Identify the main drivers for change or barriers to change underpinning these recent developments in work organisation in the country, paying special attention to the effects derived from the current economic crisis.

  • Partners are requested to identify one/the most dynamic national economic sector in terms of work organisation changes and for whom information is available. For this selected economic sector, NCs are requested to provide information on existing predominant work organisation patterns in this sector, as well as recent trends and changes in the last 5-7 years and reasons behind these changes. Also, and in the case the selected economic sector is a non-tertiary one, NCs are requested to provide some general information on recent trends and changes in work organisation patterns in the last 5-7 years and reasons behind these changes in any tertiary sector selected by each NC (i.e. consultancy services, HORECA, consultancy services, call centres, etc.).

One cannot describe existing patterns of work organization in Poland based only on national data because such data is not being collected. Therefore, analysts have to draw from the European data sources to describe and explain patterns of work organization. According to the European surveys, in Poland the lean production forms of work organization are most common.

For example, according to the report “Working conditions in the European Union: Work organization”, which is based on the fourth European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), the lean management (32.6%) and discretionary learning (33.3%) are the most frequently used forms of work organization in Poland. Traditional or simple and taylorist forms of work organisation are less frequently used, 15.2% and 18.9% respectively.

According to the report, the lean production is mainly defined by an overrepresentation of teamwork, autonomous or otherwise, and job rotation, particularly multi-skilling. This class also has a high degree of quality management variables, including self-assessment of quality of work and quality norms, as well as the indirect variable of just-in-time production, measured by demand-driven constraints on work pace without or almost without direct customer contact. It also features various factors constraining pace of work. This class displays strong learning dynamics and relies on employees’ contribution to problem solving. However, autonomy at work is hardly above the average and is encompassed by the importance of work pace constraints linked to the collective nature of the work and to the requirement of respecting strict quantitative production norms.

Based on the abovementioned European surveys, one can provide information only on few work organization-related items in Poland such as teamwork, autonomy at work, pace of work and intensity of work.

The fourth European Working Conditions Survey outlines the level of work autonomy by five indicators. Three of these indicators have to do with the worker’s freedom to exercise control over their work process (the ability to choose or change the order of tasks, methods of work and speed rate of work); the fourth refers to the influence the worker has over the choice of working partners, and the fifth concerns the ability of the worker to interrupt their work in order to take a short break, when they wish. A composite indicator which was constructed from the five indicators shows that in Poland employees' autonomy is below the European average.

The fourth EWCS indicates two main determinants of the pace of work – direct demands from people and automatic speed of a machine. The pace of work determined by the direct demands from people can be understood as an indicator of direct market constraints upon the work process while the pace of work determined by the automatic speed of a machine can be understood as an indicator of direct industrial constraints. According to the survey, Poland is in the group of countries (together with Turkey and most of eastern European states) where industrial constraints are much more important as a determinant of the pace of work and market constraints are much less important than in most other countries. The survey shows that the industrial constraints affect only 19% of European workers.

Taking the teamwork into account one can say that, according to the European Company Survey 2009, in about 78% of the establishments in Poland managers perceive teamwork as an important characteristic of the work organization (the European average is about 82%). And in 21% of establishments this is mainly autonomous teamwork while in the rest - hierarchically organised teamwork. EWCS shows that 60% of employees in Poland work in teams, about 26% of which are autonomous teams. According to EWCS the teamwork autonomy, which constitutes an advanced form of teamwork, means that employees who work in teams can decide themselves on the division of tasks and can select team leaders.

Taking the functional flexibility into account, EWCS shows that in Poland about 52% of employees rotate tasks with colleagues, while the European average is about 50%. But only 31% of employees rotate different-skill tasks with colleagues. Such type of rotation indicates an advanced form of functional flexibility. In brief, Poland is in the group of the southern and eastern European countries where ‘advanced’ forms of work organization are considerably less prevalent.

According to Eurofound’s “Fourth European Working Conditions Survey” there are three indicators for work intensity: ‘working at a very high speed’, ‘working to tight deadlines’ and ‘not having enough time to get the job done’. In order to simplify the analysis, a composite index has been constructed, using the two indicators ‘working at a very high speed’ and ‘working to tight deadlines’. The intensity index for the EU27 is 43%, while in Poland it is less than 35%.

The authors of “Fourth European Working Conditions Survey” use Karasek’s model to summarize the overall conclusions of the analysis of work organization. The model looks simultaneously at job demands and job control and divide the different forms of work organization into four categories: active work organization, characterized by high demands and high control; high-strain work organization (high demands and low control); low-strain work organization (low demands and high control); and passive work organization (low demands and low control). Poland is in the group of countries that approaches most closely the passive work organization category; according to Karasek, this model has the most negative implications for performance.

Because of the previously mentioned lack of data, it is not possible to identify additional information on recent evolution of patterns of work organisation at the national level, especially during the current economic crisis. For the same reasons, it is not possible to identify the existing differences in work organization patterns accordingly to sector and company size, high performance working environments/enterprises, or other particular indicators.

Block 3: Associated effects of identified different forms of work organisation and work organisation-related items on working conditions

  • Identify associated effects of different existing patterns of work organisation and work organisation-related items on working conditions (i.e. training, skills and employability; health, safety and well-being; working time and work-life balance). Particular elements to be analysed may include stress, job satisfaction, work life balance, workloads and learning

  • Identify (possible) changes in working conditions associated to each work organisation pattern in the last 5-7 years, as well as the main reasons underpinning these changes

  • Partners are requested to provide information focused on the existing relationship between predominant work organisation patterns and existing working conditions in the economic sector selected in previous section.

There are a few research sources on forms of work organization and work organization-related items on working conditions in Poland. Based on the European surveys, one can characterize only the general situation of particular working conditions. However, it is hardly possible to associate them to work organization patterns, because the surveys provide characteristics only on general European level, mostly without describing differences among countries.

According to the ECS, as far as training is concerned, one can observe that in Poland about 70% of establishments regularly check the training needs of employees and almost 60% of establishments give employees time off for training. In the EU it is about 73% and 61% respectively.

The Establishment Survey on Working Time 2004–2005, which aimed to analyse working time arrangements and work–life balance issues at the workplace, focused on aspects such as flexible working hours, overtime, part-time work, work at unusual hours, such as shift or night work and weekend work, childcare leave or other forms of long-term leave, and phased or early retirement. The survey distinguishes six different types of companies within the 21 European countries: high-flexibility (worker oriented type or company oriented type), intermediate type of flexibility companies (overtime type, life course type or day-to-day type) and low-flexibility organizations. According to the ESWT the life course type is the dominant in Poland (35% of Polish companies). Additionally, taking work-life balance into account, according to the EWCS, in Poland almost 48% of people are not satisfied with their work-life balance. This could indicate that dominant forms of working time arrangements in Poland do not meet the expectations of Polish employees in terms of work-life balance.

As the EWCS shows, in Poland employees strongly perceive an impact of work on health. While the EU average is 35%, in Poland around two thirds of workers report that work affects their health. Respondents in Poland report high levels of physical risks but relatively low levels of psychological risk. The number of days of health-related leave in Poland is 5.5 days per worker (all workers), the EU average is 4.5.

The ECS 2009 consider working time flexibility as an important dimension of analyses of working time. According to the ECS 2009, about 51% of establishments in Poland use flexitime arrangements. Flexibility schemes of work are available to about 54% of the entire workforce. A comparison between the ECS 2009 and the ESWT 2004–2005 shows that the proportion of companies making use of flexitime schemes has notably increased between 2005 and 2009. The most popular flexible working time arrangements are these which offer possibility to use accumulated hours including for full days off, which are used in almost 30% of Polish establishments. Also, increase in the use of arrangements allowing for an accumulation of working hours can be observed in all countries except Greece, Ireland, Latvia and Poland, where the level has remained about the same over the past four years.

According to the report “Part-time work in Europe” based on the European Company Survey 2009, while over the last decade there has been seen a steady increase in the part-time employment rate in Europe, in Poland this rate has decreased (from 10.5% in 1999 to 8.4% in 2009).

Taking overtime work into account, the ECS 2009 shows that in 68% of establishments in the EU, overtime hours were worked, while in Poland it was only 51%. In Polish establishments, the compensation for overtime hours by payment is most widespread at company level, with almost half of establishments compensating overtime solely in this manner.

The ECS 2009 provides some basic information on the operation of establishments at unusual hours. Overall, in about 44% of establishments within the EU, there are employees who regularly have to work at unusual hours, defined as working time regimes that substantially differ from the standard pattern of work during week days and at daytime.

In Poland the most common atypical working time is work on Saturdays (37%), Sunday work is considerably less widespread than work on Saturdays, with about a quarter (26%) of establishments having employees working on that day. Work at night is practised by a quarter (25%) of establishments in Poland. This could be connected with the apparent predominance of lean management and discretionary learning forms of work organisation in Poland. “Working conditions in the European Union: Work organisation” shows that night work is more prominent in Taylorist forms of work organisation and, to a lesser extent, in the lean production forms. They are also, but far less extensively, diffused in the discretionary learning forms. Concerning Saturday or Sunday work, working at the weekend is a little more common in the lean production forms.

Block 4: Social partners’ position with regard to the issue of work organisation patterns

  • Attitude/opinion of the social partners in your country on the importance of encouraging changes of work organisation in the economic tissue

  • Main elements identified by social partners and associated with forms of work organisation, which have an impact on the improvement of working conditions and performance.

  • Please distinguish (if possible) different views between trade unions and employers organisations.

  • In some countries, agreements have been signed between social partners or initiatives/programmes have been developed by employers and/or trade unions in order to support changes in work organisation for different reasons (e.g. facing the economic crisis, improvement of productivity/performance and/or working conditions). Please, describe one/two relevant agreements or initiatives with the aim of supporting changes in work organisation.

Generally speaking, the lack of interest in work organization issue is also strongly visible among social partners. Interviewed representatives of social partners had problems with understanding the issue. The concept of work organization was unclear to them.

On the one hand, social partners underline that Polish work organisation patterns are undergoing important changes. More and more employers are interested in more flexible work organization pattern, but, flexibility has pros and cons for employees. The newly implemented type of work organization can give a sense of autonomy and empower employees at the workplace (i.e. through incorporating people in decision making process). On the other hand, the greater flexibility can be a threat to employees’ social and job security, which can also strongly affect the work-life balance.

Social partners say openly that Polish employers' associations are not interested in the topic of work organisation because they perceive it as an issue too specific. Although underline they the importance of changes in time of work, which should be more flexible, they are more interested in more general economic factors and situation in Poland. Furthermore, employers' associations do not have experts in this area.

There are no agreements signed between social partners with regard to the issue of work organization patterns in Poland.

To sum up, the issue of work organization patterns does not play significant role in the activities of social partners in Poland, which can be connected or caused by the general lack of concern with this issue.

Commentary by the NC

There is a significant lack of data on work organization in Poland. There are no statistical data, or case studies, for example, referring to the main dimensions of work organization as described in “Working conditions in the European Union: Work organization”, such as autonomy in work, teamwork or cognitive dimensions of work. Neither are the social partners interested in this issue nor do they undertake special actions in order to support changes in work organisation.

In brief, according to the available data, Poland is in the group of the southern and eastern European countries where ‘advanced’ forms of work organisation are considerably less prevalent.

Interviewed persons:

Marta Trawinska, Institute of Public Affairs

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