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Working conditions and sustainable work

Working conditions and sustainable work is one of the six main activities in Eurofound’s work programme for the 2021–2024 period. Eurofound will continue to operate as a centre of expertise for monitoring and analysing developments in this area, including how the COVID-19 crisis has been impacting on working conditions and job quality, as well as on workplace practices.


Recent updates


Workers will experience the effects of climate change in many ways: job insecurity, changes to their work tasks and responsibilities, and changes in their workplaces that may involve different work...

1 July 2024
Research report

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The post-pandemic recovery of Europe continued in 2023, with strong job creation despite subdued economic growth, against a background of rising geopolitical tension. Eurofound’s research over the year brought to...

2 May 2024
Annual report

Key policy messages

The main findings emerging from Eurofound research serve as input for policymakers to address some of the key issues in this area.

  • Improving working conditions is crucial for workers and employers. Many different aspects in job quality need to be considered. Good-quality jobs enable people to have longer and better working lives, contributing to sustainable work and a positive work–life balance.
  • Working conditions in the EU are generally improving, even if the pace of progress is gradual. Progress has not been as fast for some groups of workers: it depends on the type of work contract, the sector and the level of educational attainment.
  • There are many ways to improve working conditions and job quality in the EU. Governments certainly have an important role to play in establishing the framework through regulation. But workers and employers and their organisations are also important actors. For many dimensions of job quality, the workplace is where change happens.
  • Only one-fifth of European companies have found the secret for attaining optimal workplace well-being and business performance. ‘High investment, high involvement’ workplaces have been shown to offer the best outcomes for workers and employers, boosting performance and improving job quality through increasing employee autonomy, facilitating employee involvement and promoting training and learning.
  • Many people are struggling to combine work and non-work commitments, in particular parents and other carers. While flexible working arrangements can help address these difficulties, they also bring challenges. Telework, for example, offers more freedom to choose when and where to work, but it can also lead to longer working hours at higher intensity and with greater difficulty to disconnect from work.
  • The rise in telework during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the blurring of lines between work and private life. Many governments and social partners are discussing ‘right to disconnect’ initiatives in order to prevent large segments of workers being at risk of physical and emotional exhaustion.
  • In future, social partners should aim to include provisions for workers on the voluntary nature of telework or the suitability of specific tasks for teleworking in any legal frameworks or agreements. Clarification about how employers can contribute to expenses linked to working from home, as well as guarantees of equal pay and access to training for those working remotely, will also be critical.

2021–2024 work plan

During 2021–2024, Eurofound will provide important insights into the challenges and prospects related to working conditions and sustainable work in the EU. Building on long-established expertise in this area, Eurofound will look at trends and progress over time and identify emerging concerns around working conditions and job quality. The analysis will cover different countries, sectors, occupations and groups of workers on issues such as work organisation and teleworkingworking timework–life balanceequal treatmentworkplace health and well-beingskills and trainingearnings and prospects, and job satisfaction. Non-standard forms of employment will be a specific focus, particularly self-employment.

In light of the EU’s demographic challenge of an ageing population and the increasing diversity of working life, Eurofound will continue to explore the factors enabling more workers to stay in employment longer. It will also put the spotlight on improving job quality as an enabler of greater labour market participation and increased employee motivation, contributing to sustainable work over the life course.

The links between work and health will be investigated in close consultation with the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). Eurofound aims to build on its collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on issues around the future of work and working conditions at global level.

Addressing stakeholder priorities

Eurofound’s research aims to assist policy action to improve working conditions and job quality, while progressing towards sustainable work, helping to address the challenges facing the EU and national levels in the areas of work and employment. It focuses on identifying pressing issues and specific groups at risk and analysing selected elements.

The Agency’s work plan is aligned with the European Commission’s political guidelines over the next four years, directly feeding into a number of key policy areas aimed at creating a robust social Europe. In particular, Eurofound’s research will support policy initiatives under the European Pillar of Social Rights in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and activities linked to, among other initiatives, the European Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025, the reinforced Youth Guarantee, the Youth Employment Support package, the skills agenda, as well as innovation and job creation and the European Commission’s proposal for adequate minimum wages in the EU.

Eurofound research

Eurofound continues to monitor developments in working conditions, with a particular focus on improvements in the job quality of older workers, the challenges associated with specific types of self-employment and the longer-term structural impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In 2024, fieldwork commences for the newest edition of the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS), which includes questions on working conditions and work–life outcomes relevant to the aftermath of COVID-19. The first results are planned for the end of 2024. 

Final analysis of data from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey 2021 (EWCTS) feeds into three studies in 2024: an analysis of working conditions and work practices in the hybrid workplace; an investigation of changing working time patterns; and an examination of the job quality of older workers.

Research commences on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe, examining levels of digitalisation, digital skills, innovation and training strategies. This research assesses how workers in SMEs compare to the average in terms of working conditions, job quality, digital skills and take-up of training. 

Research in 2024 also aims to identify the most vulnerable group of workers by examining employment relationships that combine several unfavourable characteristics. The research investigates the job quality of workers in these employment relationships, their access to social protection and training, as well as ways to support the transition to more secure forms of employment. 

Key outputs


Eurofound's 2024 work programme is set in the context of the upcoming European elections, war in Ukraine, renewed Middle East conflict and rising cost of living across the EU.

23 January 2024
Work programme

The year 2022 opened with cautious optimism. Europe was emerging from two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, with NextGenerationEU setting out a plan for a recovery that builds a strong...

4 May 2023
Annual report

Eurofound expert(s)


Barbara Gerstenberger is Head of the Working Life unit at Eurofound. In this role, she coordinates the research teams investigating job quality in Europe based on the European...

​Head of Unit,
Working life research unit
Publications results (568)

Workers will experience the effects of climate change in many ways: job insecurity, changes to their work tasks and responsibilities, and changes in their workplaces that may involve different work practices and the development of new activities and products. Climate change risks are associated with

01 July 2024

The post-pandemic recovery of Europe continued in 2023, with strong job creation despite subdued economic growth, against a background of rising geopolitical tension. Eurofound’s research over the year brought to light evidence on the key issues shaping the daily lives and work of Europeans.

02 May 2024

Ensuring greater social protection for self-employed people has been the subject of much policy debate in recent years. In 2019, the Council of the European Union adopted a recommendation on access to social protection for workers and the self-employed. Sudden reductions in income during the COVID-1

30 January 2024

This report explores EU Member States’ legislation around the right to disconnect and assesses the impact of company policies in this area on employees’ hours of connection, working time, work–life balance, health and well-being, and overall workplace satisfaction.

30 November 2023

Using data from the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey 2021 and building on a theoretical model that differentiates between job stressors and job resources, this report examines key psychosocial risks in the workplace and their impact on health.

23 November 2023

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a diverse collection of workers ensured the functioning of our societies. In a time of crisis, they maintained access to healthcare, long-term care and other essential goods and services, including food, water, electricity, the internet and waste treatment.

10 October 2023

The term ‘hybrid work’ was popularised with the upsurge of telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, when companies and employees started to discuss ways of organising work after the crisis. The term has been increasingly used to refer to situations in which (teleworkable) work is carried out from two

25 May 2023

The year 2022 opened with cautious optimism. Europe was emerging from two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, with NextGenerationEU setting out a plan for a recovery that builds a strong and sustainable future. The Russian attack on Ukraine early in the year changed the situation dramatically, however

04 May 2023

The report explores plausible and imaginable scenarios examining how telework and hybrid work in the EU might have developed by 2035, and their implications for the world of work. How prepared are managers and employees, employer organisations and trade unions, and policymakers for the greater

28 April 2023

This paper presents an analytical summary of current academic and policy literature on the impact of climate change and policies to manage the transition to a carbon-neutral economy on four key domains: employment, working conditions, social dialogue and living conditions. It maps the main empirical

12 April 2023

Online resources results (1778)

In this episode of Eurofound Talks Mary McCaughey speaks with Eurofound Research Manager Tina Weber about new research on the right to disconnect, the evolution of the right to disconnect in Europe, the reasons why legislative and procedural actions are being called for, the impacts that effective

15 April 2024

Flexible work increases post-pandemic, but not for everyone

Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, various forms of flexible work, such as teleworking and flexitime, were in place across EU Member States. However, the pandemic led to a surge in flexible working practices with many workers wanting to focus on their work–life balance and have more time for

Eurofound presentation to the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL), Ivailo Kalfin, Executive Director, Eurofound, 24 January 2023.

23 January 2023

The rise in cost of living and energy poverty: Social impact and policy responses. 14 October 2022, Informal Meeting of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers (EPSCO). Presentation by Ivailo Kalfin, Executive Director, Eurofound.

14 October 2022

COVID-19 in the workplace: Employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe workplace

Throughout 2021, the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific occupational health and safety rules were reintroduced due to increases in infection rates. Mandatory face masks, physical distancing and hygiene measures were enforced, and the recommendation to telework was largely re-instated in

Female teleworker taking notes during video conference on her laptop

Workers want to telework but long working hours, isolation and inadequate equipment must be tackled

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a surge in telework, with dramatic increases in the number of employees working from home (teleworking) in many European countries. What for many employees started out as a mandatory move seems to have transformed into a preference among the majority for part-time or


Summer time arrangements in the EU: A tripartite outlook on ‘Cloxit’

On 31 March 2019, clocks across the EU will go forward one hour, a Union-wide event since 2002. However, the European Commission has proposed abolishing the bi-annual hour change, an idea favoured by the vast majority of respondents in a public consultation. This article discusses reactions by

Blogs results (61)

There is no one future of work for all jobs – policymakers will have their work cut out to ensure that remote and platform working, artificial intelligence and climate change policies will benefit and not disadvantage workers.

There’s a demographic shift sweeping Europe: people are living longer and working longer. Older workers, however, face significant labour market barriers.

25 January 2024

The COVID-19 pandemic made us acutely aware of how dependent our society is on certain essential workers. We felt deep gratitude towards workers in healthcare especially, because they worked ceaselessly in often-difficult conditions.

22 November 2023

The jury is still out on the question whether men and women are from distinct planets. When it comes to the world of work, however, they are worlds apart.

25 October 2023

Women and frontline workers are most exposed to the risks of adverse social behaviour at work, such as burnout, exhaustion, anxiety and depression. This is according to the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey 2021 (EWCTS). In this data story, we dive into EWCTS data (EU27) to examine the pr

A worker sitting on the floor

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and work. With the lifting of restrictions across the globe, we are now able to examine the many repercussions on the world of work. In particular, the unique demands of the last few years have shone a harsh spotlight on the pressures brought to bear

17 January 2023

Telework has become a permanent feature of working life in Europe. While we’ve seen the benefits of more flexible ways of working – particularly during the pandemic – the problems that arise from an increasingly connected life are also becoming clearer. Unfortunately, legislation alone may not be en

13 July 2022

The answer is yes – potentially. Assessing the environmental benefits of telework is a complex task, because any move to work from home involves a series of changes in individuals’ daily lives and activities, as well as company-level decisions, that may positively or negatively influence the level o

23 June 2022

As we leave behind the lockdowns and business disruptions of COVID-19 and enter a ‘new normal’, it is time to talk about how workplaces might be transformed to drive innovation. Some may baulk at this suggestion, as we continue to grapple with the pandemic fallout, but crises have always been a crad

28 June 2021

COVID-19 has shown that some things can hit us out of the blue. The pandemic sent a shockwave through businesses all over the world and has brought massive changes to work organisation, internal communication and day-to-day operations for many companies. Doubtless, the depth of the pandemic’s impact

21 June 2021

Upcoming publications results (3)

This policy brief investigates how organisations are adapting their work organisation and practices to hybrid work. Based on case studies and on data from the European Working Conditions Survey 2024, the policy brief examines how hybrid work is being managed in organisations and profiles t

April 2025

The European population is living longer, with a declining natural population since 2014, offset only by positive net migration. The proportion of older people, especially those over 50, is increasing. Demographic ageing, where the working-age population shrinks while the number of older individuals

March 2025

Over the last decade, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have changed the way employees work and communicate with each other. Despite the many benefits of digitalisation of work, the widespread access to digital devices in working life provides an alternative medium for new forms of a

September 2024
Data results (1)


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