Working conditions and sustainable work

22 March 2023

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.

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.


Overall, it's good news, because working conditions in the European Union are improving – if very slowly – but the concern is that this is not necessarily true for all groups of workers. It depends very much in which sector you're working, it depends on educational attainment, and frankly it also depends whether you are a man or a woman.

— Barbara Gerstenberger, Head of the Working Life Unit

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EU context


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.Read more

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.

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Key policy messages


Working conditions and sustainable work infographic
Infographic 2021

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.
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Current and ongoing research


Eurofound will continue to carry out work on its pan-European working conditions survey, with a particular focus on job quality and the situation of specific groups of workers in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.Read more

Eurofound will continue to carry out work on its pan-European working conditions survey, with a particular focus on job quality and the situation of specific groups of workers in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, the Agency will carry out further analysis of the dataset for the European Working Conditions Telephone Survey (EWCTS), following publication of the overview report in late 2022. Preparation of the next European Working Conditions Survey, to be conducted in 2024, will be finalised.

Research on the working conditions of different types of self-employed workers will be completed in 2023, with further analysis mapping policies in the Member States that address the challenges and opportunities associated with various types of self-employment. Other projects to be completed include: the investigation of psychosocial risks and associated working conditions (in cooperation with EU-OSHA), the right to disconnect (company practices) and the investigation of the working life of essential workers in the EU.

Research in 2023 will continue to examine the impact of COVID-19 on working conditions and workplace practices, with a particular focus on hybrid working, exploring how companies have adapted their work organisation and work practices. It will also examine the tasks and roles more suited to hybrid working.

New research will examine the employment and working conditions of older workers, identifying challenging sectors in terms of recruiting, retention and training. Digitalisation, the transition to a climate-neutral economy, changes in work organisation and the role of non-standard forms of work will be among the topics explored. Commencing in 2023, other research will investigate changing working time patterns and the effects on work–life balance and the health and well-being of workers.

The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.

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  • Publications (2556)
  • Data
  • Ongoing work (6)

Ongoing work

Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles.