New tool for measuring quality of working life

A new tool has been designed to measure the quality of working life in the Czech Republic, based on subjective assessments of workers. The tool is based on standard, large-scale questionnaire surveys. It aims to map a wide range of aspects characterising working life, while taking into account not only an individual’s satisfaction with each aspect of work but also the importance of these factors for the worker.

An empirical tool has been developed to measure the quality of working life based on the subjective assessment of individual workers – the so-called ‘subjective quality of working life’. The tool has been developed as part of the project entitled the ‘Influence of changes in the labour world on the quality of life’, which was carried out by the Occupational Safety Research Institute (Výzkumný ústav práce a sociálních věcí, VÚBP) and supported by the Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Ministerstvo práce a sociálních věcí ČR, MPSV ČR) in the period 2005–2008.

Research tool concept and aims

The quality of working life is part of a broader set of complex factors determining the overall life quality of workers. It can be analysed from at least two perspectives: the objective part can be described by tangible indicators of working conditions, such as workplace equipment, amount of remuneration and unemployment levels; the subjective part can be characterised by people’s satisfaction with various aspects related to their working life. Therefore, the new tool for measuring the quality of working life covers both subjective elements in the form of individual attitudes and assessments, as well as explicitly referring to a more general category of the working life quality.

The aim of the new research tool is two-fold:

  • firstly, it maps a wide range of aspects of working life;
  • secondly, it takes into consideration not only work satisfaction, but also the significance of each aspect for every working person.

The first characteristics were achieved by a multiple, gradual testing of various sets of items within several follow-up empirical surveys: out of the initial 66 aspects of working life, 18 items were finally refined for the questionnaire.

The second condition was met through conceptualisation of the research tool based on the ‘need satisfaction theory’ – more specifically, as satisfaction with particular aspects of working life, assessed in the context of the importance of these aspects for the given person.

Examples of possible research tool uses

In principle, each dimension can be analysed separately – such as satisfaction with and the importance of particular aspects of work or their subsets. However, both sources can be combined in various manners. Two basic possibilities for connecting these dimensions are the:

  • correspondence index – that is, to which level satisfaction in the monitored area corresponds to importance;
  • subjective quality index – that is, whereby satisfaction is weighted against importance, in other words higher importance increases the significance of satisfaction or dissatisfaction and vice versa.

Finally, as outlined below, analyses can be carried out at different levels – for example, in relation to aspects of work, at the level of factors, or at the level of the overall aggregate indicator.

Correspondence between importance and satisfaction

For instance, the analysis of correspondence between importance and satisfaction concerning particular aspects of work may illustrate to what extent people are satisfied with the aspects they consider important, and vice versa (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Comparison of importance-satisfaction profiles and work aspects (N = 809)

Comparison of importance-satisfaction profiles and work aspects (N = 809)

Notes: N = Number of sample size. Results show average values of particular items for the entire set. The items are evaluated on a scale of 1–6: in terms of importance, 1 = ‘definitely unimportant’ and 6 = ‘definitely important’; in relation to satisfaction, 1 = ‘very dissatisfied’ and 6 = ‘very satisfied’.

Source: Public Opinion Research Centre (Centrum pro výzkum veřejného mínění, CVVM) of the Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (Sociologického ústavu Akademie věd České republiky, SOÚ AV ČR), ‘Our society’ (Naše společnost) 0608

Comparison of importance-satisfaction profiles and work aspects (N = 809)

Establishing a subject quality index

For each aspect, a subject quality index can be established, by which a worker’s satisfaction with a given aspect is weighted by the importance that the worker indicated. The potential for utilising these variables corresponds in principle to the potential of standard simple indices of satisfaction, the contents of which, however, exceeds their ‘unidimensionality’ (see Figure 2).

Nevertheless, simple indices, based on the satisfaction evaluation only, do not distinguish the significance of each item. This is why it is legitimate to ask questions such as: what if people are satisfied with unimportant aspects, whereas important aspects are linked with discontent? Taking the dimension of importance into consideration resolves this problem: high significance of a certain aspect increases the index value notably, if the person is satisfied with this aspect; on the contrary, it declines considerably in case of their discontent. On the other hand, aspects which the given employee considers less important do not affect the final index value so markedly: if, for example, the employee is highly dissatisfied with their salary, which is very important to them, the index value will decline more significantly than if the person is highly dissatisfied with opportunities for further education, which are not so important to them. The final index value of the given aspect is then a mere simple average of these individual values.

Figure 2: Profiles of indices for aspects of subjective quality of working life, by category of worker (N = 809)

Profiles of indices for aspects of subjective quality of working life, by category of worker (N = 809)

Notes: The values of indices can range between 18 and -18, whereby 18 denotes ‘maximal satisfaction with the most important aspects’ and -18 indicates ‘maximal dissatisfaction with the most important aspects’.

Source: CVVM, ‘Our society’ 0608

Profiles of indices for aspects of subjective quality of working life, by category of worker (N = 809)

Structuring areas of subjective work life quality

The research tool to measure the subjective quality of working life can also be used at a more general level by structuring areas characterising the quality of working life. In the design of the survey instrument, six areas were identified, each measured using three indicators (see table).

Operationalisation of subjective quality of working life
  Aspects determining quality of working life
Areas Remuner-ation Self-realisation Relationships Time Conditions Security
Indicators Salary Autonomy With co-workers Working time flexibility Equipment Type of contract
Remuner-ation fairness Education With those who are higher up Time demands Tidiness Stability of job
Non-financial benefits Interesting job Bullying Harmonisation of working and family life Safety Chances of employment

Source: Author’s own overview

Designing partial indices

Such a well-balanced structure provides good opportunities for designing partial indices for each factor – for example, a ‘remuneration importance index’ or a ‘remuneration satisfaction index’ – which may then easily enter other analyses as variables. These partial indices can be used, for example, to analyse which factors have the greatest impact on elements such as overall company evaluations, life satisfaction, or social policy evaluations; alternatively, they may be used to assess which are the strongest predictors of aspects such as a change of job.

Figure 3, for instance, shows how the importance of specific factors differs, or conversely does not differ, among specific categories of workers. It is obvious, for example, that factors of security and working conditions are largely identically important for all the categories, with security being generally more important. On the contrary, the importance of self-realisation is significantly lower in the case of manual workers compared with non-manual workers and self-employed people. At the same time, manual workers value the importance of remuneration at a slightly higher level than the other workers.

Figure 3: Partial indices for importance of remuneration, relationships, time, self-realisation, security and conditions, by category of worker (N = 809)

Partial indices for importance of remuneration, relationships, time, self-realisation, security and conditions, by category of worker (N = 809)

Notes: The responses are evaluated on a scale of 1–6: in terms of importance, 1 = ‘definitely unimportant’, while 6 = ‘definitely important’.

ANOVA: Remuneration: F = 3.2, sig. = 0.042; Relationships: F = 5.7, sig. = 0.004; Time: F = 3.2, sig. = 0.041; Self-realisation: F = 33.87, sig. = 0.000; Security: F = 0.1, sig. = 0.904; Conditions: F = 1.1, sig. = 0.340.

Source: CVVM, ‘Our society’ 0608

Partial indices for importance of remuneration, relationships, time, self-realisation, security and conditions, by category of worker (N = 809)

Importance-satisfaction profile among worker subgroups

The lower number of units of analysis – that is, partial indices computed for factors, separately for importance and satisfaction – in this case also enables, for example, a more compact graphical illustration of the correspondence between importance and satisfaction among various categories of workers (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Comparison of importance-satisfaction profiles, by areas of subjective quality of working life and category of worker (N = 809)


Notes: Results show average partial indices for importance/satisfaction of each factor for specific categories of workers.

The responses are evaluated on a scale of 1–6: in terms of importance, 1 = ‘definitely unimportant’, while 6 = ‘definitely important’; in relation to satisfaction, 1 = ‘very dissatisfied’, while 6 = ‘very satisfied’.

Source: CVVM, ’Our society’ 0608

Comparison of importance-satisfaction profiles, by areas of subjective quality of working life and category of worker (N = 809)

Aggregate indices

The highest degree of results utilisation is in designing aggregate indices combining all of the applied aspects, or both dimensions, into one simple figure. Such outputs include, in particular, the following:

  • the Aggregate Correspondence Index – determining the general level at which the workers’ satisfaction corresponds with importance of the monitored aspects of their work life;
  • the Subjective Quality of Working Life Index – essentially an overall satisfaction index which, however, takes into account the different importance of aspects of working life for different workers.

By using values of the index designed in this way, it is possible to generate an overall description or simple comparisons of entire populations, sub-groups, labour market segments or industries – both at the level of comparisons in a given time and at the level of comparisons across time. For instance, it is possible to monitor how three groups of workers differ in terms of their subjective quality of working life, where higher satisfaction among self-employed persons and significantly lower satisfaction among manual workers are likely outcomes (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Subjective Quality of Working Life Index, by category of worker

Subjective Quality of Working Life Index, by category of worker

Notes: The values of indices can range between 18, denoting ‘maximal satisfaction with the most important aspects’, and -18, indicating the ‘maximal dissatisfaction with the most important aspects’.

ANOVA (F = 32.602, sig. = 0.000)

Source: CVVM, ‘Our society’ 0608

Subjective Quality of Working Life Index, by category of worker

References

Vinopal, J., ‘Metodologické aspekty zkoumání kvality pracovního života’ [‘Methodological aspects of research into quality of working life’], pp. 185–192, in Čadová, N. and Paleček, M. (eds.), Jak je v Česku vnímána práce [How labour is perceived in the Czech Republic], Prague, Sociological Institute of the Academy of Sciences, 2006.

Vinopal, J., ‘Erfahrungen mit der Messung der Qualität des Arbeitslebens in tschechischen Untersuchungen’ [‘Experience with measurement of the quality of working life in Czech research studies’], in Kistler, E. and Mußmann, F. (eds.), Arbeitsgestaltung als Zukunftsaufgabe. Die Qualität der Arbeit [Work design as task for the future. The quality of work], Hamburg, VSA-Verlag, in print, available in July/August 2009.

Jiří Vinopal, Institute of Sociology of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic

 

 

 

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