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Article

Military-Madrasa-Mullah
A Global Threat
Complex

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Paradigms of Quality of Work Life

Journal of Human Values


19(1) 7382
2013 Management Centre
for Human Values
SAGE Publications
Los Angeles, London,
New Delhi, Singapore,
Washington DC
DOI: 10.1177/0971685812470345
http://jhv.sagepub.com

Shoeb Ahmad

Abstract
Quality of work life (QWL) is generally associated with a series of objective organizational conditions
and practices that enables employees of an organization to perceive that they are virtually safe, satisfied
and have better chances of growth and development as individual human beings. QWL is nowadays
drawing more attention globally as in modern society people spend about more than one-third of
their lives at their workplace. Hence, the eminence and importance of QWL is unparalleled and
unquestionable. This article first focuses on the definitions of QWL, followed by various paradigms
of QWL, which form the basic element of QWL in any organization: health and safety, employment
security, job satisfaction, occupational stress, work environment, worklife balance and human relations.
Finally, the article proposes some strategies to improve QWL in organizations that focus on different
areas of organizational functions: employee participation, job design and work organization, workforce
awareness and career guidance, inter-group relationships, role of HR managers, self-managing work
teams, rewards, alternative work schedules and supportive organizational culture. It is argued that one
needs to pay attention to improve all these functions and strike a balance among them to make QWL
effective.
Keywords
Quality of work life, job satisfaction, human relations, worklife balance, organizational culture,
technostress

Introduction
Work has become an indispensable part of the everyday life of a person, whether the person is in service
or the business field. It has been estimated that at an average, an individual spends about one-third of
his or her life at the workplace. A better understanding of the interrelationship of various aspects of
quality of work life (QWL) provides an opportunity for improved analysis of cause and effect in the
workplace. Research on QWL suggests that there are different relationships between the satisfaction
with work life, and for instance, employees engagement in, and commitment to, their work (Rice et al.,
1985), and the commitment of employees can be enjoyed by an organization only through improving
their quality of work life. A high quality of work life is related to job satisfaction, which in turn is a strong
predictor of absenteeism and turnover (Hom & Griffeth, 1994). A firms investments in improving the
Shoeb Ahmad, Department of AMIS, University of Hail, Hail, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Post Box 2440,
Zip/Postal Code 81451. E-mail: shoebahmad09@gmail.com

India Quarterly, 66, 2 (2010): 133149

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QWL also pay off in the form of better customer service (Campion & McClelland, 1991). Employees
believe that they have a high QWL when there is a clear sense of openness and trust between management
and employees and no fear of being short-changed or misguided in task performance (Yeo & Li, 2011).
Before starting any discussion on the topic, I first review briefly the history and various definitions of
QWL to determine its irrefutable meaning. The QWL movement was initiated during the 1960s and
1970s, and was spearheaded by Louis E. Davis and James Taylor in America (Davis & Taylor, 1972).
Eric Trist, Albert Cherns and Ray Wild were among the most prominent advocates of QWL in Britain
(Cherns & Davis, 1975; Wild, 1975). This movement emphasized upon improving the workplace
conditions to meet the expectations of a more affluent and well-educated workforce and also live up to
the expectations of the organizational needs for improved quality and productivity. Suttle (1977) defines
QWL as the degree to which workers are able to satisfy important personal basic needs through their
experience in the organization. Similarly, Lawler (1982) defines QWL in terms of job characteristics and
work conditions and stresses that the core dimension of the entire QWL in the organization is to improve
employees well-being and productivity. The most recent definition of QWL was proposed by Serey
(2006), which describes QWL as an opportunity to exercise ones talents and capacities, to face challenges
and situations that require independent initiative and self-direction, which is quite conclusive and best
relevant to the current work environment. In a broader sense, QWL can be defined as the quality of life
of individuals at their workplace, be it of any type or size.
The review of various definitions of QWL suggests that QWL is a multifaceted paradigm, built upon
a number of interrelated factors that seek meticulous consideration to conceptualize and measure. The
following section discusses different dimensions of QWL.

Dimensions of QWL
This section of the article discusses the dimensions of QWL which influence the adversative effect of
changes in work environments relevant to QWL with implications for career development and human
resource management. Dimensions of QWL are also called constructs of QWL, and Hackman and
Oldham (1980) highlight the constructs of QWL in relation to the interaction between work environment
and personal needs. This section of the article extends and integrates the various dimensions of QWL
considered crucial in modern organizations, describing their importance and utility.

Health and Safety


Health and safety in QWL relates to physical working conditions that ensure safety, minimize risk of
illness and other occupational diseases and provides special emphasis on the well-being of the women
and children. Iacovides, Fountoulakis and Kaprins (2003) studied that higher job demand leads to higher
strain in work environments; hence, it affects workers health and well-being. Industrial safety and health
is one of the crucial contemporary factors that influence QWL of employees. There is no denying the fact
that safety is the primary responsibility of management; it should be made a matter of high concern by
all the echelons of management, namely, plant managers, safety and maintenance engineers, safety
managers, supervisors and the other authorities of concern.
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Employment Security
QWL is determined by the extent to which the employees feel secure about their jobs. Employees thus
regard employment security as a crucial channel towards understanding their current position in the
organization, which takes them to another level of contribution. Employment security represents the true
capacity of the organizations to provide permanent and secure job options to its employees, irrespective
of the various changes occurring continuously in the work environment.
Over the past decade a drastic decline in employment security has been observed. A dramatic change
of workforce in contemporary work environments has revealed a significant amount of organizational
changes (Watson et al., 2003). Literature reviews confirm that in this era of downsizing, mergers and
acquisitions, lay-offs and restructuring, many employees have started fearing for their jobs, which has a
detrimental effect on both employee loyalty and retention. Hence, it is comprehended that providing a
sense of security is important to enhance QWL, especially in a work environment where many facets of
jobs can be outsourced.

Job Satisfaction
QWL is more fundamentally associated with the job itself that an employee performs. An interesting and
challenging job that involves the employees participation and invokes self-pride in an individual is
considered an ideal job. Job satisfaction is an employees multidimensional positive attitude towards the
job or job situation that increases QWL. It is a positive emotional state resulting from evaluating ones
job experience (Mathis & Jackson, 2003).
Job satisfaction has been studied ever since the emergence of the concept of jobs (Lamond & Spector,
2000), and still remains one of the most heavily studied topics in human resource management. Different
individuals have different perceptions about their job satisfaction and it has been established through
previous researches that different aspects of the job, such as pay promotions, supervision, fringe benefits,
ones co-workers support and excessive working hours (Watson et al., 2003) are associated with levels
of satisfaction. I argue that although the scope and nature of job satisfaction differs within conglomerates
while studying QWL, basic concepts such as physical work environment, sense of pride and belonging
to the organization, etc., remain the same everywhere, and that leads to job satisfaction of employees.

Occupational Stress
An important subjective component of QWL is occupational stress. Carayon et al. (2001) state that stress
arises in the process of interaction between a person and the work environment that threatens the
individuals physical, psychological and physiological homeostasis. Different types of stress associated
with work are mental, physical and psychological or emotional stress, and studies have revealed that
mental and emotional stress is more lethal than physical stress. An emerging type of stress in the modern
scenario is technostress which is caused due to the pressure stemmed up as a result of information
technology (IT) revolution and the daily frustration over system or software failure. Many researchers
highlight the technostress concept when discussing stress that is related to IT (Bradley, 2001).
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It is mandatory for organizations to focus upon stress-reduction strategies in order to bestow upon
their employees better QWL and they should curtail the factors that lead to psychological and physical
maladies in their initial stages. Employers should also ensure that work does not involve any negative
conditions that may put workers under undue stress.

Work Environment
Workforces are greatly affected in terms of QWL as a result of dynamic changes in the work environment.
A work environment that is capable of fulfilling employees personal needs according to their expectations
will generally lead to an excellent QWL. In todays high-tech, fast-paced world, the work environment
has changed drastically from what it was a generation ago, with changes in the attitude and mindset of
employees also.
Providing unstrained and conducive work environments to their workforce has become an obligation
on organizations, as it ensures good health and psychological conditions of the employees, which further
enables them to perform their jobs in a better way and contribute positively towards the productivity of
the organizations. A good work environment also enables employees to lead a more comfortable work
and non-work life. It is concluded that the management should take steps to improve overall work
conditions, be it introducing new technologies at the workplace or providing a peaceful work environment,
so that the employees may feel more comfortable, be active, gain pride and be more focused on their
jobs. It is argued that the transparency of workplace practices, as enforced by policies and regulations,
should be strongly and consistently upheld. A work environment adhering to a culture of openness and
trust provides employees with the spontaneity they need to recreate their identities through job
enlargement and enrichment.

WorkLife Balance
A balance between professional and personal lives is a major component of QWL, as employees today
are more desirous of having a harmonious balance between career and family. With more single-parent
families, dual career couples with children and workers with responsibility of elderly relatives, balancing
work and family roles may sometimes be incompatible (Edwards & Rothbard, 2000). Allen et al. (2000)
emphasize that problems associated with family responsibilities are other sources that may reduce QWL
among professionals. They also state that when an employee has higher work responsibility there will be
more spillover of negative work outcomes on family life. The threat of imbalance between work and
non-work life has implications not only for employees but also organizations, governments and society.
Grzywacz and Marks (2000) and Bijleveld, Andries and Rijkevorsel (2000) have suggested some
alternatives such as career breaks, flexible working arrangements and family-friendly employment
policies to maintain the balance between work and non-work life. The purpose of all these offerings is to
convey that employers recognize the challenges employees face when balancing worklife demands
(Parus, 2000). It is suggested that organizations should find out and provide alternative means of
employment practices to reduce the worklife imbalance, without hampering the career progression of
an employee.
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Human Relations
The human relations in QWL refer to participation, discussion and openness as the means to improve
employee morale and attain their commitment towards the organization. Sensitivity to the circumstances
and feelings of others is the cornerstone of human relationships. So, if human relations in QWL
are ignored then there may be a mechanistic or engineering approach to QWL, which will be
counterproductive for both the employees and the organization.
The relationship between the employee and the organization is based upon mutual understanding,
where the employees want financial gain and job satisfaction while the organization demands the
commitment and contribution of employees towards productivity. The nature of personal relationships
between employees and employers is an important dimension of QWL, as work is done distinctively
within the framework of social organization. Following the ideas of thinkers such as Elton Mayo (1880
1949), the fostering of social relationships in the workplace and employee morale have thus become
equally important objectives for personnel professionals seeking to raise productivity levels. To maintain
healthy human relations and social integration at the workplace, the management should make efforts to
improve QWL in relation to human relations. Excellent QWL is sought through human relations
philosophy that encourages the use of QWL efforts on the part of management, which means that the
organization should take a systematic approach to give employees greater opportunities to impact their
jobs and their contributions to the organizations overall effectiveness.

Strategies to Improve QWL


The main aim of QWL is to create a work environment where employees work together in cooperation
with each other and contribute to fulfil the organizations goals. Any initiative towards improving QWL
in an organization depends to a great extent on the leadership or top management of the organization
because they are the ones who shape the destiny of the organization. Besides the managements role,
every individual has an important role to play in improving QWL in an organization. In other words, it
can be said that QWL is the shared responsibility of both the management and the employees. A
comprehensive concept of the interrelationship between the various facets of QWL offers the opportunity
for improved analysis of cause and effect in the workplace.
QWL programmes should be directed towards improving the basic elements of QWL. In this study,
I propose some areas for improving QWL, which are based on the perceptions and views of people and
have wide variance. However, one cannot ignore them, because they are as important as objective criteria.

Job Design and Work Organization


The first step towards the improvement of QWL is to consider the topic of job design and work
organization. Job design is the most common interface that is related to the improvement of employees
QWL and productivity. A job design that is able to attain higher employee satisfaction is set to be more
productive. Sherman et al. (1988) state that the job should be designed in such a way that it reflects both
technological and human considerations. They also stress that job design is an outgrowth of job analysis
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and is concerned with the design of jobs in order to improve organizational efficiency and employee job
satisfaction. Thus, QWL considerations in designing and redesigning a job take the form of contemporary
programmes.
However, it is suggested that if an organization provides the authority to design jobs to appropriate
individuals, then it may meet the employees expectations, which will contribute to organizational
productivity positively. The implementation of suggestion scheme is also necessary because it helps in
improving the systems of the organization.

Employee Participation
In recent days the importance of employee participation in management has drastically increased and is
highlighted upon, with the advent of industrial revolution and large enterprises. Employee participation
in fact is a psychological contract between the management and employees. Under this issue, the
management provides authority to employees to participate in various decisions related to their job and
employment conditions. The greatest benefit of employee participation in QWL is that the employee can
identify himself with his job, which will further lead to an enhanced and improved performance, using
the full potential of the employee. Several organizations are making substantial progress in providing
avenues for employee input through their QWL programmes, as they recognize that changes in relations
between the employer and the employees are essential in todays business scenario.

Workforce Awareness and Career Guidance


To improve QWL, it is necessary for the management to consider the attitude and approach of the
employees before implementing any QWL programme. The effectiveness and impact of each and every
QWL programme should be explained to employees beforehand by the management. Management
should also take initiatives towards career-development activities, such as developing career paths for
employees, implementing training and assessment programmes, etc., in coordination with other
development activities carried out with human resource development departments. These career
development opportunities will provide the employees with better and new skills to cope with any
changes in their career, and hence will contribute to the improvement of QWL.

Inter-group Relationships
Another factor that contributes to improvement in QWL is to maintain the group relationships. Groups
are the basic fundamental units of an organization that can accomplish more work in less time than a
number of people working individually. Quality is largely determined by the opportunity to capitalize on
one anothers strengths to produce bigger outputs that meet organizational demands in a group.
The interactions that take place among the members of a group are referred to as group dynamics. To
improve QWL, the management should concentrate on the dynamics of intra- and inter-group relationships
of an organization; inter-group conflicts and cliques should be avoided to minimize the unfavourable
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effects, thus improving QWL. Grouped employees should be given feedback for their performance so as
to boost them or to help them improve the quality of work.

Role of HR Manager
A better understanding of the elements of QWL of the employees should enable the human resources
(HR) practitioners to take proactive steps in developing and implementing relevant HR strategies, change
models, policies, procedures, motivation and other strategies to improve QWL. HR managers need to
develop working strategies outlining the relationship between participation of the management and
employees and subsequently collective issues can be undertaken and resolved between the two. The
managers should understand their responsibilities and duties towards their employees as leaders, helpers,
information gatherers and motivators. They should also explore other aspects of employee welfare such
as compensation benefits, health and safety, employee services, counselling and other relevant topics to
facilitate the overall improvement of QWL.
This strategy of HR managers will ensure the smooth transition of the contemporary workforce
towards a knowledge-based, skilled, committed and potential workforce. The role of HR managers
towards improving QWL will also help other organizational practitioners, decision-makers and individual
employees of an organization to humanize the workplace for better QWL.

Self-managing Work Teams


Recently, the introduction of self-managing work teams (SMWTs) in organizations have increased
manifold as organizations are actively running in the competitive race given the challenges of the
business world. SMWTs are basically introduced in organizations as an approach to improve QWL and
productivity. SMWTs are now an integral part of QWL in organizations, as they boost employee
performance through motivation and more integrated working relationships. It has been observed that
SMWT members who took initiatives in carrying out their work and had control over what happened in
their organization reported better QWL. SMWTs can enrich jobs and thus enhance employee QWL in
terms of job satisfaction, commitment and turnover.

Rewards
The most immediate connection to QWL is appropriate reward and recognition, apart from the more
intrinsic aspect of the impact of the job on the organization. The rewards in QWL can to some extent
meet the needs of the employees, although each one has different needs, some may prefer financial
rewards over non-financial and vice versa. Maslow (1943) explained in his hierarchy of needs that each
individual has different level of needs because in reality what is important to some employees may not
be important to others, although they are being treated equally in the same organization. The QWL
approach in a rewards system can satisfy the employee; it can also be used to minimize the mistrust
between the employee and the employer.
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Alternative Work Schedules


Employers now acknowledge that alternate work arrangements for employees are beneficial for high
QWL, as it improves both employee productivity and morale. With alternate work schedules, employees
may feel that they are trusted by the management, which can improve the quality of employee relations
(Denton, 1993). Today, many employers have adopted flexibility in both work and location schedules to
increase QWL. These alternative work schedules allow organizations to make better use of workers by
matching work demands to work hours (Shellenbarger, 2001) and workers also are better able to balance
their work and family responsibilities (DiNatale, 2001). Some of the means adopted by the organizations
as tools for alternate work schedules are flexitime, telecommuting and compressed work schedules. By
providing the flexibility to employees in work and locations to attend to personal priorities, it has been
observed that the employees are more focused and driven on the job with a reduction in absenteeism and
turnover and decreases in overtime.
These alternate work schedules provide employees with flexible working hours, less time taken in
commuting to the workplace and a comfortable working environment, which are all the predicators of
high QWL. From the employers perspective, alternate work schedules are beneficial for them as it
means less need for office space, increased productivity and enhanced employee morale.

Supportive Organizational Culture


Every organization has its own culture and values that reflect the past, present and future standing of
the organization. The organizational culture is a pattern of shared values and beliefs that provides
organizational members meaning and rules of behaviour (Mathis & Jackson, 2003). A strong
organizational culture not only gives direction to the behaviour of the people but also makes them feel
better about what they do and encourages them to work harder. An organizational culture with high
human values is more adept at successfully attracting and retaining the employees than the corporate
cultures that seem to devalue people and create barriers to the use of individual capabilities. An
organizational culture that supports change, learning and improvement is an important predicator of
ensuring high QWL to its employees.
In the past decade, organizational culture has been viewed as an intangible but real and important
factor in determining the organizational climate (Schein, 1986). In fact, an effective organizational
culture actually helps people work together to adapt to business changes. All these statements indicate
that when the organizational culture in terms of the beliefs and values practised by an organization is
clear as how it values human assets, it will lead to high morale, productivity and greater sense of
appreciation, and finally, to high QWL.

Conclusion
A better understanding of QWL is a sine qua non for organizations to enhance productivity and employee
management. On the basis of the above discussion, it can be concluded that in the present business
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scenario the workflow of employment interventions basically depends upon how an organization
provides QWL to its employees and how successfully it is able to retain its employees. A good human
resource practice ensures that the workforce is productive and satisfied with its job; hence, QWL is
becoming a crucial human resource factor in organizations. It is understood that effective strategic
human resource policies will govern and provide high QWL to employees. To facilitate this, I further
argue for the importance of the mentioned areas of organizational functions that need to be emphasized
upon to improve QWL, as these are essential both to empirical research and theoretical models designed
to understand determinants of effective QWL and its implementation in organizations. This is particularly
true given the emerging centrality of contextual factors associated with the organization and cultural
settings in which QWL of employees is to be considered.
The dimensions of QWL discussed in this study are also expected to instigate HR departments to
redesign jobs with humanistic factors, which will lead the contemporary workforce towards being a
knowledge- and skill-based workforce. The main idea is to ensure that human resources should be
developed and not simply used. The employee should not be subjected to undue stress and inconvenience
that may degrade or damage their humane aspect; also, work should be designed so that it does not
hamper the employees abilities to perform other life roles such as being a good citizen, relative and
person.
It is recommended that organizations be more flexible in their attitude so that they are equipped to
develop their employees and enjoy their loyalty and commitment. To attract and retain employees,
organizations should explore the dimensions of QWL and should work with employees to redesign the
work, eliminate job stress, increase job autonomy, provide learning and training opportunities and
improve QWL.
Finally, I conclude that excellent QWL will result in happy and healthy employees who will provide
better turnover, make sensible decisions and contribute towards organizational productivity. Moreover,
an assured QWL will attract young and potential talent to organizations and also, will help to retain the
existing experienced talent.
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