GAIA S2 proofread - Improving working conditions

Improving working conditions: at first glance, a matter of country and size of company


Improving working conditions: at first glance, a matter of country and size of company

At a time of continuing confinement, it seems relevant to us to look at the 2019 data concerning measures for adapting workstations and working conditions. Out of 900 European companies analyzed by GAIA, nearly 500 (or 55%) confirmed that they had not implemented any measures to adapt working conditions or workstations.

The first determining factor is the country of the company. This figure corresponds to a statistical reality observed in the EU study on working conditions (How are your working time arrangements set? (Working time) visualisation: European map by: Age, All, answer: They are set by the company/organisation with no possibility for changes - European Working Conditions Survey - Data visualisation EWCS2016 ( More than 55% of the companies analyzed set the working hours of their employees, with no flexibility. In this EU study, the differences are minor between the 5 most populous countries of the pre-Brexit European Union (Germany, France, Spain, Italy, United Kingdom). The most advanced countries in this area are the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries. This is, in fact, similar to the findings of the GAIA data on the adaptation of working conditions.

The second determinant is size, with an average wage bill twice as large for companies announcing specific measures as for those announcing nothing. This difference in approach depending on payroll size is supported by the sample of French SMIDs (340 companies) as well as the sample of European mid-caps. For the population of European companies, as for the French sample including smaller companies, the average wage bill of companies committed to adapting working conditions is twice as high as that of companies not committed.

A related social criterion, labelled as communication on forward planning of employment and skills, seems to be an congruent with the issue adaptation of working conditions. Indeed, of the 300 or so companies that do not communicate on this subject, 80% do not communicate on the adaptation of working conditions either (vs. 55% of the population as a whole).

Given the high exposure of women to part-time work, we wanted to test whether the proportion of women in the workforce was a determinant of these policies for adapting working conditions. However, the percentage of women in the workforce is no different in the sample of committed companies from the sample of non-committed companies.

Finally, we cross-referenced the question of adaptation of working conditions with the percentage of disabled workers in the company's workforce. We find that in companies committed to adapting working conditions, the average rate of disabled employees is much higher than in non-committed companies.

These findings appear to be the first steps in the analysis of the factors driving the improvement of working conditions in companies and their impact on company operations. It is necessary to cross-reference the data on exposure to different risks (shift work, noise, stress, exposure to heavy loads, exposure to toxic products, contact with dissatisfied customers etc) with the sector of activity and to analyze in greater detail the practices of companies, and at a later stage their supply chain.

Working conditions: is it only about physical risk exposure?

In an exploratory survey, DARES, the statistical division of the French Ministry of Work, published on May 27th an exploratory survey on exposure to values conflict and feelings of useless work among French employees. It happens that 30% of French employees feel that their work is useless. More specifically 11% feel exposed to many values conflicts.

Women employees in their 40s are overrepresented in the population most exposed to the issues, as well as among jobs such as nurses, teachers, and management in the banking and insurance sectors.  Of note, jobs held by younger, less qualified and more precarious employees are less prone to these risks.

Some could say that these numbers are not very high and restricted to some specific sectors. So the financial materiality might not be high, either at national level or at sectoral level.

However, there is a materiality impact. 10% of French employees declare they are suffering from depression. Among the category « not exposed » , only 4% declare themselves to be depressive. Among the ones feeling their work to be useless, 16% declare themselves depressive. So companies should solve this organisational problem if they want to have an impact on employees’ quality of life and more specifically contribute to improved working and living conditions of employees.