In a fast changing and fast-paced global workplace, where maintaining competitive advantage is paramount to success, identifying ways of sustaining employee well-being is of increasing importance to a range of stakeholders, both within the context of work and beyond. Within the workplace, well-being is important not only to individual employees in terms of maintaining their own good health, but also to managers and organisations as there is evidence to suggest that poor well-being at work can have adverse effects on performance and overall productivity. Beyond the workplace, health service providers must manage the potential burden of poor individual and population health, exacerbated in many nations by ageing workforces. Given the existing evidence linking employee well-being to key organisational outcomes such as performance and productivity, identifying ways to enhance employee well-being is, arguably, a core function of contemporary human resource professionals. However, the juxtaposition of an increased focus on well-being at work and the current business climate of needing to do more with less can pose significant challenges for HRM professionals in contemporary organisations. In this paper we examine some of the key issues of pertinence to researchers in the field of HRM and well-being, and propose a number of areas for future research.


Future research needs to continue to address the current challenges relating to the changing nature of work and the implications this has for HR professionals globally, and for employees themselves. Issues around technology and the blurring boundaries between work and life; around different patterns and conditions of work, such as shift work and zero hour contracts, to name but a few, all play a role. A greater understanding of how to develop and enhance relationships at work, particularly between employees and line managers in diverse, multi-generational and sometimes widely dispersed workforces is imperative if the sustainability of the workforce is to be ensured. Furthermore, in terms of the changing workplace, as Morris (2004) stated in relation to ‘Future of Work’ initiatives, much of the research emerges from the U.K. or U.S., or at least from the OECD countries. In acknowledgement of this, it can be proposed that greater research evidence from more developing or lower income countries is required to get a more informed understanding of the particular challenges these countries experience in terms of understanding, measuring and managing well-being both in general and in the workplace more specifically.

The ‘band-aids’ that have been so crucial and which will continue to play an important role in the health and well-being of employees are no longer enough if sustainability of the workforce is to be achieved. Greater efforts need to be made to identify and modify structural components of work, such as job quality and job design. Kramar and Mariappanadar (2015) introduce the concept of sustainable HRM, distinguishing it from strategic HRM by the specific focus on durable long term emphasis on ‘developing human and social capital for the future organisation and community sustainability’. This fits well with the themes identified and discussed in the seminar series that informed this special issue and reiterates the importance for HR professionals to consider the role of current and future contextual factors and demographic trends which will shape the workforce of the future. In a turbulent business environment, it is easy to neglect longer term planning, however, macro issues such as the ageing population require thought and preparation now if global workforces are to be healthy, productive and sustainable in the decades to come, and if HR professionals are to maintain a proactive stance in the changing workplace. From the papers presented here, a picture is emerging that sustaining employee well-being goes beyond the individual and the organisation. Adopting a more holistic approach to well-being where a range of dimensions are addressed (for example, physical, mental, social and financial well-being) is a challenge for organisations, employees and HR professionals alike, but is one that must be addressed if theory, research and practice in this field is to advance.

The continuing dominance of well-being at both national and international levels (e.g. ONS, OECD, WHO), combined with well-being being a strategic priority for international bodies, such as the UN, and for key funding bodies, such as the ESRC in the U.K., highlights and reinforces the importance of further research into this topic by academics and practitioners within this field, and beyond. Adopting a more holistic perspective in this field, may lead to a better understanding of how HR practices can be designed, delivered and implemented in a way that is most likely to enhance employee well-being and to foster sustainability of the workforce. This special issue presents a ‘call to action’ to continue to generate an informed and rigorous evidence base from which HR practitioners can make decisions regarding how their organisations choose to invest in the well-being of their employees if organisations are to remain viable and to ensure a sustainable workforce for the future.


The editors would like to acknowledge and thank the Economic and Social Research Council for funding the seminar series ‘Sustaining employee well-being for the twenty-first century’, which inspired and informed this special issue (ESRC grant number: ES/L000946/1). We would also like to extend a sincere thanks to all authors who submitted a paper for consideration in this special issue and to all reviewers who generously gave their time to contribute to the peer review process. Finally, we would like to acknowledge the contribution, support and inspiration of Professor Tom Redman, our co-investigator on the seminar series and a hugely respected scholar in the field of HRM, who sadly passed away in December 2015.


1. G7 countries include Japan, U.K., Canada, Italy, U.S., France and Germany.

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Well-being and HRM in the changing workplace

Author(s): Tina H. P. Kowalski &Wendy Loretto

Alternative formats


Rusdin Tahir

Senior Lecturer [study on leaves] Department of Business Administration Science Faculty of Social and Political Science UNIVERSITY OF PADJADJARAN Jalan Raya Bandung-Sumedang KM 21 Jatinangor 45363, West Java, Indonesia Ph: +62 22 7792647,7796416 Fax: +62 22 7792647 Mobile: +62 81 123 9491; 822 919 356 65 Email:;; Web: Web: Web: Web: Web:

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