Binary Notions of Work Just Don’t Work

WBRC is proud to present this seminar led by Kevin Daniels who will be discussing his research findings from the work he conducted with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

Binary Notions of Work Just Don’t Work
Kevin Daniels – University of East Anglia

There is overwhelming evidence that unemployment is bad for wellbeing and mental health, and the effects go beyond economic loss. However, the picture for the alternatives – post-18 education and work – is more nuanced. Simply put, unemployment might be bad, but the alternatives are not always better.  The benefits of work are dependent on job quality: a bad job is not necessarily better than no job. The evidence indicates that high quality jobs – with appropriate management and organisational support – are not just better for wellbeing and health, but also for safety and productivity. Similarly, the benefits of adult learning depend on the quality and mode of delivery, and the wellbeing benefits are realised in different ways for different groups of people.

In this presentation, Kevin Daniels will outline findings from the first three years’ of a four year programme of research into work, learning and wellbeing conducted for the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. The findings are based on a series of eight systematic reviews and secondary analyses of Understanding Society, NHS staff survey and the Workplace Employment Relations Survey.

Kevin will draw out policy implications that require shifts in debates from how to incentivise the workless into work or learning, but also to consider the socio-structural conditions that can improve job security, other features of the quality of jobs and adult education for those at the bottom of the pile.


Kevin Daniels is Professor of Organisational Behaviour and leads the Economic and Social Research Council funded Work, Learning and Wellbeing evidence programme for the What Works Centre for Wellbeing. He also leads a project on workplace wellbeing and productivity, which is part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s programme on management practices, employee engagement and productivity. Kevin has served as Editor-in-Chief of European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology and as an associate editor at both Human Relations and Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology. He is currently an associate editor of both the British Journal of Management and the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. Kevin also serves as co-editor for Springer's handbook series in occupational health sciences. As well as the Economic and Social Research Council, Kevin’s research has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Innovate UK, the British Academy, the Health and Safety Executive and the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health amongst others.