Sub-Plenary 2-2

Good Life Means Also Good Working Life.
What Can Organizations Do?


Friday, July 7, 2023, 16:00–17:30 CEST

Campus Economia | Via Sant’Ignazio 74 | 09123 Cagliari
Building A, floor 0, room: B

Teresina Torre, University of Genoa, Italy
Gilda Antonelli, University of Sannio, Italy
Jakov Jandrić, University of Edinburgh Business School, United Kingdom
Lakshmi Ramarajan, Harvard Business School, USA
Hubertus J.M. (Huub) Ruel, Tilburg School of Catholic Theology, The Netherlands

This sub-plenary will feature four presentations, which will introduce and discuss the relationship between “good life” and “good working life”, their respective significance, the challenges to face in order to fit them and the critical aspects this relationship presents. The idea is to foster the whole view of this issue, the relevance of which is increasing in personal perception and from the research view, with regard to both the individual level and the organizational one, deepening conditions for decent work in a context where working conditions are changing, and a new frame is requested to understand them.
The peculiar nature of this issue requires a holistic and interdisciplinary approach. The panelists involved in this sub-plenary have heterogeneous professional backgrounds and deliver manifold accounts contributing to a fully-fledged interpretation and imagination of smart working in modern societies.

The role and meaning of work for human beings has been an issue in societies since the 19th century. It is acknowledged that work has a deep influence on individual life and on the possibility that it is considered a “good life”. Having a job (a satisfying one), indeed, impacts positively on work-life balance, because it helps in building this equilibrium. And this issue is connected to the question of what is the purpose of business: to make profit (as a priority) or to serve the common good (profit as a means to an end)? In today’s globalized, hyper-connected economy the challenge is to reflect more deeply on the relationship between work and private life.
This achievement requires a series of steps in the same direction, which can be examined and deepened in the light of personal and organizational experience of the last years, under the urgency of the pandemic during which the question about the meaning of work (and of its relevance in life) has been emphasized. It is evident that having a work (and no more than that) is a preliminary condition for a good life, because having a work means at least the possibility of dignity and self-sufficiency, such as proving her own family. The concept of decent work is rising the debate among researchers as a framework to identify conditions of exploitation and/or weakness at work, and to reduce poverty enhancing social equity, calling organizations to contribute.
A second step introduces the adjective “good” to qualify the nature of work. Entering the perspective of good work has different meanings. One of them affects its scope, its purpose as possibility of contribution to the common good. Another one is related to the quality of work, with regard to its content and its coherence with individual competences and aspirations. Both these dimensions open interesting and challenging perspectives in the field of the people management, where attention towards persons’ need and the people journey in the organizations are been object of increasing attention as lever for attracting right people.
A further step concerns the conditions in which work can be done, another time the point plays at both the individual and organizational level. It is relevant questioning about the characteristics of the context of work; but also about the features of the relationship between work and life, especially to make working time, working spaces and working objectives easily manageable whole managing the various spheres of life (personal, family, social). This has become very crucial also in relation to the emergence of new and flexible forms of work organization. From the organizational point of view, this might also include the management of diversity, promoting inclusion and combating unequal treatment depending on gender and age in a hybrid work environment.
A final step focuses on good working life, in which living is possible also while working, and not exclusively after working. Sustaining a multifaceted identity is challenging for todays’ workers and their organizations and the demands of their personal lives and the social pressure to focus on just one thing at a time requires to learn how to manage the portfolio of different identities and the expectations that come with them.
Finally, our sub-plenary aims to highlight the criticalities that exist in sourcing for the balance of the good life and the good work, not only at the individual level but at the organizational one, too.
This sub-plenary will complement the general colloquium theme, examining the role and the potential of work in building “good life. It aims to deal with these issues related to, searching for proposing an overall picture and for sharing questions more than answers. It invites participants to reflect and receive stimuli in the perspective of developing relevant research interests and to propose appropriate methods and theories.
The keys points for discussion that will be considered in the session are

  • What contributes to the meaning of work? What is a meaningful work?

  • What does it make a work a “good” work?

  • What can organizations do to offer good work? Which conditions are requested?

  • Which challenges have to be faced in the new working world to pursue good working life?

  • How will the future of meaning in work and meaningful work in a hyper-connected economy look like?

  • Which contributions research can offer to deepen these questions?

  • What can Catholic Social Teaching offer regarding these questions?

The panelists are invited to reflect on the “legacies” of work inherited from the past and are encouraged to “imagine” the future of work, reflecting on the new normality of good work in the post-Covid-19 era and providing us with new tools and perspectives to imagine better work conditions.

Gilda Antonelli is Full Professor in Organizational Design and and Human Resources Management at the University of Sannio. Her current research focuses on on studying organizational change driven by Human Research Analytics methods.

Jakov Jandrić is the Nick Oliver Lecturer in Organisational Behaviour at the University of Edinburgh Business School, United Kingdom. In his research, Jakov is interested in what defines and shapes relations between institutions, organisations and individuals within them.

Lakshmi Ramarajan is Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Organizational Behavior Unit at the Harvard Business School, USA. Her research examines the management and consequences of identities in organizations.
Huub Ruel is senior researcher at Tilburg School of Catholic Theology (TST), Tilburg University, The Netherlands. His current research focuses on corporate governance and Catholic Social Teaching. In particular, he addresses questions such as what is the purpose of business and what is the meaning and role of work for human beings.
Teresina Torre is Full Professor or Organization and Human Resources Management at the University of Genoa, Italy. Her current research focuses on work organization and new working arrangements and on meaning of work.