The Growing Desire for Decent Work after Long-Term Sick Leave. How Temporary Inability to Work Changes the Work-Life Balance in Labor Societies.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 5A G (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Benedikt HASSLER, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland, Switzerland

Decent work is primarily, but not only, a matter of jobs available in the labor market. Moreover, decent work is also dependent on how individuals successfully establish a decent work-life balance, which allows them to recreate while they are not working. However, in “labor societies” (Arendt) people have a strong wish to fully participate in the labor market although the boundaries between labor and leisure are increasingly fluid. At the same time, there is a growing number of people with mental health issues in all OECD countries and especially in Switzerland. A lot of these mental health issues are caused by the interplay of vanishing possibilities for orientation in modern societies and increasing responsibilities (above all, at the workplace). This study shows that this toxic attitude toward employment sometimes changes during phases of long-term sick leave, while decent work becomes more important.

Methods and Results:

This analysis relies on a study on Disability Management in private and public companies in Switzerland, where employees were interviewed about their return to work experience after sickness or accidents. The data has been analyzed according to grounded theory.
The results show a diminishing importance of labor in the personal life of individuals who experienced periods in which they were unable to work. On the one hand, because they experienced meaningful activities outside the workplace. On the other hand, because they were partially able to reestablish the boundaries between labor and leisure.


This study focuses on people who are able to influence their work-life balance. Not included, but even more important, are all those people who are structurally forced to have a certain imbalance between work and life. Nevertheless, the study shows a specific situation where the desire for decent work changes substantially.