The Importance of Decent Work

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When you think about having decent work, what comes to mind? Today, we breakdown the concept of decent work and its importance.

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We know that building thriving workplaces benefits everyone – employers, employees, and families alike. However, to build a thriving work environment, you first need the basics. Research has defined a concept called ‘decent work‘ which we will discuss in some detail today. Organizations need to make sure they are providing decent work before they try to create a thriving environment.

Defining Decent Work

How do you define decent work? What do you think of when you imagine a decent job? Are you imagining good pay, normal hours, and support? If so, you are right on track. Decent work has been defined by the International Labor Organization as “work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all”.

Let’s break that down. Basically, this type of work provides enough pay and good hours to allow people to have free time for non-work activities. In addition, the pay can support a person’s life plus provide access to healthcare. Decent work also ensures the safety of workers plus provides them with support. In other words, it’s the bare minimum required of a job to actually feel like a secure and good one.

photo of family having fun with soccer ball
Decent work allows you to enjoy family time!

Why It Matters

You can probably imagine why decent work might matter? If you don’t have it, you may have to work multiple jobs to get the pay to feed your family. Without it, you might work so many hours that you have no time for exercise or even dinner with your partner. You might also be lacking healthcare, thus, avoiding going to the doctor for preventative visits. These examples illustrate why having good work can really matter.

Recent research shows that having a decent job can actually impact your overall health. Not only do you feel healthier when you have good work, but you also have less fatigue from work and your survival needs (food, rent, etc.) are taken care of. When you are less exhausted by your work, you generally feel better and are less likely to experience negative health symptoms like back pain or headaches. In addition, when your job meets your survival needs, not only are you able to provide for yourself and family, but you’re also more likely to participate in healthy behaviors. In other words, you are more likely to have the time to focus on things like healthy eating and exercise.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we all were able to experience decent work?


Decent work has a major impact on the health of the people in the jobs. Without it, people suffer and their health declines. We already know that happy and healthy employees are more likely to be productive and perform better at work. It’s imperative that organizations provide decent work to their employees. Not only is it the right thing to do but it can help the business in the long run. If your employees have to hold multiple jobs just to make ends meet, they aren’t going to be fully rested and recovered to do good work for you. If they are constantly stressed about safety or if they will make it to their family dinner, their focus will be detracted from the work. When employees feel good, they do good work.

We all need to think about the importance of good work carefully from a societal lens. How can we create policies to ensure people have access to this type of work?

Our biggest takeaway today is for companies and leaders to take a long hard look in the mirror. Are you providing decent work? If not, how can you fix this? We know you can do better.

Originally published on March 22, 2021

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