“Decent Work” and workplace wellbeing 

By Lamith Caldera 

Women and men need opportunities to obtain productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security, and human dignity. Such oportunities are essential for sustainable development. The concept of quality employment and decent work conditions help reduce inequalities and poverty, and empower people, especially women, young people and the most vulnerable such as people with disabilities. 

One of the main factors driving economic growth is an increase in labour inputs, such as number of workers or hours worked. Recent research by WHO-ILO indicated that long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29 per cent increase since 2000. Further, working long hours is recognised as being responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related diseases. Employers also need to address mental or emotional wellbeing of employees to achieve decent work and economic growth.  

The pillars of decent work include: 

  • Rights at work – comprises fundamental rights of workers, including freedom of association, non-discrimination in work, and the absence of forced labour and child labour in abusive conditions.  
  • Fostering employment – promotes full employment with adequate opportunities and remuneration, for all kinds of work that contribute to society, including self-employment, informal paid work, and non-paid family work.  
  • Social protection – looks after those who are prevented from working and gaining a stable income, such as aging, sickness, disability, and unemployment. 

The loss of businesses and jobs due to the COVID-19 downturn has compromised the economic and social wellbeing of workers (Eweje & Bathurst, 2019). 

Workplace wellbeing 

Employees’ economic and social wellbeing affects their emotional and psychological health. It affects how we think, feel, and act, how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. There are numerous benefits of social connections and good mental health such as lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self-esteem, greater empathy, and more trusting and cooperative relationships. Strong, healthy relationships can also help to affect your mental wellbeing. 

Meditation techniques developed to elicit kindness, an empathic and altruistic disposition, can be found in many contemplative traditions (Kristeller & Johnson, 2005). I believe Metta meditation, so-called Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) is one of the most popular, promoting the inner cultivation of a loving acceptance feeling towards all sentient beings (Salzberg, 1995). Its name and traditional format come from Buddhism, where the following structured approach is advocated: directing caring feelings towards oneself, then towards loved ones, then towards acquaintances, then strangers, then towards someone with whom one experiences interpersonal difficulties, and finally to all beings without distinction.  

To have good mental health, I practice Loving-kindness meditation (LKM). LKM helps me to create a positive work environment and aims to foster a mental state of kindness, love, and compassion. Regular Metta meditation can help minimize negative emotions toward yourself and others.  Loving-kindness meditation (LKM) can improve wellbeing and positive emotions at work, contributing to a decent work environment. Evidence suggests that facilitating empathy can improve individuals’ wellbeing (Galante et al, 2016).  

Figure 1: Coming of the Dawn. © Bernard Spragg. Public domain. 


Economic growth, decent work, mental wellbeing, and sustainable development are not in a linear, cause-effect relationship. For instance, financial growth may generate work opportunities, but it does not guarantee equal access to work opportunities. The challenge is to understand and sustain the relationship between economic and mental wellbeing. Within the workplace, practising Metta meditation is one way that workers can attain a good mental state. This in turn can assist in creating a positive decent work environment in supporting an improvement in productivity to achieve SDG 8 goals for creating better economic growth. 

Lamith Caldera is a Senior Lecturer in the Business School at Otago Polytechnic. His research interests include Earnings management, Earnings Quality, Corporate Governance, Auditing and assurance, sustainability reporting, Performance Management and Balanced Scorecard. He is interested in personal and business coaching.  


Eweje, G., & Bathurst, R. J. (2019). Introduction: Clean, Green and Responsible? Soundings from Down Under—An Overview. Clean, Green and Responsible?, 1-9.  

Galante, J., Bekkers, M. J., Mitchell, C., & Gallacher, J. (2016). Loving‐kindness meditation effects on well‐being and altruism: A mixed‐methods online RCT. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 8(3), 322-350. 

Totzeck, C., Teismann, T., Hofmann, S. G., von Brachel, R., Pflug, V., Wannemüller, A., & Margraf, J. (2020). Loving-kindness meditation promotes mental health in university students. Mindfulness, 11(7), 1623-1631. 

Leave a Reply