Is Lean Mean? Workplace Transformation and Employee Well-Being

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Work, Employment and Society


Sociology & Anthropology


This article examines the relationship between workplace transformation (or restructuring) and the well-being of employees, in terms of both psychological and physical health, at a large manufacturing corporation in the United States. While the previous literature has been largely divided over the issue - some researchers providing unqualified enthusiasm and others equally strong criticism of workplace changes - we found, after decomposing workplace transformation into five distinct dimensions of intensity, autonomy, team-work, skilling and computing, that certain components were harmful while others were beneficial to the employees. Furthermore, some effects of reengineering varied between managers and non-managers. Overall, increases in workplace intensity were associated with the largest increases in stress and symptoms of poor health. The data were produced by a longitudinal (two-wave) survey questionnaire of over 1000 employees and were analyzed by means of a structural equations model.