Centre for work organisation and society

Research highlights

From the emotional and aesthetic aspects of work and workplaces to the history and contemporary challenges associated with human resource management, especially in international contexts and in the public sector, our members are engaged in a multitude of key research areas.

Highlights from our research

Our members research

Our members regularly review for academic publishers, edit collections and book series, and publish research monographs including:

  • Academy of Management Review
  • British Journal of Management
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Gender in Management
  • Gender, Work and Organisation
  • Human Relations Journal of Labour and Society Management
  • Learning Organisation
  • Organisation Studies
  • Work, Employment and Society
  • Work in the Global Economy

Collective creativity and innovation in organisations

The focus of CWOS research in this area is the key processes that are critical to developing collective creativity, underlining the types of organisational mechanisms that can be intentionally designed to foster collective creativity. Current projects are being undertaken with different collaborative research initiatives, developed thanks to partnerships with various organisations, particularly in the Italian fashion and industrial design industries. Another set of studies is on practices of collaborative innovation, focusing in particular on University-based intermediaries as key actors that can promote innovation-related collaborations and collaborative spaces.

Emotional and aesthetic aspects of work and workplaces 

Research in this area includes the critical analysis of particular workplace cultures and settings, and of emotional, aesthetic and sexualized forms of interactive service work, using visual methods of data collection, analysis and critical discourse analysis. Current research also includes studies of organisational space, place and setting, incorporating immersive and embodied methods including rhythmanalysis. Current doctoral research on emotional labour includes a study of higher education institutions and organisational change.

Gender, sexuality and embodiment

Our CWOS researchers are working on several projects focusing on gender and work, including embodied experiences and perceptions of ageing and sexuality in the workplace, LGBT people’s experiences of work, the future of work in relation to gender, and reproductive labour in the Global South.

Current doctoral research on gender and work includes an ethnographic study of aerial dance and the gendered nature of ‘edgework’, and working practices at the Feminist Library, London. Collaborations include the United Nations Global Compact Target Gender Equality, Johnson & Johnson, the United Nations Systems Staff College, the International Labour Organisation, and the European Parliament. Research also includes collaborations around auto-ethnographic accounts of race, gender and marginalized communities.


Integrated health care, workplace wellbeing and mental health

CWOS research in this area includes projects with Provide, a Community Interest Company (CIC), and Essex County Council. Other current projects involve an evaluation of mobile technologies with Essex and Kent police, a project with ACAS on the management of mental health at work, and action-learning research on mental health in the workplace, conducted in collaboration with a range of Essex based public, private and voluntary sector organisations. Other collaborations include: Equity, EY (Ernst & Young), and the Department for Work and Pensions.


Job insecurity and its consequences across countries

Research in this area includes international projects adopting a multilevel approach to studies of job insecurity, taking into account factors related to economic conditions, social policies and labour market features. The goal of this multidisciplinary research is to gain a comprehensive picture of job insecurity in order to identify resourceful contexts and common strategies for dealing with it.

Organisational change, transformation and leadership

Research projects in this area have sought to understand and evaluate the interrelated dynamics of organisational change, transformation and leadership in organisations. Examples of current work include projects on the evaluation of mobile technologies with Essex and Kent police; health and social care system transformations (including the aforementioned Provide CIC, and Anglian Community Enterprise); a range of longitudinal ethnographic case studies examining the lived experience of employees as recipients and agents of change, and a set of studies focusing on organisational learning and transformational leadership dynamics.

Sustainability, ethics and corporate social responsibility 

Critical research on sustainability, ethics and CSR is currently being undertaken in collaboration with the International Labour Organisation’s Decent Work Agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals with specific reference to evaluation projects focusing on the Global South. Other research focuses on the role of multi-stakeholder networks addressing climate change, deforestation and the global food trade, and on global governance efforts in the areas of labour rights and sustainability. Community work undertaken alongside local authorities, libraries and resource hubs focuses on wellbeing and the impact of resource allocations on specific social groups and communities.

In parallel with this stream of research, an on-going project on vocational education schemes and inclusion through work addresses the challenges associated with country specific government-sponsored vocational education schemes such as apprenticeships.  This line of research investigates potentially competing goals, namely, reducing skills gaps, improving workforce productivity, and enabling the inclusion of marginalized groups and socially disadvantaged individuals in the labour market.   


The history of management and human resource management in the public sector  

CWOS researchers apply critical perspectives to the analysis of human resource management in the public sector in Britain and internationally. Current projects include a critical analysis of governmentality, austerity and public service ‘reform’ in the UK Civil Service, local government and the NHS.

Work and employment in the global economy

CWOS research has a strong international focus with expertise on emerging economies such as India and the Middle East and in the nexus of multinational corporations (MNCs) and their global value chains. In collaboration with colleagues across the Global South current projects examine informal and precarious work, reproductive work, automation and possible work futures. Of particular focus are core labour standards and rights, and workers’ organisations, as well as issues associated with job quality, workplace control and representation.

Current research also examines opportunity structures and social justice in the UK context, engaging with lived experience and social policies. Specific projects currently focus on: structural racisms and their intersections with other social divisions and inequalities; in-work poverty; labour market transitions, and social mobility. Members of CWOS have recently undertaken research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation ‘Immigration and Inclusion’, ‘Poverty and Ethnicity’ and ‘Bradford’ Research Programmes, and for the TUC on vulnerable workers, casualisation and low pay. Funded by the British Academy, another current project in this area, undertaken in collaboration with Equity and the Musicians’ Union, focuses on the impact of COVID on self-employed live performers in the UK.


Red Tree in Autumn at our Colchester Campus
Get in touch
Director of the Centre for Work, Organisation and Society  Professor Melissa Tyler
University of Essex
Co-Director  Professor Philip Hancock
University of Essex