Organizing Social Sustainability: Good Work in a Changing Working World

Klarissa Lueg, Simon Jebsen*

*Kontaktforfatter for dette arbejde

Publikation: Kapitel i bog/rapport/konference-proceedingKapitel i bogForskningpeer review



This contribution to the book summarises how the pandemic has changed routines and practices in organized work settings through the lens of a social sustainability perspective. We discuss various changes induced by anti-covid-measures (e.g. remote, digitalized work), against the backdrop of other variables commonly associated with or standing vis-à-vis to socially sustainable workplaces (e.g. family and care work). We conjecture that work organization in times of covid19 has made a huge impact – both in a negative and a positive way - on the structures people perceive as essential for their durable well-being. We outline possible future directions of how social sustainability can be organised in the post-pandemic era.


Theoretically, the notion of social sustainability and the organizational practice during Covid19 symbolize two opposing standpoints with a view to time. While, amongst others, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have been enacted to change workplace institutions and norms in long-term perspective has the pandemic forced organizations to act rapidly and implement new norms and standards of work. On the one hand, we find Amartya Sen’s grand theory on sustainability as an organized warranty and infrastructure providing freedom to people (Sen, 2013). Freedom, as a core notion, is to ensure long-term, durable, inter-generational justice. On the other hand, Covid has enforced organizational management to rapidly, and ad-hoc, install practices and policies that were sometimes perceived as being restrictive in freedom and as aligning with classic management theory. Necessitated by the imminent dangers of Covid19, measures focused on immediate economic needs of both organization and employees. Social impacts of the rapidly changed work environment could only be considered within the frame of covid restrictions – this often conflicting with the societal debate on organized social sustainability.
Sustainability is often divided into three pillars: economic viability, environmental protection, and social equity. While there in recent years has been much focus on environmental and economic sustainability, the global pandemic has accelerated the interest in social sustainability. Social sustainability means offering processes for creating successful places that promote wellbeing, by understanding what people need from the places they live in and work at. Social sustainability, as a concept, demands social support and infrastructure for people and places to evolve according to their belonging and identity – this evolvement allowing future generations to connect to a healthy and fair sociocultural heritage. With a view to businesses and organizations, social sustainability is about recognizing and managing the impacts these organization have on people. The list of developments that have shaped the working environment in recent years is long: the flexibility of work organization and employment, a growing need for training and development, the digitalization of work and the consequential change in how work is being organized, the increasingly blurring boundaries between work and private life, amongst others. Organisations’ engagement in the relationship with their stakeholders affect these developments and the daily and working life of employees, workers in the value chain, customers, and local communities.


We present a narrative literature and / or case review on the effects Covid 19 restrictions did have on various organizations in Denmark. Our focus is on the social impacts as perceived by stakeholders and we aim at paying special attention to those organizations that had been aware of social sustainability before Covid19. We are interested in how these organizations experienced the crisis-related measures with a view to social well-being, in potentially conflicting accounts of such impacts, and in how these effects might contribute to shaping a post-covid workplace.


Sen, A. (2013) "The Ends and Means of Sustainability". Journal of human development and capabilities, 14(1), 6-20. doi:10.1080/19452829.2012.747492
StatusUnder udarbejdelse - 2021


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