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Centre for Sustainable Working Life

The Centre for Sustainable Working Life (CSWL) was a research centre in the School of Business, Economics and Informatics at Birkbeck, University of London.

The research centre was active between 2011 and 2022. It focused on the sustainability of working life through the development of healthy and resilient working people, as well as healthy, safe, and resilient organisations and communities.

Centre aims

The Centre for Sustainable Working Life focused on applied research, information dissemination and research-related training in its area of concern. More specifically, the Centre sought to:

  • promote concern for sustainability in working life
  • develop world-class applied research around sustainable working life
  • harvest, evaluate and disseminate information on sustainable working life
  • provide research-related education and training in this area
  • translate research findings into recommendations for policy and practice.

Sustainability is about long-term endurance through adaptation, resilience, and coping.

Sustainable working life is being able to maintain effective work, work organisations and working life in the face of challenge and adversity.

Health is a crucial issue for sustainability: the health and care of individuals and the healthiness of their communities and work organisations and the wider context. This includes social groups and communities not directly connected to a workplace.

Research areas

The centre research interests encompassed the following four areas:

  • good practice in the management of health and safety
  • cancer survivorship and work engagement
  • psychosocial and organisational risks to employee health
  • coping, resilience and adaption to working life.

ESRC Seminar Series

In 2014, the ESRC awarded the METIS Collaboration one of its new Seminar Series grants to discuss 'Social Science Perspectives on the Employment of those with Cancer: Psychosocial, Organisational and Economic Issues'.

At the time, the METIS Collaboration consisted of:

  • the Centre for Sustainable Working Life (Birkbeck, University of London)
  • the Academic Urology Unit (University of Aberdeen)
  • the Institute of Society and Health (University of Newcastle).

The seminars

As part of the grant, the Collaboration presented the following seminars:

  1. The perspective of those with cancer. University of Aberdeen. 21 April 2015
  2. The economic and labour market perspectives. University of Newcastle. 9 July 2015
  3. The legal and insurance perspectives. Birkbeck University of London. 21 January 2016
  4. The perspective of the health and care professionals. University of Aberdeen. 15 June 2016
  5. The employer's perspective and those of human resources and occupational health professionals. Birkbeck University of London. 15 November 2016
  6. Sources and use of data on work participation across europe. University of Newcastle. 13 June 2017

The Online Interactive Risk Assessment for Micro and Small Enterprise

To help micro and small enterprise (MSE, 1-10 employees) to overcome the challenges they face regarding managing psychosocial risks, the CSWL was tasked with developing modules for the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work’s Online interactive Risk Assessment (OiRA) tool.

The OiRA tool was developed to make risk assessment a straightforward process and one more widely applied by micro and small organisations across Europe. Risk assessment is essential in a healthy workplace and is key in reducing occupational accidents and ill health. The OiRA tools are available for free and OiRA is part of EU-OSHA’s overall aim of making Europe a safer, healthier and more productive place to work.

The CSWL developed modules on:

  • Leadership and communication
  • Interpersonal relationships and conflict in the workplace
  • Contact with customers and clients
  • Work tasks and job roles
  • Job roles.


The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work’s OSHwiki tool was developed to enable the sharing of occupational safety and health (OSH) knowledge, information and best practices, in order to support government, industry and employee organisations in ensuring safety and health at the workplace. The Centre for Sustainable Working Life played a crucial role in both the writing of articles available on the tool, and in managing the writing of numerous other wiki articles.