Capturing the psychological well-being of Chinese factory workers

Minette Bellingan*, Catherine Tilley, Luciano Batista, Mukesh Kumar, Steve Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Businesses are under pressure to ensure social responsibility in their globalised supply chains. However, conventional factory audits are not providing adequate data about production workers’ well-being. Industry attempts to measure working conditions have shown bias and inconsistency and there is no consensus on what to measure, or how. Well-being can be intangible and difficult to capture without appropriate theoretical and methodological frameworks. This paper investigates factors influencing the well-being of a Chinese factory’s workers, tests an innovative research method, and proposes interventions to improve well-being in factories.

This is a longitudinal study using the diaries of production workers at a large assembly manufacturing site in China. Workers left daily digital voice diaries about their day, which were analysed to identify factors related to their well-being at work.

The picture is more complex than the concerned Western narrative suggests. Workers' personal and professional concerns extend beyond the criteria currently measured in audits, tending to be more relational, and less about their physical state.

Practical implications:
The current approach of auditing management practices neglects workers' well-being. This study offers a more comprehensive view of well-being and tests a new method of investigation.

This is the first study to use diary methods in a Chinese factory. It addresses an issue supported by little empirical evidence. It is the first longitudinal study to hear from the factory workers themselves about how they are and what impacts their well-being daily.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1289
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Operations and Production Management
Issue number7-8
Early online date30 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2020

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  • CSR
  • CSR audit
  • Diary research
  • Psychological capital
  • Risk management
  • Social sustainability
  • Supply chain


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