What actually makes a good job for frontline workers?


Since COVID-19, the recruitment of staff into frontline, public-facing roles, has been massively challenging.

The reasons for this are likely numerous and in many cases difficult to establish. But what is clear is that the businesses that are coping better, that are retaining staff or growing their teams, are offering good jobs and good experiences of work.

As a result of this shift, The Good Jobs Project (GJP), led by Dr. Helen Fitzhugh from the Norwich Business School, was launched with one, key question, in mind. What actually makes a good job for frontline workers?

Along with her team, the GJP have conducted numerous interviews with employees and employers in Norwich to try and establish what matters most to employees, what keeps them in their roles, and what encourages them to join.

The conclusion? That at the heart of an employer’s ability to thrive, despite the challenging environment, were what the GJP defined as the ‘Four Boosts’:

  • Let me connect
  • Care about me and my life
  • Have my back
  • Make me part of the conversation

As Helen says, ‘“One thing that helps people get the difference between authentic and inauthentic attempts to improve wellbeing is the idea of ‘the spangle trap’”. “Employers can get caught up thinking they need to provide shiny, spangly treats such as fruit baskets, free exercise classes or table tennis tables in the staff room for wellbeing, when actually the best thing can actually be to focus first on how work impacts on the employee emotionally, physically and in their everyday lives.”

A year on from the original Good Jobs Project, the remit is now growing to include all parts of Norfolk beyond Norwich. Helen and her team are keen to share the Four Boosts and all their research with employers and encourage employers and employees to take part in the project.

“We really want to spread the word about what employers in the area can do, low cost, to keep and really pay attention to their employees,” said Helen. “We need Norfolk employers and employees to share their opinions on working, or employing people, in retail, hospitality, care, tourism and charities in Norfolk. Then we’ll take our findings and keep improving the resources we can provide to employers – like our video, infographic and handbook”

Being part of the Good Jobs Project involves a 30-minute video or phone call with one of the Good Job researchers, telling them your opinion, speaking about your challenges and successes, and gaining insight into the ‘4 Boosts’ and the GJP’s research and findings.

If you are interested in sharing your experiences with the Good Job Project, do contact r.woodard@uea.ac.uk or workplace.wellbeing@uea.ac.uk. The deadline is 18th July 2022, and public-facing employees are also being offered a £20 Love2Shop voucher as a thank you for their time.

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