Handbook of Research Methods on the Quality of Working Lives
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Handbook of Research Methods on the Quality of Working Lives

Edited by Daniel Wheatley

The growing diversity of contemporary paid work has provoked increased interest in understanding and evaluating the quality of working lives. This Handbook provides critical reflections on recent research in the field, including examining the inextricable links between working life and well-being.
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Chapter 7: Accessing ‘hard to reach groups’ and emotions in the research process: ‘work an honest day and get the usual raw deal’

Andrew Smith and Jo McBride


There is growing interest in issues of low-pay, insecure work and job quality from academics, policy-makers, employers and trade unions. Our research critically examines the work experiences and work–life ‘balance’ complexities of low-paid workers who have to work in more than one job in order to make ends meet. The research findings highlight issues over limited incomes, job insecurity and low-trust employment relations, together with long, complex and fragmented working time arrangements. In this chapter, we detail the qualitative research design employed and the practicalities of accessing a ‘hard to reach group’ of workers. Researching these workers involved working with trade unions, poverty organisations and community groups, whilst using snowball sampling strategies to arrange interviews with low-paid workers with two, three, four, five, six, and even seven different jobs. We also assess the difficulties for both the researchers and participants in uncovering emotive and sensitive issues around the indignity of work, low-pay, job insecurity and well-being issues.

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