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Theorising worker–client relations in front-line service work: Understanding the experience of non-professionally affiliated workers in UK mental health services

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen Procter, Dr Deborah Harrison, Professor Pauline Pearson, Dr Claire Dickinson



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2022.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


This paper contributes to a deeper understanding of front-line service workers’ experience of the worker–client relationship. It is based on a series of in-depth interviews with non-professionally affiliated workers in new front-line roles in UK mental health services. The findings cover three main areas: worker motivation and orientation; the nature of the worker–client relationship; and the role played in the relationship by the structure of work and relationships with colleagues. Evidence is found to support the use of the framework of Korczynski (Sociology, 43, 2009), but the research also suggests ways in which each of the framework's elements might be developed. It is argued that the idea of ‘caring’ is in need of refinement; that worker–client relations should not be seen solely in terms of client sovereignty and that a focus on the technical organisation of work can only go some way towards providing an understanding of the worker experience.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Procter S, Harrison D, Pearson P, Dickinson C

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: New Technology, Work and Employment

Year: 2022

Volume: 37

Issue: 1

Pages: 124-145

Print publication date: 17/03/2022

Online publication date: 01/09/2021

Acceptance date: 01/08/2021

Date deposited: 15/11/2021

ISSN (print): 0268-1072

ISSN (electronic): 1468-005X

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/ntwe.12212


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