Health-related quality of life (HR-QOL) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is significantly impaired as a result of pain, deficits in physical function and fatigue associated with this disease. Decrements in HR-QOL are also associated with an increased probability of no longer working, absence from work due to RA-associated sickness, and reduced productivity while at work or in the home, all of which have consequences for the patient as well as society. HR-QOL and productivity are thus important components in the assessment of outcomes in RA, and assessment of HR-QOL is now recommended in clinical trials that assess the efficacy of new treatments for RA. Measures to assess HR-QOL include the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form 36 (SF-36), EuroQol (EQ-5D) and the Health Utilities Index - Mark 3 (HUI3); these measures not only provide an indication of the clinical (i.e. statistical) efficacy of a treatment, but also provide information on whether this efficacy is truly 'meaningful' from a patient's perspective. These measures have been utilized in clinical trials of biological agents in patients with RA, including tumour necrosis factor inhibitors (etanercept, infliximab, adalimumab, certolizumab pegol and golimumab), the co-stimulatory inhibitor molecule abatacept, the B-cell depletion agent rituximab and the interleukin-6 receptor antagonist tocilizumab, and have demonstrated that these agents can significantly improve HR-QOL. Assessment of work productivity in patients with RA and the impact of treatment is a practical way to measure disability from RA from individual and societal perspectives. As RA affects women three times more frequently than men, there is also a critical need for productivity assessment within the home as well as participation in family/social/leisure activities. Data from recent trials of biological agents demonstrate that these agents can reverse disease-related decrements in productivity and limitations in participation in family, social and leisure activities in patients with active RA. However, despite this recognition, several challenges in the assessment of productivity remain, including standardization of instruments. Development of additional instruments to assess HR-QOL and productivity that are easier to use in daily practice may further improve our ability to monitor the effectiveness of therapies.