Datum 2020-09-01
Artikeltyp News

MDH researcher has the key to a good work environment

This article was written before our official name change on January 1, 2022 from Mälardalen University (MDH) to Mälardalen University (MDU).

According to the Swedish Work Environment Authority, around 700 people in Sweden die every year on account of a poor work environment and work-related stress. In a research project at MDH, researchers have arrived at a result that will contribute to improved health and wellbeing.

− We are one another’s work environment and therefore a good dialogue between managers and staff is the key to succeed in guaranteeing a healthy work environment and in the longer term a sustainable and efficient organisation, says Tomas Backström, Professor of Innovation Technology and Project Manager at MDH.

Since 1989 there have been legal requirements in Europe that organisations need to work on their psychosocial work environment and to carry out risk assessments. These legal requirements were made clearer in Sweden with the new regulation OSA (Organisational and Social Work Environment) that was published in March 2016. There are clear examples that the psychosocial work environment can lead to increased risks of for example depression, anxiety, sleeping problems and fatigue syndromes. A deteriorated work environment in its turn often leads to decreased productivity and large costs. In this research project the researchers have been focusing on preventive work.

− It’s about always lying one step ahead, mapping out and addressing the psychosocial conditions in an organisation first before someone falls ill. The staff need to become involved in the work by having close dialogues with their managers, regardless of the level. The managers in their turn must have the authority, resources and knowledge to be able to see and implement changes together with their team to create a good work environment, says Rachael Tripney Berglund, doctoral student at MDH.

Research in collaboration with manufacturing companies

During the four-year project that has been financed by AFA Insurance, the researchers have investigated, among other things, the psychosocial conditions between two departments. One of the departments was asked to do a training course, after which they had to make risk assessments of the department. The comparison group also made risk assessments, but without any training, and these staff members thereby did not have the same prerequisites.

− What we could clearly see was that the department involved in the work and received training in psychosocial risk assessments and in leading a good dialogue showed an improved work environment even after 6 months. After 1 year a significant difference could also be seen from the comparison group, says Rachael Tripney Berglund.

Volvo Construction Equipment, who was one of the collaboration partners during the course of the project regard the tool as a way of working in a more preventative way to minimise and prevent fatigue syndromes.

− This project har really shown how important it is to have the right knowledge and tools to be able to help staff at an early stage, before they end up in the risk zone. Now we can work more preventively to prevent fatigue syndromes and thus to enhance wellbeing among the staff, says Per-Erik Illikainen, Deputy Chief Safety Representative at the Union and Testcell Development Engineer at Volvo Construction Equipment.

Tips for managers and organisations to ensure a good work environment:

  • The management should set a good example and work systematically with the manager’s psychosocial work environment by training and risk assessment in close dialogue with the staff.
  • Work on mapping out the psychosocial work environment at the company departments before someone falls ill and after that work actively with the results. In this way you work with the causes instead of staying at the same level of stress.
  • Create time and space for regular and individual talks between managers and staff. It is important that the manager is relaxed and has the time to focus on the staff during the talk to create trust.
  • Let the mangers own their own risk assessment – they can for example send out links to the survey and present the results to their group. Make it clear that the managers are responsible for producing and carrying out measures – the process is driven by the manager.
  • Encourage the managers to listen and let everyone in the group be involved in the work with the organisational and social risks. It is important that the group produces and tests the measures on their own.

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