New regulations on social work environment

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There were many work environment enthusiasts who cried out ”Finally!” when it was decided that the new Work Environment Authority regulations on the organisational and social work environment will apply from 31 March 2016. The aim of the new regulations is to help employers and staff reduce work-related ill health. The rules clarify which organisational and social factors will be a part of the systematic work environment management, with a focus on how operations and work is organised. The organisational work environment includes demands placed on employees and how these demands match the resources and qualifications available to perform the work. The social work environment is about how we are affected by the people around us; social interaction and cooperation and support from managers and colleagues.

Three areas were highlighted in particular: workloads, working hours and victimisation. An unhealthy workload must be prevented by balancing demands and resources. In practice, this means working together to go through and clarify who will do what, the result to be achieved, how it can be given priority if there is not enough time, and who can be contacted for help and support. Unclear work descriptions easily become a breeding ground for conflicts and affect job satisfaction as well as efficiency of operations. As regards working hours, ill health should be minimised through good planning, opportunities for recovery through breaks or easier tasks, and as far as possible performing particularly strenuous and risky jobs in the daytime. It should be clearly stated that victimisation is not accepted at the workplace. There must be procedures in place for handling victimisation if it should occur, a person who receives information, what that person should do and how to quickly give help to the victim.

For these elements to work in practice, the rules demand that managers and supervisors know how to prevent and manage unhealthy workloads and victimisation. Employees must also be involved in prevention work and highlighting risks at the workplace. An important message is that we must communicate, not compensate, for shortcomings in the working environment.

Cecilia Österman

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