The parts and the whole

In recent years, however, the concept of work environment has undergone a healthy development. The realisation has spread that it is about so much more than the issues focused on earlier; it is now widely accepted that the work environment encompasses people as a whole and how we feel.
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What exactly is the work environment? As recently as 10 years ago many people would have listed a number of physical conditions such as noise, vibrations, chemicals and oils. These issues are of course at least as important and topical as they were 10 years ago.
In recent years, however, the concept of work environment has undergone a healthy development. The realisation has spread that it is about so much more than the issues focused on earlier; it is now widely accepted that the work environment encompasses people as a whole and how we feel. Food, exercise, sleep, harassment, alcohol habits, leadership and general well-being are some of the issues which now have gained their place in the framework of serious work environment activities.
This broadening of the issues reflects a more complete picture of real life and of those at the centre of the work environment process – the employees. It is also becoming increasingly apparent that the different parts, physical as well as psychosocial, are closely related to each other and together make up a whole.
Many studies have shown that people who feel bad psychologically, who are stressed or who eat poorly run greater risks than others of suffering not only from a number of illnesses, but also aches and injuries. Too much stress and dissatisfaction at work make people more susceptible, their immune defence is weakened and muscles and organs become more vulnerable to strains. On top of all this, the risk of accidents increases under high stress.
Working with the psychosocial environment is sometimes felt to be more difficult than dealing with physical conditions. It is often less tangible and not as clear. Nevertheless, projects are ongoing here and there which strive to raise the quality of conditions onboard for personnel. Just the fact that we now more often see the relationship between physical and psychosocial aspects, the parts and the whole, is in itself a significant step forwards.
Linda Sundgren
editor, San News

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