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The good work environment and its indicators.
University of Gävle, Faculty of Health and Occupational Studies, Department of Occupational and Public Health Sciences. University of Gävle, Centre for Musculoskeletal Research.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2091-6396
Uppsala University, Department of Medical Sciences, Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
2012 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Despite legislation in the field of work environment, both on national and international level, a century of labour inspections, and the efforts of thousands of occupational health consultants still 23% of the women and 17% of the men in Sweden report that they during the past twelve months have had work-related disorders making it difficult to perform their work or carry out everyday housework. Of these, about one-third has been on sick leave because of the disorders. Further, the average retirement age in Sweden was 64 years, instead of 65, in 2009. This has been explained by decreased work ability in particular among blue collar workers. The figures suggest that the endeavours do not reach all the way.  In addition, an increased dependency ratio in Sweden because of demographic changes has raised voices for a higher retirement age. In order to achieve a sustainable working life, it is likely that strategies and actions from different and new angles are needed.

 

 

Instead of the traditional pathogenic focus, a different and additional way of approaching the problem of work related morbidity is to look at and learn from what characterizes organisations with a low rate of long term sick listed. Though a few studies and reports have dealt with this, there has been no systematic approach to summarize present knowledge of what constitutes healthy work environments and what might be key indicators of such work environments. Knowledge of such indicators may serve as tools to operationalize the ambition to achieve safe work places.         

 

Present review was commissioned by the Swedish Work Environment Authority and attempts to define the concept of a good work environment, how it has been operationalized in the scientific literature, and what can be indicators of a good work environment. A good work environment can be defined as something more than a neutral work environment. It can be defined as a work environment that has positive, beneficial effects on the individual.

 A systematic literature review was undertaken as part of the present survey. The aim was to systematically review the scientific literature on how good or healthy work environment is described and search for indicators of healthy work environments.  Major national and international databases for scientific publication were searched. No comprehensive indicators of a good work environment could be identified. However, the review revealed a number of factors considered to characterize a good work environment. The most frequently mentioned factors were: positive, accessible and fair leader; skilled communication; cooperation/teamwork; positive, social climate; participation/involvement; autonomy/empowerment; role clarity, with clear expectations and goals; recognition; development and growth at work; moderate work pace and workload; administrative and/or personal support at work; good physical work environment; and good relationships with stakeholders.

A similar concept as good work environment, but more often mentioned in the international literature is "healthy workplace". Healthy workplace is defined as a workplace with a work environment that has beneficial effects on both individuals and businesses. It is noteworthy that the notion healthy workplace is not a substitute for good work environment it is a consequence. Different models, e.g. the PATH-model by Grawitch et al. shows a synthesis of earlier research in a number of different disciplines and frames how a healthy workplace with wellbeing for the individual an organizational improvements can be achieved. The concept healthy workplace, with its dual view, is more pronounced about the causal effect of a god work environment than the pure notion “good work environment”. The concept has newly also been introduced in a couple of official Swedish documents. Because of this the present report advocates that the concept of healthy workplace is introduced as a concept in the Swedish work environment discourse.

This study notes that the state of knowledge regarding good work environments and healthy workplaces is incomplete, but not unstable. The behavioral sciences, in particular positive psychology, occupy a leading position in research and development of the area, while biomechanical and physiological research concerning beneficial physical loads at work is almost non-existent. There is a great need for continued research on various aspects of a good work environment. It would be beneficial to come to some kind of consensus about the concept of good and healthy work environment/workplace/work organization; to develop assessment instruments, including indicators of good work environments, and methods for implementation; as well as longitudinal testing of more complex models of healthy workplace. However, there are good reasons already today to take this input for a better work environment seriously as a complement, not replacement of traditional risk elimination.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012.
Keyword [en]
work environment, healthy workplace, literature review
Keyword [sv]
God arbetsmiljö, frisk arbetsplats, kunskapsöversikt
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-12552OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-12552DiVA: diva2:543634
Conference
FALF 2012 (Forum för arbetslivsforskning), Karlstad 11-13 juni 2012
Note
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xAvailable from: 2012-08-09 Created: 2012-08-09 Last updated: 2016-01-22Bibliographically approved

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