We have a good working environment, friendly colleagues and nice, bright premises — or so the job ads tell us. The ads tell us that the concept of working environment is diffuse for many, and is used to refer to a variety of things. After all, what exactly is a good working environment and what is it all about?
Perhaps usage of the term has become so unclear because it encompasses not only physical but also psychosocial and organisational aspects. Recently, however, we have seen some interesting discussions about what a good working environment actually entails. STAMI (the Norwegian National Institute of Occupational Health) and its Director General Pål Molander have helped to increase the focus by stressing that working environment is about how we work and organise our work. At Stamina, we agree with this and there is no doubt that it is profitable to strive for a good working environment.
Good working environments make businesses more efficient and productive. STAMI has highlighted European research which shows that every krone invested in the working environment pays back 2.2 kroner. The NHO (Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise) congress in Oslo also focused on this with a theme on the value of work.
There are several recurring factors in scientific studies into what characterises a good working environment, and many of these are closely related to organisational matters. They include the employee’s perception of their ability to influence their own working day and whether their immediate manager is clear in expressing their demands and expectations. The Occupational Health Survey looks into these and several other crucial factors. As in previous years, we have put questions to 2,500 employees on half-time contracts or more. For the first time this year we have divided respondents into public and private sector. We can see several differences that are relevant in efforts to develop healthy working environments.
While the job ads would have us believe that a good working environment is something the employee should demand, with the renewed focus that has come about we also talk more about employees’ rights and their duty to help develop a good working environment. What we are talking about here is ‘employeeship’, a term I like. While ‘duty’ or ‘work duties’ often refers to something that is not particularly pleasurable, ‘employeeship’ focuses more on the positive aspects of what a person can do beyond their own work tasks to improve the workplace.
I hope this year’s survey will encourage further discussion about how we can develop measures that will allow businesses to organise their work even better — for the benefit of the individual, the business and society at large.