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BEST - Better Psychosocial Work Environment: a study of workplace interventions

Better Psychosocial Work Environment:
a study of workplace interventions

A research project on a better psychosocial work environment 2004-07
- Covering companies with intensive work in manufacturing industry, work with human care, and unlimited knowledge work.

Many people and companies find it difficult to maintain the focus on the psychosocial work environment, and much too often the effort comes to nothing. But how come that some companies are able to implement improvements successfully whereas other companies have come to a halt? And how can these companies overcome constraints and difficulties on the road to a better psychosocial work environment.

It is the goal of the project to produce results which can assist companies in implementing more successful efforts in the future. The result will not be a toolbox of simple methods. The complicated reality in the workplaces rather requires an understanding of processes leading to positive results. The necessary tools can then be selected among the many existing possibilities. Another important goal is to contribute to the international working life research

Better psychosocial work environment –a Study of workplace intervention

A research project on a better psychosocial work environment 2004-07
- Covering companies with intensive work in manufacturing industry, work with human care, and unlimited knowledge work.

Learn from the successful companies

The psychosocial work environment is a hot issue in Denmark . New reports about more stress, burn out, and psychosocial illnesses are regularly published. Many companies are making a serious effort to improve the psychosocial work environment. But it is a difficult issue for many companies to manage. Often they are not certain of how to take care of the psychosocial work environment. Is it an issue for the health and safety committee or the works council? Or does it in reality belong to the human resource department? Is the best point of departure a mapping of the problems, and how to continue after this exercise?

Many people and companies find it difficult to maintain the focus on the psychosocial work environment, and much too often the effort comes to nothing.

The complex nature of the psychosocial work environment can be one explanation of these constraints. It is difficult to describe the problems, and it is therefore also difficult to identify solutions. Compared to the mainstream activities in the companies, the psychosocial work environment may end up as a peripheral problem which is not considered to be important by the central decision makers. However, in spite of the constraints some companies are able to implement very successful measures which lead to substantial improvement.

These are the problems BEST are studying: how come that some companies are able to implement improvements successfully whereas other companies have come to a halt? And how can these companies overcome constraints and difficulties on the road to a better psychosocial work environment.

Project goal
It is the goal of the project to produce results which can assist companies in implementing more successful efforts in the future. The result will not be a toolbox of simple methods. The complicated reality in the workplaces rather requires an understanding of processes leading to positive results. The necessary tools can then be selected among the many existing possibilities. Another important goal is to contribute to the international working life research.

Methods
The project needs to study two dimensions in order to understand a successful effort or a failed process. The first dimension is the process: What are the companies doing in order to improve the psychosocial work environment, and do these activities result in any changes. The second dimension is the effect: Has the psychosocial work environment been improved?

BEST is therefore designed as a combination of qualitative and quantitative studies. All participating companies will start with a thorough investigation of prior activities in this field and a mapping of the psychosocial work environment. The results from this investigation will serve as a tool for the companies to plan their activities. It is at the same time serving as the baseline survey for later measurements of effect.

The companies will be responsible for the preparation and implementation of an action plan. It is not the researchers who will tell the companies what to do. But the re-searchers are not just passive observers. It is important to achieve positive experience which can be disseminated to other companies, and the researchers will therefore act as sparring partners for the key actors in the companies. One of the important points is to create reflections on the constraints and setbacks which will appear in the process. The companies will also get a possibility to benchmark themselves with the other participating companies.

The companies will get a period of two years for the implementation of improvements. The researchers will follow the process closely and record all activities. A quantitative and qualitative survey will be carried out by the end of the period in order to study the effect of the effort. The subsequent analysis will look for explanations for the outcome: What are the reasons for positive results or what are the reasons for a failed effort.

Project organization
BEST is carried out as collaboration between researchers from the Technical University of Denmark, the Institute of Occupational Health , Centre for Alternative Social Analysis, and Roskilde University in the period 2004 – 07. It is funded with DKK 7.7 million from the Danish Work Environment Research Fund, making it one of the largest research projects in this field.

It includes 14 companies with approximately 5,000 employees which are dedicated to a serious effort in order to improve the psychosocial work environment. The companies cover three sectors with considerable problems related to the psychosocial work environment:
-  The manufacturing industry with intensive Taylorized work e.g. in the food and metal industry.
-  Caring for humans with the risk of stress and burn out e.g. in the care for the elderly and social welfare work.
-  The borderless knowledge work with large demands and long working hours e.g. within the ICT-area, consultancy, and the financial sector.

The project has a Danish reference group with representatives from the labour unions and employers’ associations which will be users of the results. An international reference group is also formed in order to develop the international perspective of the project.

 29.04.2009
Contact: NRCWE web editors
 
 
 
 

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