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Work environment

Work environment is everything that affects us in the workplace

Work environment is everything that affects us in the workplace. All employees have the right to a good working environment. This means that everyone should be able to look forward to going to work every day. It should feel good to be able to contribute to the activities of your employer with your own competence, provide support for colleagues and help to develop others as well as yourself.

All employees must be given the opportunity to participate in the design of their own work situation. Everyone should be happy at their workplace and not be at risk of falling ill or having accidents caused by their work. It is important that there is a good balance between work and private life.

The employer has the main responsibility in the collaborative work to create a healthy workplace where no one feels ill or is injured. This work is known as systematic work environment work and is a task that all employers/managers must work with actively.

Managers cannot create a good working environment by themselves. Everyone in the workplace needs to work with work environment issues together. The employer/management must therefore offer all employees the opportunity to participate in the work to create and maintain a good work environment. It is important to remember that all employees, including managers, are a part of and contribute to each other's work environment.

SULF sees the issue of a good work environment as central to our members' ability to achieve both their organisation’s goals and their individual professional goals. All parties benefit from a good work environment in the workplace. It is therefore in the interests of both staff and managers to work together to create the work environment that is most suitable for their workplace. In order to succeed with their work environment efforts, the employer/management must work preventively while also having a holistic perspective on the organisation’s activities and working long-term with work environment issues.

Different roles in work environment matters:

Employers/managers, health and safety/work environment committees, staff and health and safety/work environment representatives work together to create a good work environment, and in many cases the local Saco-S association is also involved.

To help with work environment issues, there are one or more health and safety/work environment committees at different levels in the organisation. These are the collaborative bodies where the employer and the employees work together. A health and safety committee might also be called a work environment committee, work environment group or similar. To keep things simple, we have chosen here to use the term health and safety committee.

The health and safety committees participate in the planning and monitoring of the work environment in the workplace. They also work with fundamental and general work environment issues. The committees include employer representatives and employees’ health and safety representatives. In spite of the work carried out by the safety committees, they do not assume the employer’s responsibility for the work environment.

As an employee, you have an obligation to follow instructions and tell the employer if you see or feel that your work or the work of others involves danger or risk to life and health. You should also have a continuous dialogue with your immediate manager about your work situation.

– Do you have enough time to perform your work duties?

– Have new needs emerged after the planning stage? This may include such matters as additional work tasks or the need for training in new IT programs and systems and/or administrative systems. For more tips, see Heavy workloads – time for recovery is essential.

Every year, you must also have a development dialogue with your manager in which you discuss how your work situation has been during the past year and what is to be done in the coming year. Your work task plan, (sometimes known as a service plan or a duty plan), is a good tool to support this dialogue.

  • Make a habit of talking to your manager whenever you have questions or wishes and when you see a need for changes and improvements for you to be able to perform your work.
  • Prepare thoroughly for your annual development dialogue with your manager. Be clear about any needs you have or knowledge and skills you need to acquire or improve.
  • Do not hesitate to contact your local Saco-S association or health and safety representatives if you need support in any of these matters.

As a manager, you will work with many different kinds of issue. To be well prepared to deal with these, you need training. This might be management and leadership training, but you may also need special training in work environment issues. In order to be able to shoulder the responsibility for the work environment, knowledge is vital because the role involves responsibility for liability for damages.

You may have been assigned different types of work environment responsibility, for example for the physical work environment. Such a task may involve responsibility for air quality, noise, light and furniture, as well as equipment such as copiers, computers or other things that are needed for the workplace to function.

If you are a manager, you also always have staff responsibility. You therefore need to have a continuous dialogue with the people who report to you in order to ensure that they have a good working environment. That role also requires knowledge of organisational and social work environment matters. The organisational work environment is the result of how the work is organised, directed, communicated, and how decisions are made. The social work environment is how we interact with and are affected by the activities and people around us. There is also a psychosocial work environment to consider. This involves employees’ perceptions of work in terms of opportunities for variation, social contact, personal and professional development, self-determination and professional responsibility. The Swedish Work Environment Authority’s Organizational and social work environment provisions (AFS 2015: 14) contain concrete proposals on how managers can act preventively to avoid excessive workloads for employees by adapting resources to the requirements of the work. They also provide concrete suggestions on how these can be implemented. There is also a user guide to the regulations. See also Heavy workloads – time for recovery is essential.

As a manager, you must conduct annual development dialogues with very employee. You need to know about your staff’s work to be able to plan their work and ensure that they have a good working environment. At the same time, you will also get the information you need to be able to provide fair and accurate information to the local/central health and safety committee as part of the central systematic work on work environment. Such information is compiled at unit or department level and not at individual level. This is how you carry out your part of the local systematic work environment work. (For more information, see Preventive work environment work). It is important for you as a manager to create clarity by ensuring that there are rules, procedures, guidelines and policies that the staff can follow. In this way, you reduce the risk of ill health and injury among those who report to you. This kind of issue is appropriate to raise and discuss at staff meetings, workplace meetings or similar.

  • Make demands on the management so that you receive the training you need for the duties you have.
  • Remember that any problems or difficulties in the workplace must be reported to the local/central health and safety committee.

The local Saco-S Association can help you if you do not think your boss is listening to you or if you do not feel you can or want to discuss the issue with them. The union representatives have regular contact with the health and safety representatives and can also forward the matter to them. Examples of issues include problems with work task planning not allowing enough time for the work that needs to be done or cooperation problems with a colleague. The local Saco-S association can also help to initiate discussions about important common issues at workplace meetings or other meetings with members.

In the legislation on work environment, union representatives have not been assigned a specific role. It is the trade union organisation that has the right to negotiate with the employer on most issues. Therefore, they can act on many of the issues that come up.

Health and safety/work environment representatives are the people whose role is to follow and monitor what goes on in the workplace. Health and safety representatives are often also known as work environment representatives. For simplicity, we have chosen here to use the term health and safety representative. Health and safety representatives work to keep alive interest in and commitment to work environment issues in the workplace and are the employees’ representatives in these matters. They work together with the employer to find the most suitable solutions for the workplace in question. Work environment issues that they deal with include well-being, cooperation, communication between groups, different kinds of risk at work or changes in the workplace. In addition to working with the employer, health and safety representatives also work closely with employees as well as with the local Saco-S association. They can also help initiate discussions about important common issues at workplace meetings or similar meetings with staff. In spite of the work that the safety representatives carry out, the responsibility for the work environment work remains with the employer/management.

There must be easily accessible information about who the health and safety representatives at your workplace are so that you can contact the right person easily if necessary. Unlike the local Saco-S association, which only represents Saco union members, health and safety representatives represent all employees in the workplace, regardless of which union they are a member of or whether a person has chosen not to join a trade union.

More information

On Saco’s website you will find information for you who are health and safety/work environment representatives (in Swedish).