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Well-being at work

| Text: Magne Kjeseth

Nordic efforts to improve working environments are now beginning to show results. Tarja Filatov, Finland's Minister of Labour, has brought the attention of the Nordic Council to the economic significance that a good working environment can have for businesses and the national economy.

Tarja FilatovFinland's Minister of Labour presented the final report on working environment activities within the Nordic countries at the Session of the Nordic Council October 29-31 in Copenhagen.

"The importance of a good working environment is first and foremost a factor which has long-term significance. A good working environment ensures that people stay healthy so they can continue working right up to retirement age. A good working environment also encourages people to work. Working environments therefore have major economic importance for society, for companies and for organisations," said Tarja Filatov, who also during the Nordic Council session emphasised the importance of co-operation between the social partners. 

Similarities

Tarja Filatov presented the results from a major Council of Ministers´ working environment conference entitled "Well-being at work", which took place this summer. The conference clearly showed the similarities between working environment problems in the Nordic countries. Based on this, the European committee of the Nordic Council requested a review of the situation in three areas.

How can absenteeism be avoided at the local level? What is the relationship between employees' employment contracts and their social needs? What measures can be put in place to prevent burn-out in certain industries?

Crucial

"The health and welfare provisions for employees are crucial to productivity, efficiency, quality and economic results," reported Tarja Filatov.

In Sweden, the government has proposed a major package of measures to improve health at work. In Norway, the social partners have drafted an intention agreement, the aim of which is to reduce absenteeism by 20 %. In Denmark, the plan is to stimulate owners of businesses to improve working environments through economic incentives. Iceland and Finland are working on action plans for a better working environment. The purpose of all these measures is to enable employees to manage their work better.

Social needs

"Legislation in the Nordic countries is undergoing constant change to keep up with employees' social requirements and recognise that employees have a family life as well as a job. The framework for new legislation can be found in existing agreements that focus on matters such as holiday, working hours, leisure time, study leave, maternity and paternity leave and other provisions," said Finnish labour minister, Tarja Filatov.

She emphasised that technology is creating new opportunities for employees, but that there is also a risk of work encroaching on family life.

Social stress

"The sensitivity of people and their knowledge are important factors for managers to be aware of at work. Despite an improvement in working environments in the Nordic countries, studies have shown that stress and psychological pressures are on the increase and the risk of burn-out has risen considerably, too," said Tarja Filatov.

She reported that it is becoming increasingly important for employers to realise the importance of investing in a good working environment. It improves competitiveness and productivity and employees feel better and can cope better with their work.

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