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Avoiding change-induced stress in the workplace

| Text: Marie Preisler

Changes are common in Nordic workplaces, and the social partners in Denmark are now joining forces to prevent this from causing stress.

Restructuring, mergers and other changes are necessary for the survival of companies and their workers - especially in the Nordic region where major changes happen very often. Now a new Danish campaign aims to prevent such changes from damaging the psychological working environment, causing stress. 

The campaign ‘A good psychological working environment in the face of workplace changes’ has been launched by the social partners, including employers and trade unions plus the Danish Working Environment Authority and the National Research Centre for the Working Environment.

22 recommendations 

The campaign is based on 22 recommendations for how workplaces can maintain good psychological working environments during times of change. Studies show that changes impact on workers’ psycho-social working environment and wellbeing both before, during and after the actual change. Changes can be positive for workers and leadership alike, but they can also put pressure on the workplace and the psychological working environment.

The campaign says good processes of change mean a company must 

  • Be ahead of the changes
  • Involve workers
  • Have good communication for the duration of the changing process
  • Support the process of change and develop necessary skills 

Much change in the Nordic region

Nordic workers are often required to face major changes at work. According to a 2012 Eurofound report, more than half of all Danish, Swedish and Finnish workers have experienced major changes at work in the past four years.

Changes at work and the insecurity which follows is among the most common causes of work-related stress in Denmark. Three in four Danish workers say reorganisation and job insecurity represent the most common causes of stress. This is a slightly higher figure than the European average. The figures are from a new survey from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.

The data has been collated from 31 countries and shows that Danish workers are also among those who experience the least stress. 38 percent of Danish workers say work-related stress is very or pretty much common. In Norway and Sweden more than 50 percent of workers say stress is very or pretty much common.

Measures against psychological stress

The campaign for a good psychological working environment in the face of changes is the result of a political agreement to reduce by 20 percent the amount of workers suffering from psychological stress by 2020. The Danish parliament agreed to this in 2011 as part of a new strategy on working environment measures leading up to 2020.

In order to reach that goal the Danish Working Environment Authority and the social partners were asked to identify methods for identifying and rectifying problems in the psychological working environment. This has resulted in a set of recommendations for inclusion in the workplace and a set of recommendations for how to handle the psychological working environment before, during and after the changes. These recommendations are gathered in the document ‘A good psychological working environment - when changes happen in the workplace’, and will be debated during a conference on 23 May this year.

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