Measuring organizational-level factors that promote healthy working conditions and their long-term development

The government tasked the Swedish Work Environment Authority and the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise, in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Sweden and the Swedish Social Insurance Agency, with reviewing organizational-level factors that promote healthy working conditions and their long-term development.

Summary

On June 20, 2018, the government decided to task the Swedish Work Environment Authority and the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise with examining existing research to review and present organizational-level factors that promote healthy working practices and their long-term development. Such factors contribute to a sustainable and healthy work environment that promotes mental health. The project was to be carried out in collaboration with the Public Health Agency of Sweden and the Swedish Social Insurance Agency.

Factors that promote healthy work conditions can be defined as the various circumstances that influence the work environment so as to promote health and allow employees to maintain their health so that, over time, they have the opportunity to work and to fulfil their personal goals, and the goals of their work. Here, the organizational level is defined as the various conditions generated through strategy, management, and leadership at an overall level, usually through the highest operational management.
Existing research within the area was reviewed. This showed that consistent findings were lacking. Yet, several studies have identified factors that may promote healthy work practices, but these factors have seldom been confirmed in other studies. However, it was possible to identify, across the different studies, several potential factors at the organizational level. These factors included, for instance, a manager having a reasonable number of employees, as well as clear development opportunities, opportunities for employees to convey their ideas and critique, clear goals, and good knowledge of the health and sickness absence of the employees.

After reviewing potential factors, further analysis based on the definitions developed showed that the factors promoting healthy working practices could be divided into different overall themes that can be seen as key factors at an organizational level. Specifically, these overall themes included good prerequisites for:
• leadership,
• learning and development,
• participation and communication,
• working with goals, goal-setting, and values, and
• strategic management of the work environment as well as work with health and sickness absence in the organization.

The next step was to identify useful and valid measures. These measures were to meet the following three criteria:
1) promote healthy work practices,
2) be measured at the organizational level|, and
3) be possible to measure over time.

After reviewing national studies, national registers, scales, indices, and questionnaires, as well as consulting with researchers, it was concluded that no measure currently meets all three of these criteria.

Since no measure meets the three key criteria, it is impossible to present any “organizational-level factors that promote healthy working practices and their long-term development”. This means that more well-designed studies, as well as research and development projects, are needed in order to develop appropriate measures.

There may be differences in the organizational-level factors that promote healthy working practices and their long-term development between different sectors, industries, businesses, and occupations. This has to be considered in future efforts to develop measures of factors that promote healthy working practices and their long-term development at the organizational level.
From current knowledge, it is difficult to draw any conclusions regarding differences between women and men in the organizational-level factors that promote healthy work practices. However, it is reasonable to assume that factors at the organizational level, that affect all employees, would promote health among both women and men.

According to the understanding of government agencies, the organizational-level factors that promote healthy working practices that have been identified in this report may provide an important starting point for continued work to develop factors describing healthy work practices, at the organizational level, that can be measured and followed over time.

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  • Date

    June 9, 2022