Cholofone:The preparation of this manual is co financed by the European Agency ofSafety and health at Work, while CASA and BST Sjaelland have beenresponsible for the development. 18 Danish companies have contributedto the project by their experiences and their time.The following people have been involved:From CASA:Hans Jørgen LimborgHans HvenegaardEva ThoftFrom BST Sjaelland:Tine KierbyholmEgon Lund ChristensenClaes Tinglev ÅsideDrawings:Jens V. Petersen, CASALay-out:Internet DanmarkThe manual is available in a net-based version. A link to this is found atwww.casa-analyse.dk
ONE BIG FAMILYMAKING THE SMALL BUSINESSAN ATTRACTIVE WORKPLACEA reference manual on how to improve the psychosocialwork environment and reduce stress at work.
1A good psycho-social climate can preventthe development of serious illness1.Why bother about the psycho-social climatewhen everything's running so smoothly?Taking psycho-social work environmentseriously is a worthwhile investment-the rewards will benefit both the employerand employeeA small business is often compared to a family. In afamily, the welfare and commitment of each memberaffect the welfare and interests of the whole family. Abusiness is much the same. If the employees are contentand interested in the work, their motivation andcommitment will benefit, as will standards and productivityand lost hours due to absenteeism. Peoplewho work in small businesses depend on one another,like members of a family. Both suffer if we don't lendeach other a helping hand and take responsibility forone another. If someone disappears or leaves thefamily, the people left behind often find it hard to getthe wheels running smoothly again. Or if some peopledon't pull their weight, dissatisfaction and animositycan result. Things have to be put right in time, otherwiseeverybody suffers - in the family and in thesmall business.A wide range of scientific studies show that a goodpsycho-social climate benefits vital aspects of a business.They are:Well-being, fulfilment and healthCommitment, motivation and creativityEfficiency and productivityAbsence and high turnoverReputation of the business, and hence thechance of attracting new staffA stressful working environment will obviously havethe opposite effect. The workforce will feel pressuredand tired, irritable and unmotivated. The work itselfwill suffer, resulting in a drop in efficiency and standards.Attention can lapse, increasing the likelihoodof accidents. If this situation is allowed to continuefor long, it can lead to psycho-somatic illness, andeven death from stress-associated cardiovasculardisease - if the worst comes to the worst. The businessmay find absenteeism mounting and staff turningin their notice as they find work elsewhere, if thatoption is open.
2Who is this handbook for?Even the most petty issues canresult in irritation and dissatisfaction.The psycho-social environment is not something wecan afford to look at because we happen to live inprosperous societies with a high regard for welfare. Itis a question of consistent and high-quality management- and the prevention of serious illness.This handbook is written with the smallbusiness in mind, that is, businesses witha workforce of less than 20 employees,businesses started by one or two peopleon the back of a bright idea, who managedto build up a production unit and amarket, take on staff and keep the firmafloat on a daily basis. Larger businesses,or divisions or units of big firms, mightalso recognise some of the issues addressedin this handbook. Small businessessometimes hire consultants to help themwith more comprehensive problems, suchas improving the working environmentfor instance. This handbook might thereforebe most relevant as a tool for consultants,advisers and public authoritieswho deal with small businesses.If there is evidence for stress and dissatisfactionamong the workforce, something needs to be done.The first signs are often gossiping in the corners, anunpleasant atmosphere and a higher rate of mistakes.Commitment and efficiency fall, and if the best workersstart leaving the business or absenteeism rises,then it's highly likely that there's something seriouslywrong with the psychosocial climate. These consequencescan be prevented by acting as soon as the firstsigns of problems are spotted.
32.Visible problems and warning signsPay attention to signs of emerging problemsthat affect the climate at theworkplaceHow can we detect stress and stress-related problemsin the working environment before it's too late?When people have been working together for manyyears, they probably feel they know each other relativelywell, and would know if one of them was introuble. But many tend to conceal problems, oftenover long periods, to avoid making a bad impressionor a bother, and others may well overlook the earlysymptoms because they want everything to stay as itis. It is vital, then, to take the pulse of the workingenvironment every now and then. While this meanskeeping an eye on the welfare of each individual worker,it also means remaining aware of the type ofsymptoms we can identify and diagnose in the dailyoperations.Test the business's psycho-social climateHere is a list of the signs that tend to occur with thegreatest frequency when the sense of well-being issuffering from a poor psycho-social climate:Absenteeism risesRetaining staff becomes increasingly difficultStandards fallError rate risesCustomers complain about poor service orstandardsIncreasing numbers work strictly according to rules,refusing to be flexibleNobody can be bothered to put in an extra effortwhen called forSome just wait for orders instead of startingthemselvesSome can't be bothered to turn up to special eventslike Christmas parties or other social gatheringsQuarrels and disputes involving members of staffappear suddenlyPeople can't work togetherMounting gossip and whispering in the corridorsPoor atmosphereConversations between staff members themselvesand with the owner tend to be characte rised byblame and defensivenessSome members of the workforce are particularlyisolatedWorkers complain of sleep problems, stomachpains and/or headaches
4Investigations of the psycho-social climateoften use wide-ranging questionnairesaimed at taking the pulse of the workplaceand establishing scientifically whether theproblems are serious and whether they aregrowing. But this is seldom appropriate forthe small business.Test the climate at your own businessIt is possible, though, to construct a smallertest which will give an indication of thefirm's state of health. The test will not do italone. It is important to discuss and evaluatethe result in respect to the conditionsand climate in the business.People are their own experts when it comes to their own opinion of the conditions at work. Test your own reactions- along with those of your colleagues if possible - and then get together to discuss the results. Use a scalefrom 1 to 10: 10 is best and 0 worst. Write the score you give each statement on the right hand side of the form.1. Well-being I enjoy my work2. Influence I have a say concerning the way my work is organised3. Challenges My abilities are used in a productive way4. Social relations My relations with my colleagues and superiors are good5. Importance My workplace needs precisely me6. Recognition I'm praised and given credit for my work7. Meaningful work I find my job meaningful8. Work pressures I manage to complete my quota of tasks in normalworking hoursTotal score:0-25: The problems at your workplace are very serious and need immediate attention26-60: There are probably some problems, which need attention before they become really serious. Look into the areas, which received the lowest scores.61-80: Your workplace promotes a positive sense of well being. Discuss what you can doto have it stay that way.The head of the business can try giving a score to the different areas first, but as he/she believes the employeeswould be likely to respond, and then compare the resultsThe inspiration for this test came from a test devised by BST Københavns Kommune - the Occupational Health Service-under Copenhagen City Council
5It is generally not very useful to describethe small business's structure and hierarchiesby means of organisation diagramsThe family - a social system of the businessHere you see a picture of the business as afamily. In the centre we find the owner, andencircling him the different groups of employees.Guests represent the group of employeesoutside the value frontier. Within thatfrontier, the basic values of the businessapply.3.The small business - a productive familyWhen you look at the small business as afamily, you focus in particular on theimportance of human relationsrun smoothly without the one issue having to be discussedafter the other. If structures and hierarchy arefelt to be unreasonable, it may well give rise to conflicts.Small-business owners often describe their firm - orrather their staff - as a big family. Employees alsorefer to their jobs as if they were part of a family. Theimage of the family is used to illustrate the bondsworkers feel among themselves and to the owner. Welook after each other here - we're just like a big family.There are obviously large differences between a familyand a business. A business has goals defined by thetype of production involved. A range of goods orservices is produced in an economically viable waythat meets given standards.The family doesn't necessarily share such goals ofproduction. The family is a structure that providessecurity, care, food, a chance to recharge depletedbatteries, learn norms and manners and produce newgenerations.In small businesses, the structure and hierarchy aregenerally fluid. That said, daily operations need toWhen we use the family as an analogy for the business,we are pointing the spotlight at the same timeon relations between people involved in the business.The family is a picture of how we get on with eachother. In what follows we attempt to 'unfold thisfamily picture' to understand more of what happensbetween people in a business and those aspects of thepsycho-social climate that tie in with social or humanrelations. Why do we see each other as we do? Howdo different employees build relations between eachother? Why do we act as we do in relation to eachother? Focusing on different groups of people in abusiness and their status, values, ways of thinking canhelp us distinguish and understand the problemsfacing us, and result in the end in a more positivepsycho-social climate."The core"In the central point we find the core family. It consistsof the owner, the founder, or his or her heirs (the
6The unexpected visitor:- for the occupational health service- from the authoritiesLabour marketVALUESThe values of the ownerand his commercial ideasand standards will colourthe entire enterpriseINTERESTSLocal areaThe core:The owner and his/her spouseThe close familyTrusted family membersGuestsValue frontiersLodgersFoster children / sheltered workThe kin - extended relations:- customers- subcontractors/buying sources- networks- support systemschildren) generally supported by a spouse. It is thanksto this person that the business exists in the firstplace. It was his ideas, energy and effort that createdit. It is also his values, his sense of quality, loyaltyand business ideas that give the business its uniqueidentity. This doesn't mean that other ideas can't bediscussed or that the community outside is ignored,but the manner in which they are approached dependslargely on his views and perspectives.Values tie in with an idea of what is good for thebusiness. They are expressed in the shape of attitudesto a range of things of greater or lesser importance tothe daily operations. For instance, they are visible inthe work ethic and discipline, a desire for growth or,in contrast, stability, the tone of human relations,standards with which operations need to comply, customerrelations, friendships and authority, and perceptionsof safety and hazards.All this means that new ideas concerning ways ofdoing things differently or criticism of the currentsystem are always advanced with respect for the valuesof the owner. You don't criticise what someone hasbuilt up over a lifetime without criticising him as aperson. As an employee you need to reflect over hownew proposals and ideas can be advanced and thebest time to do so. As the owner, you should thinkabout what you might be missing by refusing to listento other's opinions or look at the business from afresh perspective.Values are an essential foundation for any business.That the values of a small business are generallyexpressed personally by the owner, and hence easy tomake out and comprehend, is one of its strengths.If an employee agrees with the values, he or she maycross the value frontier and be accepted as a memberof "the family". The problem is that values also actsometimes as a barrier to criticism from the outside.It is difficult to remain open to criticism and freshideas - especially when they come from people whoapparently don't respect one's values."The close family"An owner will often labour under the impression thathe has to do everything himself - and that withouthim, the business would collapse. But if he looks athis staff he'll find a small inner circle of workers whoare vital to the running of the business. We'll callthem the trusted workers. This inner circle often
7Transferring ownership - to the nextgeneration or to a new ownerTransferring the ownership of a businessfrom father to son or daughter is seldoman easy task. And it can't be done overnighteither. If problems arise, they canhave implications for the whole businessin both the short and the long term.It is therefore essential to plan a transferof ownership well in advance, and itwould help to avoid making it into afamily drama by including the staff in thetransferral process and discussions wherethe good features worth keeping are identifiedalong with what needs to go or bechanged.The same thing applies if the owner hasno heirs and is considering selling thebusiness either to a dependable memberof the workforce or an outsider. Theowner will be deeply concerned for thewelfare of his employees, and will occasionally- from the best of intentions -keep his cards close to his chest so as notcause concern. It is probably better, onbalance, to discuss candidly the future.includes people who have been with the firm formany years and who carry out their responsibilitiesand assignments without question or waiting forinstructions. The machines are kept in good runningorder, trouble-shooters are called in before it's toolate, supplies are ordered when stocks run low, newemployees are given necessary instruction and training,problems and issues raised by staff are addressed.The trusted workers share the norms and valuesof the family.The relations between the owner and his trusted workerscan be taken too much for granted. It may benecessary, every now and then, to discuss what thedifferent roles entail and make sure that employeesfeel they and their efforts are appreciated. The specialrole of the trusted inner circle of employees maydamage relations with the other workers.Responsibilities, influence and, consequently, power,are seldom officially formulated or written down,which in itself can give rise to situations where authorityis questioned. In cases like this, it might benecessary to support the trusted employee to makehis or her role clearer and more distinct for theothers.But it is also necessary to listen and consider whethercriticisms may not be well-founded after all.
8It is important to create a framework for communicationand information so that lodgersalso feel they have access to relevant knowledgeand can offer suggestions and ideasIt is the set of values of a business, knowledge of itsorigin and history and the often long years of attachmentto the firm that makes the trusted workers wantto stay on. But problems may arise if certain membersof staff do not know why other members enjoyspecial status. Everybody has to meet the requirementsof the work, and if some of them have a specialset of rules of their own, it is vital to make surethat everybody knows why - if not, confidence willsuffer and conflicts spread."The lodgers"The concern of the lodgers is whether there is enoughspace for all of them - that is, whether there will be ajob for them in the future as well. They want to keeptheir jobs in the firm, and will therefore be constantlypreoccupied with the way it is run, with market conditions,standards and survival. But they are not on anequal footing with the trusted employees in terms ofvalues and historically bound up with the owner andthe inner circle. Together with the trusted workersthey perform key operations. A lodger is an employeewho goes along with the values of the firm despitehaving reservations about them. The lodgers may bedivided into hierarchical levels, often related to age,seniority and qualifications and skills.Employees often mention the lack of informationwhen describing the psychosocial climate in theirworkplace. At the same time, it is not always easy forthe owner to know exactly what sort of informationhe should make generally known and how often. It isimportant to set up a good system so that the lodgersknow that necessary information will be given, thatthey can ask questions and suggest ideas and proposals.The lodgers will often have ideas about dealingwith bottlenecks or improving procedures, but areoften told that that's the way things are done, and that'sit. People need to feel confident before makingsuggestions to the core family for improvements.Morning coffee breaks, a Friday drink, the monthlymeeting are all opportunities for creating a systemwhere information about the firm and the work canbe exchanged. Many owners have been surprised atwhat emerges when employees are given the chanceto air, comment and offer suggestions. These types of'extramural' activities are therefore essential for thelodgers and guests to feel included, which in turnboosts the sense of solidarity throughout the entirefamily/business."The guests"The guests make up that group of employees who arenot yet lodgers. Guests are generally people whohave only been with the firm for a short period either
9Guests may have useful opinionsand ideas to contribute about thefirm, since they see it with new eyesas replacements for people who have left or as part ofan expansion project. The time needed for a guest tobecome a lodger can vary considerably. Some nevermake the grade, but leave the firm again. Othersremain guests for lengthy periods. Being a guestmeans a sort of extended trial period during whichthe firm decides whether it sees the guest as a potentiallodger, and the guest finds out whether he wantsto remain with the firm. Opinions about the firm andco-workers are made on the basis of one's own interests.Owners and lodgers need to remember that guestsmay have useful ideas concerning their own workareas since they see things with new eyes and maynotice things others just don't notice any longer. Theirviews may therefore represent a potential for improvements.In any case, it is useful to give new employeestime to become familiar with all the proceduresand "how things are done here". The training given tonew employees needs to be responsive to what theythemselves feel they need to know. And new employeesshould be placed in proximity to more seasonedhands who can help them out and show them theropes. A responsibility like this gives the practisedemployee further experience and knowledge of thefamily's status and values.Guests will often include people who are employedon special terms due to physical, social or psychologicaldisabilities. A short-term grant from the localcouncil may follow these employees who may staywith the firm for an extended period, carrying out aset of duties or filling a given role.The small business and its owner often have closeconnections with the local community, and will thereforebe willing to make an extra effort for people whoare unable to manage the work under normal conditions.There is often an unspoken rule in a firm thatpeople who don't fit the one-size-fits-all shall beincluded, too, and have their share of the security thatemployment gives. On the one hand, they remainguests, on the other, they are cared for in a mannerthat means that they stand out from the core family."The kin" and "the visitors"A family does not live its life in isolation from theworld outside. In the small business the parts of thewider community on which survival depend we therefore refer to as the kin. It includes subcontractors,customers and support systems such as trade organisations,accountants and networks of other businessesand local institutions.
10RecommendationsTry from time to time to start a frank discussionon the firm's valuesmake the value of the "trusted employees" tangible for othersmake use of ideas originating fromthe "lodgers" concerning developments and pay attention to criticismand suggestions from guestsThese "kindred" persons are vital to small businesses;they provide standards and criteria that have to bemet, they provide new ideas and create conditionsthat affect the psychosocial climate. At the sametime, the small business often plays a significant partin the life of the local community by providing jobs.The community reciprocates by supporting the firmand buying its products. But conflicts in the localcommunity may spread to the firm and affect internaland external relations with subcontractors and partnersfor instance.Finally we have the visitors - a wide range of people,some of whom arrive without warning, others byinvitation. They may benefit the business, but theymay also cause distress. They may represent the authoritiescoming with new conditions that have to bemet, that require special procedures to be put inplace, or they may be consultants or new supplierseach offering a cheaper service, support mechanismor problem-solving device. The filter needs to befine-meshed to separate the visitors likely to maketrouble within the family from the beneficial ones. Itis imperative to make clear to them one's own standardsand expectations, and consider what may begained by inviting visitors across the threshold. Andthe authorities, who have right of entry anyway, canbe greeted with a smile or dismissively.create a confident information andlistening environmentset out detailed terms about what itmeans to be a "guest", how long aperson can remain a guest and whatit entailsconsider always how the extendedfamily can be put to better usedon't forget that new and oftenimportant information can be obtainedfrom 'visitors', even when theyappear at awkward timesalways plan a sale of the business ortransfer to the younger generationwell in advance, and be frank aboutthe process
114.The production processWhen we look at the small business as aproduction process, we focus on the differentoperations and the skills required toperform themWhen we walk round a business, it isn't the humanrelations that first meet the eye, but all the physicalthings - the machines, raw materials, tools, buildingsand people busy at work. Without asking anybody,we soon gain an impression of whether it is a goodplace at which to work. There are many impressions,among them the manners in which people go abouttheir work: do they seem stressed, does the placeseem well organized, are the material and tools intheir right places, or is everything a mess? Does thework flow well, or must semi-finished articles bemoved along small alleyways past people who hardlyhave enough room as it is? Do people shout at eachother when they passing messages or making arrangements,or do they speak calmly and quietly?The physical conditions have an enormous impact onthe psychosocial climate, something we need to takeinto account when making plans to improve the climate.The nature of a person's tasks changes accordingto where along the production line he or shehappens to be. The terms and conditions that ensure asense of well-being will also vary, of course.It's a good idea to take a look at one's own workplacefrom a bird's eye view, and follow procedures andoperations and the flow of materials and informationthrough the entire enterprise from start to finish - theproduction or manufacturing process in other words.You gain a broad view of the psychosocial climateoverall, and where it is good and where it may needattention. The easiest method is to ask the peopleworking in a specific area about what they feel arethe good and bad points about working in that area.The production flow is the general flow of goods asthey pass through the factory from the intake of theraw materials to the finished articles leaving the premisseson their way to the customers.The production process is the combination of rawmaterials and the work that is done to change theminto goods. This requires a comprehensive workorganisation, which details each individual person'stasks or each individual division's tasks. The flow - orsequence in which operations are performed - is
12Rawmaterial intakePre-treatment/preparationMaterialsprocessing- machinesMaterialsprocessing- machinesAssembly- machinesStorageIN OUTWork organisationThe figure shows the links in the chain or areas of work.Managementimportant for the quality of cooperation required betweenworkers.to identify factors of importance to the psychosocialclimate.The types of machines involved, their state of repairand interrelations also set limits to what a worker cando in his job.The buildings define the physical structure withinwhich the work takes place, and can also set limits onwhat each of the different jobs can accomplish.The owner, leadership or management is anotherfacet of vital importance to the firm's overall psychosocialclimate. The responsibility of the owner is toensure that the whole enterprise hangs together. In thecourse of a working day, many decisions need to betaken. The owner can take some of them himself, buthe should delegate others to the people responsiblefor executing the work.The business in this example is a small manufacturingfirm with a single structure, typical, in otherwords, of manufacturing enterprises in general.Different firms may have a different structure, andsome don't make physical goods at all, but provideinstead some kind of service. Whatever the setup, followingthe sequence of operations can be useful. Tryafterwards to make a sketch of your own business asseen from above, and ask the questions found in theexample below.The production process or flow line in afactory - an exampleThe following example illustrates a way of investigatingthe entire production process from start to finish
13At the intake department, the raw materials from thefirm's suppliers are delivered. They are either placedin storage or moved to the divisions/machines wherethey will be processed. A semiskilled worker isemployed in the intake department; he has a forklifttruck and a small range of tools to help him.Examples of relevant questions:What are the duties of this semiskilledworker?What sort of qualifications or skillsdoes he need for his job?Does he have the appropriate tools athand?Does he get relevant information fromproduction lines and the owner/leader?Is he aware of any particular problemsconnected with working alone?How would he rank cooperation withother divisions?Is the area untidy and disorderly - possiblydue to too little room?Are the loads too heavy?Is safety around the forklift vehicle upto standard?In the pre-treatment/preparation division, three differentsubcomponents are assembled for later use inthe main production process. Three different machinesproduce the subcomponents. The one is an oldmachine tool operated by a skilled male worker. Thetwo others are semi-automatic and eight to ten yearsold. Two semiskilled female workers put raw materialsinto the machines and remove the finished articles.Examples of relevant questions:What are the skills that workers in thisdivision need to have?Is there friction between the skilled andsemiskilled workers or between thesexes?Is the allocation of tasks between thethree workers clear - does everyoneknow who does what?Are safety conditions at the machinessatisfactory?Is the pace of work adapted to theresources?Are there peak times or bottlenecksthat can be stressful?Does the product meet the requiredstandards?
14In the main production / materials processing divisionthe production line consists of a number of interconnectedmachines. Six male workers are responsiblefor ensuring that the machines run without abreak. The team consists of a blacksmith, an electricalfitter and four operators. They form an autonomousgroup and divide tasks and hours amongthemselves.Examples of relevant questions:Are their sufficient hands available todeal with the amount of goods underproduction?Do all members of the group take theresponsibilities of the group as suchequally seriously?Do some members of the group find itdifficult to work as a team?Is communication between the groupand the owner and others in the firmsatisfactory?Are tasks rotated among group members,or do the same people have to dothe same - perhaps hard and monotonous- jobs all the while?Does the division represent a productionbottleneck, adding extra pressureon the group and leading to overtime -possibly without warning?The assembly and packaging division has eightfemale workers who do the final assembly and packing.One of them is employed on special terms, witha government grant to ease her way back into thelabour market after a lengthy period without work. Aforeman supervises the assembly and shipping division.There used to be two separate divisions, butthey were merged so the women could vary theirwork more. The work is still pretty monotonous,however. The assembly work is mainly a manual job,but the packing is semi-automated.Examples of relevant questions:Are relations between the owner andthe workers satisfactory?Does the owner help the women outwhen problems arise?Are they given due credit for workingovertime, for instance if something hasgone wrong along the production line?Is it possible to plan the work differently,to reduce the monotony and associatedstress?Do the women have an opportunity tosuggest or make decisions aboutchanges in the division of jobs and theway the work is organised?What is done to integrate people engagedon special terms?Is it a good idea to let the foreman anda particularly trusted employee haveresponsibility for the final qualityinspection?And a related question: does thisdamage the other women's sense ofresponsibility and commitment?
15A single male worker works in the storage and shippingdivision. From time to time there is a need formore help, and extra hands are borrowed from thepackaging division. There is a level of collaborationwith the owner since the firm prefers to produce onorder, but to avoid breaks in production, articles areproduced for storage too. Sometimes the storagespace becomes extremely cramped, which makes thework harder. The storage department shares the forklifttruck with the intake department.Examples of relevant questions:Does borrowing extra hands from thepacking department during the busiestperiods cause resentment, andsimilarly, does borrowing the forklifttruck cause resentment at the intake?When space is at a premium, is itpossible to be as careful and preciseas necessary in connection with packingand shipping?Finally, the business has people employed to do thecleaning, to do the accounts and to answer thephone. They too depend on good working relationswith the other employees at the firm. They may occasionallyhave to wait for information or be unable todo their work until somebody else is finished withtheirs. People who do jobs that tend to be out of sightduring normal hours, like the night cleaners or thereceptionist, may often feel unappreciated. It mightbe worth while considering every now and then whatit would be like had they not been there.Examples of relevant questions:Is it possible to make the cleaningwork more visible?Could communication between peoplein production and the owner beimproved?Would it be possible to improve relationswith customers and drivers toensure that mistakes are detectedearly and put right?Is it possible to get the goods on theroad at set times of the day, and ifnot, what needs to be changed? Wouldit mean that stress to meet deadlineswould increase?
16In practice, it is the balance of efficiency,production technology, personnelfactors and the working environmentthat decides which solutions are chosenwhen it comes to creating a work plan.The work planThe work plan is a key concept in understandingwhat the individual jobs actually entail. One way oforganising the work is by letting a single person producethe article from start to finish. Another is bydividing the process into separate segments, each ofwhich concentrates on a given set of tasks. In thiscase, labour is distributed across different areas.The qualifications or skills required to perform eachtask will vary according to the task, of course. Andthis means that the factors affecting the psychosocialclimate will also vary. In some departments work willbe subdivided further into smaller units.The allocation of tasks and the work plan form thebasic structure within which each person's work takesplace. But the distribution of work and its organisationare the result of decisions - decisions that can bechanged if the results don't live up to expectations.The work plan is a key area to introduce measuresthat will improve the psychosocial climate even further.In practice, it is the balance of efficiency, productiontechnology, personnel factors and the working environment(health and safety) that decides which solutionsare chosen when it comes to creating a workplan.In general, the main consideration when organisingthe work plan is virtually without exception the needto ensure production efficiency and consistency. Whatare the best solutions from the point of view of economyand the production technology available? Whenwe use the psychosocial climate as the starting pointfor the work plan, it is important to examine the taskscreated by the division and organisation of the work,and in extension of this the qualifications and skillsrequired of the people who are going to perform theoperations.Examples of relevant questions:Are the physical and ergonomic conditionssatisfactory, can workers be assuredof avoiding symptoms of physicalstress or fatigue?Is there enough variation to preventconstant stress on the same parts ofthe body?Are there some jobs that are done by asingle individual - a situation that canlead to social isolation?Is responsibility for decisions delegatedto individuals or teams?Is there sufficient variation in the work,and is it sufficiently interesting tomaintain enthusiasm and commitment?
17Organising the workThe content of each task is determined bythe way in which the work is organisedand broken down.Changes in the way the work is organisedmay therefore either represent animprovement or a deterioration of thepsychosocial climate.Listed below are practical ways ofchanging the work plan or work organisation.Job enlargement: widen the scope ofthe tasks - job variation increases and theworker's responsibilities become morevaried job too.Avoid isolation: Don't let people workalone - let them work with one or severalothers instead.Increase the empowerment of theemployees: Increase the workers empowerment.Delegate responsibility andproblem resolution to the employees inorder to make them more self-supporting.Working in groups or teams: It issometimes a good idea to form more orless autonomous teams.Task rotation: One of the easiestchanges to implement is to let peopletake turns in doing specific operations.People avoid therefore having to do thesame thing every day, week after week.Buildings, machines and operational aidsThe buildings often represent constraints on the workplan and scheduling. The buildings may be old, builtfor other purposes, and may not represent the bestpossible solution for current operations. This meansthat space may be lacking, there may be different floors,and the space round the machines may be toocramped. All such factors contribute to increasing thelevels of stress felt by people who already are engagedin an efficient process. Factors connected withthe physical layout should therefore be taken intoaccount when planning to improve the psychosocialclimate.The machines are also an element in the psychosocialclimate. The way they're operated also structures thework and the content of the concrete tasks. There is adifference between operating a semi-automaticmachine and a machine that needs constant attention.And if an operator needs special skills to operate amachine, the result may be discrimination between
18Examples of relevant questions whenpurchasing machines:Can noise be reduced? Noise is a wellknowncause of stress.the people who have the skills and those who don't -for example between members of an autonomousgroup.If the machines are old and worn down and stop workingall the while, the people operating them maywell feel increasingly irritated. And when the machinesare running, the work will have to be done at afaster pace to make up for lost time. An assembly linetype of production is made up of small, limited andrepetitive tasks, and the employees will have fewopportunities to vary their work. Many workers arefrustrated with old and defective machines. But it'seven worse if they repeatedly report machine failuresand nothing is done. First, then, the standards of thebuildings and technology need to be sufficiently highso that the workers avoid having to worry aboutbeing injured. The owner seldom has the means toinvest in all the machines either he or his staff mightlike, but everybody would be far more content ifplans and possibilities were made known in a frankand open atmosphere.Is it possible to arrange the buildingsand machines to allow sufficient spaceto perform the work at a regular pace?When buying machines, the skillsrequired to operate them should not beforgotten:Is it feasible with current technologyto improve operations -from the perspective of thepsychosocial climate?Will some workers need extratraining?Will the new technology createnew divisions of labour amongthe workforce?What are the needs and desiresof the workers in relation tothe new machines?How can limited resources beused as rationally as possible?
19It is often the technology itself that determinesthe content of the tasks and howthey are organised.In textile manufacturing, for instance, themachines are so specialised that they canonly perform a single, special operation.The opportunity to make the work morevaried can therefore be extremely limited.Computer-run machines do give a certainmeasure of freedom, but they require arange of new skills - a good knowledge ofelectronic data processing and IT.It is a well-known fact that job satisfactionrises when the arrangement of the machinesgives workers the opportunity to communicate,rather than being restrained byan assembly line type of setup.ManagementIn a small business the owner will generally hold thereins himself - often helped by one or several trustedemployees. In many cases, he - and it is generally aman - will have delegated a range of production-relateddecisions to particular employees in the variousdivisions. In the daily work, a number of managementtasks are carried out by the employees, all of whichcan have a significant impact on operations.The owner must ensure the survival of the firm, makesure that developments are to the best for the manufacturingside and the personnel side. He deals inpower and authority, delegates management functions,performs certain operations himself, and inaddition he needs to ensure that human relations inthe business remain positive.This is a lot for the owner of a small business tomanage, but it is nearly always easier if there is anopportunity to discuss frankly how management tasksshould be delegated to achieve the best outcome. Themain decisions must be taken by the owner, but much
20Examples of relevant managementrelatedquestions:Does the owner back up his employeeswhen they need his help?Does the owner give his employeesfeedback in the shape of credit and criticism?Is the owner skilled in delegating tasksand showing that he trusts those givenresponsibility?Is the owner skilled in creating a goodatmosphere and good workplace culture?How does he ensure that the differentdivisions work well together?of the daily management could be left to the employeesthemselves, given that they know the bounds oftheir authority and the aims to work for.Are the experiences and knowledge ofthe employees taken into considerationwhen decisions are made and plans forchanges in the firm are on the table?Is the owner skilled at solving conflictsbetween employees?Does the owner belong to a network orother type of community where he canfind for help and responses to hisapproach to leadership?
22A job to enjoyIf you agree with the following statements,then there's little doubt that you enjoy yourwork.I'm glad I have my workMy work is varied and requires a rangeof different skillsI know what I have to do and how tosolve work-related issuesI'm proud of the work I doreleases creativity to develop and improve operationsand that employees accept wider responsibilities.Support of colleagues and ownerA further essential aspect of this balance of demandsand resources/desires is that support is available whenrequired. Support both of a social nature - encouragement,giving credit where credit's due - and of a technicalnature - in the shape of training, an arena to discusscomplicated decisions and to define what is expectedof the employee. Many studies show that thesupport of the owner or of colleagues has a good effecton the level of stress and fatigue felt by employees.I know that my work makes a differenceOthers appreciate what I doI work well with my colleagues andsuperiorsI have the opportunity to learn newthings and developI have a say in the planning of my workin terms of content and amountThere's a positive relationship betweenmy skills and the demands of my jobPeople listen to me in connection withefforts to develop the workplaceI find I can combine my private life andmy job without difficulty.Conversely, if you disagree with several ofthe statements, then it might help to explorehow the situation could be improved.
24If a problem is not analysed carefully andthe real cause found, here is a risk thatthe implemented solution may only allaythe symptoms, not cure the disease6.Is there a good way to find goodsolutions ?The psycho-social climate is a complexphenomenon which manifests itself differentlyfrom place to place.That's why finding solutions to problemsneeds careful preparationMost people are unsure as to how to go about improvingthe psycho-social climate, not least becauseone's first instinct is often to blame personal factors.While this is widespread throughout the world ofindustry and business, it is proportionally moreimportant for small businesses because the personal ismuch more evident in the smaller context. "We're justlike a big family" is a common enough utterance -generally with the stress on the advantages of beinglike a family. But the intimate nature of the familycan also represent an obstacle when it comes to problem-solvingor prevention in connection with thepsycho-social climate.In a small business, it is common knowledge thatattention needs to be paid to the psycho-social climateor the general sense of well-being will suffer, andproductivity too. Efforts are therefore made to improveconditions, to develop solutions and to preventnegative outcomes from developing. Many solutionsdo their job well enough. But some problems are seldomdealt with because they seem so intractable. Andsome solutions only address the symptoms, not thebasic source of the problem. What often happens isthat instead of analysing the situation to learn thecauses and nature of the problem, we go right to thesolution implementing stage.An analysis modelAn analysis doesn't need to be a major academicexercise. We describe here a way of analysing problemsbased on four main ingredients:The visible problem - i.e., the visible symptomsof a poor psycho-social climate. What is considereda problem and noticed as such.The basic problem - what in the most fundamental sense is the cause of the problem?Consequences - what may lie in store if the problemis ignored or remains unsolved.Solutions - the practical approach to dealing withthe problem
27Problems with the psychosocial climatesometimes remain invisible. It can be afeeling or sensation the person involvedprefers not to talk about. It is when it ismade public that it becomes an issue forthe firm as a whole. And that is when thesearch for solutions can begin.Step 3The conflict has been solved for a while, but can wesay the same about the basic problem? We wouldargue that the firm has two problems, both highlightedby this particular conflict, which are more fundamentalthan the problem that has found its solution.We could say that the insight gained from solving theproblem tells us something about how the firmworks.The two problems are:The personal quarrel between the two colleaguescan be traced back to the separation of productioninto divisions and a lack of clear instructions concerningwho decides what and who does what, and howassistance is to be rendered during peak periods. Theproblem is one of organisation then, which in ourcase manifests itself as a social conflict and is interpretedin terms of personalities: he is / they are lazyand can't be bothered to help us.The other problem is that none of the involvedaddressed the conflict when it arose. It was ignoredand allowed to gnaw away on the minds of the twocoordinators. It re-emerged when the opportunity presenteditself to take revenge, helped along by the consumptionof a few drinks. There were no rules forgood behaviour/communication in the firm or adequatesocial competence to take the socially heated situationby the horns. Interpersonal conflicts need to besolved here and now - when they appear - and bothparties have a duty to act.In this light, the situation would look like this:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesSolutionsAnger and bitternessbetween two colleagues.Absence of helpfulness.Lack of organisationalclarity.Lack of training indealing with interpersonalconflicts.Unpleasant atmosphere.Poor job performance.Cooperation suffers.Who can make whattype of decision whenit comes to delegatingworkers from onedepartment?to Dialo-gue initiatedon what peak periodsactually imply.Rules and actions toaddress conflicts.
28The following aspects need to be rememberedwhen embarking on a dialogisticsolution process:Things take time - plan realistically fora longer-lasting process, rather thanshort-term, unrealistic effort.Include all involved: employees,managers and owner.Start from a concrete situation, and letthe process proceed from there.Our example shows that a bad psychosocial climatecan sometimes remain an unarticulated sensation feltby one or more employees. It is when the problem isbrought into the open that a coherent solution can befound. The example also shows that causes and solutionsare often found at the same "level" - in this casethe social level, something that is frequently encounteredwhen efforts are made to improve the psychosocialclimate. The solution is required in this situationto make any headway at all. But it may be necessaryto find more fundamental solutions - often involvingseveral levels or areas: in our examples thoseareas would be the organisation, rules and regulations,capacities and social skills.The owner and manager - if they arenot the same person - must shoulderresponsibility for the process andinvolve themselves in it.Create an atmosphere of confidenceand make it know that you - the owner- are willing to listen to opinions, feelings and ideas.The question, of course, is whether the small businesswill perform an analysis of the problems. If it doesn't,one may have to live with the provisional solution,thus risking a repetition of the problem at a later date.But the business could also request the assistance of agovernment body such as the occupational healthservice or hire in a company of consultants to analysethe problem and suggest strategies.Dialogical solution processChanges and improvements to the psychosocial climatedo not happen spontaneously. They have to beput in place by people, preferably by the employeesworking together with the owner. A process of change- which an improvement of the psychosocial climateoften entails - is an intervention in an existing setup.While it may hold promise of a better future, it canalso be felt as a threat.It is impossible plan every detail of a process ofchange in advance. Something or other always cropsup to topple the best of plans. It is therefore vital toview the process as a procedure in a social space,where people work together to find the best ways ofmeeting the problems and the best solutions.
29You should not necessarily read this part from startto finish; find the parts that are relevant to your situationand business, and start there.7.Typical situations and interventions thataddress a range of stressrelated problemsSolutions can't be copied, but there aresome elementary principles we can useas a starting blockWe know today a good deal about emotional stress atwork and its causes in the workplace, and we alsoknow a lot about how to deal with the major causes.But there are no given solutions. Problems and solutionsboth need to be analysed and understood in lightof the particular case and context. A solution thatworks for one firm may not work well at all for another.That said, solutions will generally be based on afew elementary principles.While some problems can't be solved, their harmfulconsequences can be alleviated to an extent, reduced,and even eliminated by putting in place competencebuildingmeasures, support procedures, upgradingskills and qualifications, giving credit and showingappreciation, or by adopting a new approach to theorganisational structure. These are all broad-brushstrategies inasmuch as they address several problemsat the same time.We continue our search for good solutions where weleft off in the last chapter. In this section we explore arange of familiar problems and set out strategies todeal with them.The nature of the problem will have a decisiveeffect on how we develop the solution:Problems caused by external factors such a worsening economic climate in the sector or strongercompetition.Problems caused by the organisation of the work.Management philosophy.Human relations and cooperationThe following problems will be discussed:Collaborative problems and conflicts page 30Work pressure and stress page 32The wind of change -Economic recession page 33The wind of change - Economic growth page 34Absenteeism page 35Work standards page 37Employees on special terms page 37
30Collaborative problems and conflictsOne cause of a poor collaborative climate is frequentlyfound in the way in which work is planned andorganised. It may have produced bottlenecks or spreadthe workload unevenly. People may not know whois supposed to do what or has responsibility for decidingthis or that. People's expectations regardingskills, job demands and responsibilities - along withemployees' expectations of each other - may be poorlydefined as a result. These expectations may well betacit. The set of values held by a "trusted employee"may, for instance, differ from that of the "lodgers" or"guests". In busy periods, disparities like these mayresult in differing approaches. Irritation may spreadand ignite arguments, especially if values and eachperson's place and responsibilities in the firm are nodiscussed openly.Symptoms of collaborative problems:Interpersonal conflictsIrate atmosphereBullyingDeliveries between departments areoften lateOrganisational slack and unplannedbreaksMisunderstandings and errorsSearch for scapegoatsIf there are several different groups in a workplace,their internal cultures and social conventions mayprovide fertile ground for clashes between, for instance,young and old, junior and senior employees,people from ethnic minorities and the majority population,and between the sexes.When people can't work togetherCollaborative problems are often reduced to a simplequestion of personalities: people who can work togetherand people who can't. This approach to the problemis particularly common in small businesseswhere personalities and the personal aspect play amore prominent role than in the larger companies.The solution is often to compose groups or teams onthe basis of personality and who can work with whom.Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesInterpersonal conflictsCertain individualscan not work together.Conflicts grow inintensity.Collaborative problems.Time is wasted.Bullying.Important to ensurethat groups or teamshave the right makeup.
31This tactic often works very well. But it is a tacticwhich increases the inflexibility of the work organisationas some people will not be able to work in thesame group or on the same operation because there issome factor or other - such as qualifications - thatdivides them and sows the seeds of conflict. In addition,the fundamental problem may not be that peoplecan't get on, but that their responsibilities and decision-makingpowers are unclear or the organisation ofoperations results in bottlenecks. And in those cases,moving people around won't be a viable solution inthe longer term.The model could alternatively look like this:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesDifferences betweenindividuals.Inconsistent expectationsbased on poorlydefined roles.Work organisationcauses bottlenecks.Conflicts grow inintensity.Collaborative problems.Time is wasted.Bullying.Define roles and functionsmore distinctly.Structure operations toavoid bottlenecks - ormake it clear why theywill arise from time totime.Preventing the formation of in-groups andinflexible organisational structuresA small example from another firm illustrates howthey introduced a rotation scheme in an attempt toprevent collaborative difficulties. It meant that allemployees changed which section or department theyworked in according to a rota. The model looks likethis:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesIn-groups and cronyismgain a foothold.Workplan dividesemployees intogroups.Inflexible organisationstructure.Poor working environment.Introduce rotationscheme to giveemployees a chanceof working in the differentsections.When things come to a headNo workplace can completely avoid tempers boilingover from time to time. Hot-temperedness may havea variety of causes. The workload may be more substantial for a period of time, for instance. One firmhad attempted to solve the problem by arranging ameeting with its employees.Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesConflicts develop in ateam or betweenworkers on the shopfloor and a foreman.Cooperation suffers.People feel anxious.We arrange a meetingif and when thingscome to a head betweenstaff members.Usually, the foremenwill ask the owner toconvene a meeting towhich everybody isinvited.
32This type of approach often does the trick - though amore detailed analysis may suggest other solutionsthat could have a preventive effect too.Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesConflicts develop in ateam or betweenworkers on the shopfloor and a foreman.Workload.Unclearexpectations.Unclear duties.Some workers havenot understoodoperations sufficientlythoroughly.Cooperation suffers.People feel anxious.Define duties clearly.Structure operations toavoid peak workloadsas far as possible, ormake sure due warningis given well in advanceof peak periods.Make sure employeesare informed aboutprospective plans.Arrange meetingswhen tempers startfraying.Work pressure and stressA problem that affects practically all workplaces todayis the high pressure of work - but solutions are just asscarce as the problem is widespread because it issomething we create ourselves, to ensure the survivalof the business. Employees often suggest taking onmore hands to reduce the pressure of work. To whichthe owner often responds that that is just what he can'tafford to do. Deadlock ensues, with both parties refusingto budge. But isn't it possible to find a compromise,at least as a start? For example, are there resourcesin the firm that are not used, among the "guests"for instance. Do the "lodgers" give others the space toexpress their opinions? Work pressure is just one ofseveral stress-related factors, especially over longerperiods of time.Causes of stress:Increased workloadConflicts at workLittle influence over work content etc.Little support from colleaguesNew, unfamiliar tasksNobody to step in when people are offill or away for other reasons.Little support from the ownerOne firm discussed work pressure and heavy workloads in the following way:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesComplaints abouthaving too much todo.Employees feel stressedand short-tempered.Too much work andtoo few people.Lack of informationand communicationabout productionplansStandards suffer.Employees feelunhappy.Absenteeism rises.More employees haveto work over time.The owner talks to theemployees every weekabout how they manage.
33A more profound analysis gives inspiration to additionalsolutions helping decreasing the work pressure:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesComplaints abouthaving too much todo.Employees feel stressedand short-tempered.The work plan is notsufficiently clear.Tasks are subdividedtoo much.Employees are giventoo little responsibilityand freedom tomake decisions.Standards suffer.Employees feelunhappy.Absenteeism rises.Delegate more responsibilityto the different departmentsand employees.Plan the work more carefully.Agree forms of compensationfor periods withhigh workloads.The wind of change - economic recessionIt happens from time to time: the order books of ourlittle firm are either empty or drastically reduced.Savings may have to be made by cutting productioncosts. Naturally, employees will feel particularlyanxious; they might lose their jobs as part of the costcuttingprocess. The may be a pervasive sense ofinsecurity, as people may have to be laid off or operationsrestructured.In these circumstances employees may start competingfor the owner's favour. Tensions may build upbetween the lodgers and the trusted employees. Arethe guests the easiest target in a situation like this?The owner may face the dilemma of laying off youngemployees, who have least experience but who nonethelessare vital for the future of the firm, or choosealternatively to dismiss some of his trusted employees,who have stuck with the firm through thick andthin, but who may be signing off soon to start a lifeas a pensioner. There's no simple solution.Businesses need to realise that economic downturnsaffect people's sense of job satisfaction and the psychosocialclimate.One model of the situation looks like this:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesOrders taper off.Production costs aretoo high.People stop workingas well together asformerly.Anxiety spreadsamong the workers.People are laid off oroperations restructured.The best employeesfind new work elsewhere.The owner decides to initiatestructural changesafter talks with staff representatives(union officials).The owner makes surethat he is in daily contactwith his workforce to gainan impression of howthings are done and couldbe done differently andalso to ensure that eachemployee feels supportedand well informed.
34The owner here lays store by a collaborative approachand good information routines. It's impossible toeliminate the problem overnight, but he can do whatis in his power to mitigate the consequences of thesituation.It is also possible to approach and analyse an economicdownturn more fundamentally in relation to thegeneral thrust of the firm's strategy. The picture maylook like this. The problem-solving strategy will inthis case aim at a more distant horizon.Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesEmpty order books.Failure to keep upwith innovations andproduct developments.Competition fromlow-cost and lowwagecountries..Anxiety spreadsamong the workforce.People are laid off oroperations restructured.The best employeesfind new work elsewhere.Look for new nichemarkets.Enhance technology onthe basis of ideas fromthe workforce amongother things.Enter into partnershipswith another busineses.The wind of change - economic growthAn economic upswing accompanied by growth andexpansion is always better than a recession - but itneed not be less problematic. Expanding the workforcecan lead to disquiet and changes in the small business.It's not certain there are enough qualified peopleavailable in the labour market either. If the expansionprocess proceeds in stages, people recommended bythe workforce can be offered a job. But if rapidexpansion can't be avoided, then the firm will probablyhave to make do with the people it can find. Theywill generally come to the firm as "guests". They willlack knowledge of the values of the business, andwill often question the way operations are organised.They won't be as experienced as the rest of the workforce,and they will likely violate some of the manyunspoken rules.And there is the additional risk that the business mayexpand beyond its limits, which will require changesin the management or organisation of the productionsystem. As long as the workforce does not exceedabout 20 in all, management can be achieved bymeans of norms and values. But if the numberreaches 30 or more, a more formalised structure, rulesand chains of command will probably be required.The first person to realise this is generally the ownerhimself, generally after the expansion when structuralproblems start to appear. At the same time, owners ofsmall firms are generally used to shouldering responsibilitiesthemselves and retaining a good idea ofwhat's going on where. They may find it difficult todelegate authority to others.
35When a firm expands rapidly, the situation may look like this:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesNew employees maygive rise to cooperationproblems.It takes time for newemployees to learnthe ropes.The new staff lackskills or qualifications.The organisationmay not suit a lot ofpeople.Downturn in productivity.New employees leavethe firm again after ashort period.The owner finds itdifficult to keep upwith all aspects ofthe new, expandedorganisation.Fresh organisationstructure.Training schemes andon-the-job training (experiencedstaff instructthe less experienced).Put down the firm'snorms and values inwriting for everybodyto see and be open fordiscussion.When new staff are hired, it is normal to try andavoid friction between new and old workers by takingon people recommended by existing staff. The dangerhere is a hardening workplace culture hardens as ingroupscoalesce.If we look at the problem through the lens of ourmodel, we may be able to identify other factors relatedto the problems and, in consequence, solutions.Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesNew employees maygive rise to cooperationproblems.New employees findit difficult to learnthe ropes.Workplace culturehardens.Prospect of changecauses feelings ofanxiety.Failure to renew andinnovate.Skewed workforcemake-up with regardto age.Lack of new ideasfrom outside thefirm.Involve new, key peoplein the firm.Make sure an open,frank and innovativedialogue is maintainedat all times.Ensure continual renewalof the workforce.AbsenteeismAbsence from work is often the result of an absenceof social contact at work. Good social contact meansin this connection a good emotional climate whichallows co-determination, involvement, stimulatingwork, pleasant social company, good working practicesbetween owner and employee, and that each personhas a sense of ownership to their work, and thatthey feel doing it is meaningful.Absence is often understood like this:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesPeople are keepingaway from work.Too much "skiving".Control of absenteeismtoo lax.Downturn in productivity.The other employeeshave to work harderand faster.People who are absentare called in for a talkon returning to work.Absenteeism exceedinga given number of daysresults in loss of job.
37Work standardsIf it is impossible to turn out work that satisfies one'sown or others' standards, then this obviously will representanother stress factor. It is a familiar problem inmany small businesses, but again, there is a dearth ofgood problem-solving ideas, apart, perhaps, fromfiring the implicated.If we approach it from the angle of work organisation, qualifications and expertise:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesEmployees complainthat their work lackscontent.Jobs are split intotoo many tasks.Too little sense ofownership to the job.Poor psycho-socialclimate.Downturn in productivity.The other employeeshave to work harderand faster.Ensure that work has awider point.Ensure that employeeshave a sense ofownership to theirwork.A tight market, tight deadlines or difficult customerscan all have a detrimental effect on standards. If thegap between expected and actual standards lasts,employees may start to feel uncomfortable because itwill be undermining their pride in their work. It istherefore important to speak openly about theseevents and, for instance, make it clear that exceptionalprocedures are needed to meet exceptional circumstances,and discuss possible ways of avoidingthe similar situations in the future.People employed on special termsSome businesses want to lend a helping hand bytaking on staff on special terms - sometimes withpublic support but occasionally without governmentsubsidies. While older or worn out workers are generallythe ones to be employed on special terms, othermembers of the local community may also qualify. Insome cases the rest of the workforce may feel unhappywith the new situation, finding it difficult to seewhy some people should be given preferential treatment.Our model will look like this:Visible problemBasic problemConsequencesIntervention strategiesSeveral employeesreact negatively tothe hiring of a newworker on unusuallylenient terms.Ignorance and lackof information concerningthe schemeand the type of contractthe new employeeis subject to.Signs of bullyingemerge.Inform the workforceabout the scheme andwhat it involves togetherwith the personemployed on specialterms.
388.Turning the focus to the demands of thejob - a checklistWhich job-related and workplace-relatedfactors determine whether the emotionalclimate is good or bad?If we want to improve the psychosocial climate weneed to know what affects it. In general a good or bademotional climate is formed by a variety of factors incombination rather than a single all-embracing one. Itis therefore difficult to make a simple checklist as anaid to detect what may not be as good as it might.But if we look closely at the work and its performancewe will frequently find areas that with improvementcould help raise standards and efficiency levels.It would also help us weed out unnecessary stressfactors affecting employees individually or the widersense of community in the workplace.If we want to find workable solutions, we need to beaware of the factors involved.Vitamins for workMany of the factors that influence the psychosocialclimate can be compared to vitamins.We can be short of them, and we canhave too much of them - both extremescan make us ill. Finding the right balanceis the key.For instance, some may feel they havemore responsibility than they want, or thatthe pace and pressures of work are toodemanding, and other may find that to littleresponsibility is a strain and a hindrancefor development.In addition, each person's own perceptionsare a vital factor. And these perceptionsare affected in turn by things like the roomto influence the job, support from colleaguesand freedom to take action.The following factors are all basic. The list is intendedas a sort of menu to be used as a means of analysingthe work.
39The job's content and the skills requiredThe balance between tasks and the capacity ofeach employee to perform them is vital to theirsense of satisfaction and reward.What are the duties of each employee?Which physical and mental abilities are used inthe work?Is there a balance between demands and abilites?What sorts of skills are needed to perform thework well in relation to adaptability, independence, sense of responsibility, ability to workwith others and the application of knowledge?Do employees need more training or support?Does the individual employee possess the skillsrequired for the job?Tasks change. It is therefore important to ensurethat employees are given the opportunity to developtheir skills to do their work as well as possible?What can each employee do individually togain the skills required to perform their job?Are the unused opportunities to delegate widerresponsibilities or learn from each other? Orare people left to their own devices?Human relationsThere is a wide range of social factors at work atany workplace, and employees enter into a widerange of relationships with others. The nature ofthese relationships can be positive or negative .Are we good at giving each other praise?Do we stoke under conflicts when they emerge?Do we bully the most vulnerable?Management and cooperationThe owner/manager plays a particularly essentialrole in the firm. He can decide the norms and methodsof each operation. And that can be done in abeneficial or detrimental way. Leadership alsomeans working with employees to solve the majoras well as the minor issues affecting the business.Are we - the owner/manager and employees -good at airing and discussing things together?Work organisationThe way in which the work is organised and allocateddetermines the content of each individualtask, operation and job.What do the employees think?Could the work be better organised or structured than it is currently?Is there a good balance between the operationsor tasks and their distribution?The work's setup and technologyTechnology often limits the content of a task andhow it is organised.Is it possible to improve buildings and machinesor tools to boost the sense of job-relatedsatisfaction?Shifts and working hoursShifts and inconvenient working hours have a widerange of negative social and health-related consequences.Lack of forward planning resulting in asudden need to change shifts or work overtime canbe particularly stressing.Can we make improvements to work rotas andshift plans?
40Making improvements to the psychosocialclimate is difficult; entrenchedhabits often need to be modified andpeople see themselves in a new lightBringing in help from outside thebusiness is often a good idea9.If you need more information…Many businesses are affiliated to an occupationalhealth organisation where they can obtain good adviceand help to analyse problems and devise interventions.Businesses with no affiliations of this type can still getin touch with their local occupational health authoritiesor labour inspectorates cost free.But remember to think carefully through what youwant a visiting consultant to help you with beforesigning a deal.EU's European Agency for Safety and Health at Workhas its own Internet site -Their homepage is availablein 11 languages and contains a wide range of usefullinks and information. It serves a far wider communitythan psychosocial climate experts. This manual canalso be found in a web-based version on the Internet.Find the link through http://europe.osha.eu.int.The addresses of the Danish occupational health authority,BST, other consultants and the Danish labourinspectorate are available on the Internet pages of theDanish Working Environment Service Centre(Arbejdsmiljørådets Service Center) atwww.asc.amr.dk or by telephone: +45 36 14 31 31.Good ideas and sound advice can be found in otherEuropean countries too, which address the concerns ofthe small business and the special problems that tendto accompany small production units, and, not least,issues related to the psychosocial climate.