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Key Factors for a Sustainable Working Life in 2023

Expert tips


At the start of last year, many of us thought we could breathe a sigh of relief after the pandemic and return to normality. Instead, we were shaken by a war in Europe that has led to high prices, rising interest rates and soaring inflation. As the world around us continues to rock, we have asked some of our experts here at Falck for their thoughts on what is important for a sustainable working life in 2023.

Leadership is central to a flexible working life

ORGANISATION AND LEADERSHIP: Remote working will continue to be an important factor to consider when it comes to working life in 2023 and ahead. It requires a leadership style that is based on trust and which systematically provides guidance and positive reinforcement. 

This goes hand in hand with being an attractive employer. In the competition for talent, employers need to offer flexible working arrangements which function just as well remotely as they do in the physical office. Being able to identify with a company culture and to feel pride in one’s work, these are increasingly important factors. 

Having the opportunity to meet with colleagues, interact and collaborate is key to generating motivation and innovation. So be sure to put structures and meeting formats in place that will nurture such collaboration. 

Lena-Karin Allinger, Organisational Consultant.

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Being an attractive employer goes hand in hand with offering a flexible working life

Focus on systematic job satisfaction

SYSTEMATIC WORK ENVIRONMENT: At the present moment, after the pandemic, we may be finding it difficult to manage our experiences from previous years. Many people are finding they need to alter their lifestyles again, often changing back into a sort of middle position. Is it working for businesses to have fewer staff at the office and for individuals to have flexible working lives? What are the risks and what risk assessments might the business need to consider? Is the adjustment more individual or organisational?

Our new experiences have left us with many new demands which, although they have been given top priority, we have not quite been able to manage fully over the last few years. Great demands are going to be placed on managers who bear responsibility for prioritising, conducting risk assessments and helping their work group with the challenges we face today.

These demands do not always need to be met directly. Work systematically and draw up a long-term plan which is reasonable to manage. Also find ways to offer rewards as you go and schedule health-promoting efforts in advance. The business will only benefit from a keen focus on systematic job satisfaction.

Monica Green, Work Environment Engineer.

Economic downturns affect sick leave

REHAB: We are on our way into a recession and if we look at the trends from previous recessions in Sweden in the 90s and the 00s, sick leave went down during these periods. So historical precedents would suggest that sick leave is going to go down in the next period, but actually we are now seeing several forecasts which predict the opposite. We don’t know how things are going to turn out, but in the wake of the pandemic and the uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine, we cannot assume that this next recession will follow previous trends when it comes to sick leave.

It is also possible that we do not see a difference right away in 2023, but that it will come in 2024 instead. This means that the preventive and health-promoting efforts we make today to reduce sick leave will bear fruit long term.

Given all that is going on in the world right now, it is crucial that we make time for each other and ensure regular contact and dialogue. Certain people are liable to worry about world developments, and this can become a contributing factor in the onset of poor mental health. In order to catch the early signs of ill health, it is necessary to maintain contact and speak with your employees, even when they are working remotely.

Anna Sporrong, Specialist in Rehabilitation Coordination.

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The preventive and health-promoting efforts we make today to reduce sick leave will bear fruit long term.

Greater crisis awareness in companies

CRISIS SUPPORT: After the pandemic, we thought we would be going back to normality – but then new crises struck, resulting in higher levels of stress and anxiety across society. The war in Ukraine has affected us all with its unexpected brutality, deeply shaking our sense of security and political predictability. Add to that a deepening energy crisis, ever-higher levels of inflation and rising interest rates – factors which only fuel our general sense of uncertainty.

Developments over the last few years have led to greater levels of crisis awareness among our customer organisations, and a clear desire to take a more proactive approach to questions pertaining to crisis preparedness. Previously, we sometimes perceived a certain resistance within management groups when it came to preparing for crises that rarely came to pass. Today, things are different.

Security awareness and qualified work environment management go hand in hand. Businesses better understand that proactive preparedness and an ability to respond effectively to acute situations help foster security and trust – they strengthen the bond between employee and organisation.

Mattias Klawitter, Psychologist and Crisis Coordinator.

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Developments over the last few years have led to greater crisis awareness among our customer organisations

Do not abandon physical meetings

ANXIETY AND PHYSICAL HEALTH: An important factor for creating a sustainable working life in 2023 will be physical meetings. We are going through a very uncertain time right now, characterised by external threats, economic uncertainty both at home and at many workplaces, a continuing war in Ukraine and many concerning reports about the climate.

For many of us, these circumstances cause a sense of worry which may ultimately spill over into depression, difficulties sleeping and feelings of stress in general. We know from experience that feelings of belonging often dampen these negative emotions and help us feel better. So for that reason, be sure to keep meeting in-person. Organise group well-being walks and social get-togethers for coffee and tea. Often it takes quite little for us to feel both seen and heard. As an employer, physical meetings also offer a good opportunity to check in with your employees and find out how everyone is doing.

Compared with how things were before the pandemic, home working is now much more widespread and this flexibility is valued by many. But do not underestimate the value that small talk by the coffee machine or chats in the break room have for our well-being and our sense of belonging – something which is all the more important when times are uncertain.

Anna Wickberg, Specialist Psychologist

Involve staff in health matters

HEALTH: In order to safeguard a sustainable working life in 2023, it will be important to move beyond a reactive approach to matters such as sick leave, vacancies and staff turnover. Place focus on health-promoting efforts and work on so-called fit factors. Ask employees what things they think boost their performance, well-being, engagement and job satisfaction. This will make employees want to be a part of the workplace and help to realise production goals within the organisation.

Take a holistic view of the work environment, including not just its physical, social and organisational components, but also how the work environment is felt and perceived. We need to talk about how each and every person in the work group experiences the work environment and how they can contribute to a sound and sustainable work environment. Create space within your internal communications for the sharing and highlighting of good examples and fit factors to boost job satisfaction. This also helps us become an attractive employment prospect where employees perform, thrive and want to keep working.

As we begin a new year, we need to make sure that our expectations around hybrid working are clear. This includes the number of office days, which meetings are to be physical and which ones will be digital, and how we can create forums for social well-being. Workplaces which were largely remote during the pandemic but are now physical once more may see old conflicts flare up and temporarily muted stress factors returning to the fore. Other health factors, including both physical and mental ill health, may also become more palpable as factors that influence performance and working groups.

Åsa Miemois, Health Developer

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Ask employees what things they think boost their performance, well-being, engagement and job satisfaction.

Greater alcohol use in uncertain times

ALCOHOL AND DRUGS: Creating sound and healthy work conditions for a longer and more sustainable working life in uncertain times – this is a virtuous task, but not without its challenges. Worries about money, war, illness and a worsening economy can lead to problems with our mental health and a greater use of alcohol and drugs in society.

At least one in ten working people has an elevated level of alcohol consumption which is within the risk zone. Approximately four percent of the adult population has used illegal drugs in the last year. The number of positive results from workplace drug tests has also increased over the last few years, suggesting an increased degree of drug use among working people.

Studies also show that alcohol consumption is increasing with age and that the risk of elevated alcohol consumption is greater in hybrid working arrangements. It is therefore crucial that managers maintain regular contact and dialogue with their staff – both those at the office and those working from home – so they can identify behavioural changes and catch the early warning signs.

Ann Berntsdotter, Occupational Health Physician.

Continued training on ergonomics at home

ERGONOMICS: Over the course of 2022, we generally began going back to the office, but we must remember that it will take time to find new arrangements that suit both employees and the business. Try and avoid the formation of two distinct teams – those who work from the office and those who work from home – and instead try and harmonise homeworking with business needs. 

Then we must also consider that many still do not have satisfactory ergonomics at home, even if ergonomics in remote working were vastly improved for many during the pandemic. There is so much that can be done for ergonomics using existing equipment and furnishings. It is not a case of buying new things – more often than not, a great deal can be achieved simply by taking what we already have and using it in the correct way. 

Susanne Höglund, Ergonomist. 

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Try and avoid the formation of two distinct teams – those who work from the office and those who work from home