6. Occupational health interventions

Interventions may prevent stress-related problems or ameliorate them. Over the past years, we have carried out a number of workplace based intervention studies that aim to target both individual health and well-being but also set out to improve the psychosocial work environment. The uniqueness of this research lies in its combining biomarkers with self-reports in questionnaires with organizational records on finances, productivity and sickness absence over a longer time period with the intervention typically stretching over a one-year period.

Subpackages

6.1 Physical activity

One set of studies has focused on physical exercise during work hours with findings showing positive effects on both individual and organizational levels. Importantly, these evaluations also include financial outcomes such as decreased costs for sickness absence and productivity loss. Empirical studies aside, drawing on our findings we have developed further a model explaining how physical exercise at work may relate to positive outcomes at different levels. Additional research has underscored the need of solid theory and thorough implementation and made an important contribution to the area in identifying ways to analyze and structure the implementation of various intervention processes.

6.2 Self reports as interventions

Another line of pioneering workplace-based intervention studies has mainly included self-reports in questionnaires and organizational record data and focused specifically on psychosocial climate factors, again targeting both the individual and organizational levels. Based on existing theoretical models and research findings relating to occupational health and healthy work, we have developed and tested a new workplace based participatory intervention program that focuses on balances and imbalances at work. This intervention involves a program including four 3-hour workshops. The program comes in two versions: one includes managers while the other includes managers and their employees. Starting with a survey feedback and a state of the art lecture introducing linkages between various working conditions and different health-related outcomes, this program then uses a participatory approach allowing employees to through a guided and systematical discussion identify, prioritize and develop potential strategies allowing the individual, group and organization to promote balances and reduce imbalances at work. The scientific evaluation is ongoing but preliminary results from a short-term follow-up suggest that promoting healthy work practices among managers and employees may reduce demands and enhance resources at work among employees. Recently, long-term follow-ups have been launched and will alongside job demands and resources also include self-reported health outcomes in terms of subjective health complaints and recovery from work.

6.3 Leadership training and culture

In another approach we have seen that an art-based leadership program showed that the participants and their subordinates had better development in coping, mental health, and anabolism than a control group where the leaders got a traditional leadership training. We also found that cultural activities at work appeared to be protective for the mental health of employees, particularly in terms of emotional exhaustion, but became more scarce during the recent financial recession.

Planned research

Healthy work and workplace based interventions

The planned research will focus on healthy work and healthy work practices,which are central for developing a sustainable working life for women and men but also for different age groups. This collaborative (W+E+S) project extends previous intervention research on organizational sustainability through national (e.g., FORTE center CBF in Gävle) and international (Nielsen, Le Blanc, Day) collaboration; it will address the combined effects of physical and psychosocial factors within the financial and the health and care sectors, further develop intervention procedures to improve the working environment and involve rigorous designs to allow for the evaluation of intervention effects. Importantly, with planned measurements including self-reports in questionnaires, diary data, biomarkers, sick leave data and financial outcomes, these interventions will bring together knowledge from different SSC nodes.