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A top psychological working environment on the Danish island of Lolland

| Text: Marie Preisler

Employees should be whistling when they go to work and when they go home again. That is the ambition at the Center for Social Indsats (Centre for Social Measures) – a municipal workplace employing 275 people on the Danish island of Lolland. And there are many reasons to whistle contently: their psychological working environment has been named the best in Denmark.

Denmark aims to reduce the number of psychologically challenged employees by 20 percent by 2020, and some workplaces have come far. One is Center for Social Indsats in  Lolland municipality, where sick leave has gone from sky high to very low, and nearly all employees say they enjoy work. 

The change has happened over relatively few years, and the recipe has been to actively work to create a good working environment, explains Peer Frederiksen, an outreach social worker at the Center for Social Indsats.

“It is our management’s aim to whistle both on the way to work and on the way home again. And that is nearly the way things have turned out. Our annual work satisfaction survey shows that nearly all employees are very satisfied with their work, and sick leave has fallen by 75 percent – from 9.5 percent to 2.8 percent. That is very low for this area,” says Peer Frederiksen.

He has been present at the workplace during the entire process of creating a better working environment. It is now so good that the Danish Working Environment Council has named it Denmark’s best working environment. The Working Environment Council is a forum where large employers’ and employees’ organisations cooperate for the continued development of better working environments in Denmark. 

Open management

The Working Environment Council awarded Center for Social Indsats the 2015 working environment prize in the category psychological working environment. The Center was praised for working to promote trust, respect, decency, involvement and acknowledgement. 

Using the slogan ‘freedom to take responsibility’ the Center for Social Indsats gives employees a large say over how their work is adapted so that it works in the best possible way for each individual team. Individual needs are also very much looked after. The judges also noted that the relationship between employees and management is very open and honest, and that the management is very open to new ideas as well as good and critical feedback.

That is something Peer Frederiksen recognises.

“Nobody will go to the management in vain, and if someone needs a bit of backup they get it. We have a very open management team, and always know where our leader is during the day and how to get hold of him.”

Peer Frederiksen believes the positive development started in 2007, when the Center got a new leader. 

“The working environment at the time was not very good. Many employees felt left to their own devices, and this led to absenteeism and low morale. Today our motto is ‘leave no-one behind’, and this permeates everything we do. No-one is left to their own devices, we all look after each other, and if someone is down it is quickly dealt with.”

Focus on learning

Center for Social Indsats is an umbrella organisation for a range of municipal units with different tasks and skills in different areas:  the municipal centre for drug abuse, a women’s crisis centre, a centre of social psychiatry, a centre for neuro-pedagogy and several meeting places and living quarters. A total of 275 employees are working across different workplaces.

Earlier each unit was its own ‘island’ where employees might have felt very isolated, remembers Peer Frederiksen. Now he sees how employees enjoy a much bigger community. It has become natural to give colleagues a helping hand and to work across different units. 

Another important change is that gossip has been banned.

“If you have something to tell a colleague, it is all out in the open so that any issue can be solved,” says Peer Frederiksen.

The Center for Social Indsats enjoys close cooperation with the working environment organisation – which includes an annual workplace assessment. There is strong focus on allowing each individual employee the chance to learn and develop. Peer Frederiksen feels the management is very open to his requests for skills development. 

“They work continuously to improve our skills, because the workplace wants us to develop and to learn how to do things in new ways. Even though we run a tight budget, I still have not been told no when I have requested going on a course. This has a great positive effect on my work satisfaction.”

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