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Stress and time pressure a challenge to Nordic work environments

| Text: Marie Preisler

Time pressure is a considerably higher psychosocial risk factor in Nordic businesses compared to the rest of Europe. Nordic businesses also highlight a lack of time as the main obstacle to a good work environment.

Time has a major influence on Nordic workers’ work environments and how Nordic businesses manage their work environments. These are among the conclusions in the latest major survey form the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, looking at how European businesses handle work environment risks, especially psychosocial risks like work related stress. 

The survey, called ESENER-2, was presented by the Director for the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Christa Sedlatschek, as she gave a presentation during a meeting at Denmark’s National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NFA) on Monday 19 October 2015. She presented important conclusions from the survey, which was published in early 2015.Christa Sedlatschek She pointed out how Nordic employees and businesses stood out from the rest of Europe in several areas when it comes to how they handle stress and time pressure. 

“Time pressure represents a greater psychosocial risk factor in the Nordic countries than elsewhere in Europe,” said Christa Sedlatschek.

The Nordic region stands out

On this particular point the ESENER-2 survey says the Nordic countries “stand out quite markedly” compared to the other 36 countries which are part of the survey, as well as from the EU as a whole where 43 percent of businesses consider time pressure to be a psychosocial risk factor — only surpassed by difficult customers and citizens. In all of the five Nordic countries time pressure is an even bigger risk factor. More than 70 percent of Nordic businesses see time pressure as a risk factor. The Netherlands comes is in sixth place, where 62 percent of businesses point to time pressure as a risk factor.

Time pressure also plays an important role when it comes to how Nordic businesses deal with work environment issues, according to ESENER-2. The survey asked the businesses to identify the biggest barriers to managing the work environment, and businesses in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden point mainly to the lack of time and staff. In the EU as a whole businesses identify legal requirements and red tape as bigger barriers  than a lack of time when it comes to managing work environments properly.

More offer psychological assistance

ESENER-2 also shows that many of Europe’s businesses struggle more with handling psychosocial risk factors like stress than other work environment issues. Nearly one in five of the businesses that said they had to handle difficult customers, or that experienced time pressure, also said they lacked information or suitable tools for how to handle the risk in an efficient manner. 

ESENER-2 also looked at how businesses handle psychosocial risks, and whether they have action plans and procedures for how to handle stress. One in three businesses with  more than 20 employees in the EU have that, but there are big differences between countries. Sweden and Denmark score high.

Only 16 percent of EU businesses offer psychological help for employees suffering from stress. Again the Nordic countries are ahead. In Finland and Sweden some 60 percent of businesses say they use a psychologist.

The survey also looked at whether businesses have work committees and employee representatives. Here too the Nordics top the list of countries with the highest number of employee representatives in Norway, Iceland and Sweden, while Denmark tops the list for the number of businesses that have a safety committee. 

About ESENER-2

The survey collected answers from the people with the best work environment knowledge in nearly 50,000 businesses across 36 European countries. 

The interviews were carried out during summer and autumn in 2014, and a first findings report was presented in March 2015.

This is the second time Europe’s work environments are scrutinised. The first ESENER survey was carried out in 2009

Source: ESENER-2

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