Design of organizational procedures for working environment planning

Abstract: This thesis consists of studies on organizational procedures for the development of working environment conditions. The first section concentrates on implementation of standard operating procedures for organizational management of working environment. The following section focuses on development of refined procedures, intended for planning at the work unit level. Section I. An action program with procedures for analysis and management of risks at workplace team meetings was designed. The systems requirements were derived from the Provisions on Systematic Work Environment Management (AFS 2001:1). The program aimed at integration of the different levels of working environment management. The procedures were implemented in three organizations for elderly care. Systematic observation and interviews were carried out in the field, and qualitative data analysis was used to infer patterns of planning behaviour. The results showed that the work units completed risk assessments according to program instructions. Subsequent evaluations inquired into the first line managers’ cognitive prerequisites for applying the procedures. The results showed that the managers acknowledged the characteristics of the procedures (e.g., strengths and weaknesses in methods). Evaluations of the executive boards’ prerequisites showed that the representants had indistinct perceptions of the procedures: The majority failed to communicate specific strategies for operative management. In later phase, the sustainability of the procedures was examined at the department level of elderly care and at the executive board. The results showed that only fragments of the program were sustained. The board reported hindrances in getting access to vital information to act upon. Financial savings and restrictions were stated as reasons for not acting on work environment problems. Despite the initial positive reception of the conventional program with its apparently well-formed working environment procedures, the approach must therefore be considered as insufficient. One reason for this may be the lack of functional integration of work environment issues with other important activity aspects. Hence, the results suggest that more refined work environment procedures need to be integrated into the organizational standard operating procedures for economy and quality assurance, especially at the work unit level. Section II. Refined procedures for inclusive working environment planning were designed and implemented in a series of test studies in another organization for elderly care. The program included a communicative structure for integrative working environment planning at the workplace team meeting. The communicative structure was applied as a hypothetical link relating the standard procedure to the individuals’ cognitive representations. Four different project approaches to integrated activity planning were tested. The projects were directed towards either development planning or problem solving. There were two contrasting primary project domains: A nursing care task or a working environment issue. However, integrative analysis and planning was emphasized in all projects. The participants’ application of the procedures was registered by means of observations and interviews, including qualitative data analysis. The results indicated that complementary planning procedures are required, since the appropriate procedure is contingent on the specific problem or goal at hand. Repeated training sessions are required for acquisition of appropriate procedural skills. By refined communicative skills and job training of economic, working environment and quality topics, the work teams will be able to advance their participatory decision-making and work satisfaction. This kind of functional integration at the work-level should be the key to improved vertical organizational integration.