DENMARK: Improving the psychosocial work environment of Church employees

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egliseDKPsychosocial risks concern all trades. A study funded by the ministry in question and carried out by Oxford researchers covered the improvement of the psychosocial environment of Church employees. More than 4800 people took part in it, via questionnaires, discussions with the management, case studies and a seminar.

According to the results just published, working conditions are not worse or better than elsewhere. The level of job satisfaction is similar to the national average, and Church employees feel they have a higher-than-average degree of influence over their work.

“Solo” work, with high emotional involvement
However, what is special about the Church is its atypical organization, characterized by the collaboration of volunteers and employees, and its management, which is not professional, and is visible and accessible for employees every day. And yet it is generally agreed that employees must know who is their immediate superior, to be able to turn to them in the event of problems. Currently, there exists in the Danish Church a “solo” culture that is detrimental to cooperation and communication among colleagues, with management and between the various work units which mostly have less than 10 people.

The report also indicates that work in the Church implies a great deal of personal commitment and emotional involvement. Joining the Church is a very personal choice and the border between the “occupation” and the person is fuzzy, even completely blurred. One of the major challenges is therefore to create conditions which do not jeopardize the psychosocial work environment of Church employees.

Developing communication
So the key word in the recommendations made by the authors of the report is “communication”. They propose establishing regular meetings, a discussion forum, cross-cutting cooperation or committee type coaching. The objective is to minimize conflicts and attenuate the emotional tension weighing on Church employees. There is also mention of the establishment of a clearer, more formal management structure so that employees know each day who is their manager.

(source : European working conditions Observatory)

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