September 2001

Towards a happier working life?

The possibility of a happier working life is being explored by the Finnish Ministry of Labour. The project — which is already six years old — aims to improve working conditions and thus also increase employment. According to the social democratic newspaper Uutispäivä Demari (10 September 2001), the national development programme for developing working life has involved a thousand work places and over a hundred thousand citizens.

"We don't need any management consultants or gurus, we base our work on long-term research and scientific proof", says Matti Salmenperä, the chair of the project's executive committee.

"The basic idea is that when work is more meaningful and pleasant, it produces more value and better products and services and thus more jobs. It is difficult to prove that more jobs have been created but at least the participants have reported that the programme has helped to preserve existing jobs."

Salmenperä says that the concept of team work has been misunderstood in Finnish working life.

"Effective team work means that each worker gets support at work which is right for their own characteristics. In this way everyone can be good at their work and feel motivated.

"If team work is understood to mean that everybody can do each other's work, everyone is at the same level and no one receives satisfaction or joy from his or her own special skills.

"When heavy production targets are imposed on a wrongly-conceived team, an awful working atmosphere is inevitable: those who are faster will have to do part of the work of those who are clumsier — and the latter will surely be made aware of this.

"But when team work is done with everybody supporting each other, the immense amount of potential thus created helps even the weakest link in coping."

An inspiring work atmosphere helps to generate new ideas which in a small country cannot be left only to product designers, Salmenperä says.

"Inventions don't have to be major. The most important thing is that there is constant development at grass-root level. When people get an idea of how to do something even better, the joy lasts for months: the work is done and it was my idea!"


For related articles go to the Work section of the archive

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