The word arbetsmiljö (work environment) is as Swedish as meatballs with gravy and mashed potatoes. It’s taken so seriously here that the Swedes even have their own Work Environment Authority – Arbetsmiljöverket – responsible for ensuring that companies and employers follow government policy on work environment and work hours.
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A safe arbetsmiljö covers everything from ensuring employers have taken steps to reduce risk of accidents or death in the workplace, to making sure employees are offered desks, chairs and computer equipment to help them carry out their job in an ergonomically comfortable way without risk of injury. Some workplaces will even hire an ergonom (occupational therapist) as part of offering a good arbetsmiljö to help their employees with their posture and avoid muscle strain.
These rights are even enshrined in law, protecting your rights to annual leave, parental leave, your working hours, and your right to a safe working environment.
Arbetsmiljö became especially important during the coronavirus pandemic, with discussions on how to secure a good working environment protecting pregnant employees, and to what extent your employer is responsible for providing a good working environment when working from home. We have even heard stories of Swedes bringing home their ergonomic desk chairs from the office on public transport at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure a good arbetsmiljö at home.
The importance of a good arbetsmiljö can also be seen in coverage of recent news events. One example is the death of Swedish artist Lars Vilks, which the police reported to Arbetsmiljöverket as a workplace accident on behalf of the officers who died in the crash. Another is the Gothenburg explosion in September, where firefighters took precautions before entering the building to ensure that they would be working in a good arbetsmiljö – minimising risk of injury in the rescue operation.
You’re not contributing to a good working environment
Du bidrar inte till en bra arbetsmiljö
Remember to take breaks – it’s a working environment issue
Kom ihåg att ta pauser – det är en arbetsmiljöfråga
Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to lysforlag.com/vvv to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Bokus or Adlibris.