A working environment for creative research

​The Terahertz and Millimeter Wave Laboratory (TML) was first in a planned workshop series on working environment at MC2. "If you've worked all day in front of the computer, you can't recover mentally by playing computer games," said Helena Rodilla, who was one of the participants.
Picture of Magnus Åkerström.The workshop concept "Recovery and sustainable working life in engaging, active work tasks – Influence your workload and reach your best potential", was designed by Magnus Åkerström (to the right), Health and Safety Officer at the HR Division.
It is about how to jointly identify and implement changes in a working group to achieve a more sustainable working life and enable creative research. This is done by ensuring a balanced workload with sufficient opportunities for recovery for the staff. The goal is to increase job satisfaction and to better utilize ones full potential at work.

The workshop has so far been conducted in slightly different designs for between 10 and 15 groups at the university, and is always adapted to the needs and wishes of the participants:
"What we have perceived, it has been appreciated," says Magnus Åkerström.
It was he who led the workshop with TML in the enriched Chalmersska huset on 10 April. Together with TML's head Jan Stake and MC2's HR Partner Lena Lindgren, the content was adapted to suit the laboratory. Debora Perlheden, coordinator at MC2, held in the practical details.

Picture of Lena Lindgren.Lena Lindgren (to the left) started the afternoon with the exercise "take a stand" where the participants had to make a stand on various claims about working environment.
"Here it was interesting and inspiring to hear the different arguments on the issues," she says.

Magnus Åkerström then proceeded with an information block on the latest research in the field. Using this as a basis, various organizational measures were discussed that could improve the working environment.
"The group had to identify the areas that were considered important to either change or preserve. They also had to identify what measures could be implemented in their own group to achieve this. The participants were also given information about various tools that they can use," says Magnus Åkerström.

He summarizes TML's workshop as very successful. The laboratory wanted more focus on how stress inhibits creativity and the desire for creativity, and less on the well-known fact that stress itself is dangerous:
"It was a good commitment and a great interest in the issues. The manager in charge contributed actively and emphasized the importance of a sustainable working environment. Sufficient time was allocated to discuss the issues," says Magnus Åkerström.

One of the participants was the technician Mats Myremark. He thought it was a rewarding morning:
"One thing I bring with me is that you can never learn to be stress-resistant," he says.

PhD student Juan Cabello Sánchez remembered the importance of taking care of himself:
"My take-home message was that the key to manage stress is working on the causes, not the symptoms. So avoid distractions, rest and exercise sufficiently, and respect other people's focus – and socialize instead during fika!," he says.

Helena Rodilla, Assistant Professor at TML, understood that recovery must take time:
"I learned the relevance of the recovery time and how this must be based on a different kind of activity than the one who created the stress. I mean, if you have been all day working in front of the computer you cannot mentally recover by playing computer games," she says.

Jan Stake, head of TML, was also pleased with the content and says that the workshop was a first step in a long-term work:
"The purpose was to learn more about how stress affects us on good and evil, but above all how stress reduces our ability to think new and to see the whole – tasks that should be central to a researcher. We chose to focus on how we can influence ourselves to reduce stress and thus strengthen our research environment,” he says.
Jan Stake emphasizes how important it is to strive for an environment where creative and successful research can grow.
"Today, it is a major challenge with the ever-increasing paperwork and often short-term research funding," he says.

The workshop's discussions were later followed up in connection with a staff meeting where several participants stated that they had already noticed a positive difference based on the changes they made in their way of working. MC2's HR Partner Lena Lindgren rounded off the meeting with an exercise where participants were given the opportunity to develop common action points in their continued work for a creative working environment.

More similar occasions at other laboratories at the department are planned during the autumn.

Text: Michael Nystås
Photo: Private


Published: Thu 15 Aug 2019.