Therese Öhrling, PhD student at the Department of Human Work Science.

Cleaning up bad work environment

Published: 29 October 2013

Reduced absenteeism and increased profitability was the result when Piteå Municipality reorganized its cleaning unit and gave the employees more influence. Now will researchers at Luleå University of Technology develop a model for how this can be implemented in other cleaning organisations.

Too often are only resources on the physical work for the cleaners prioritized. But for a change to take place must also social and organizational factors be taken in account. Research of the cleaning industry lacks good examples that give hope. Therefore sees Therese Öhrling, PhD student at the Division of Human Work Science this as an important project.

– The strategy they used in Piteå proved to be successful. It will lay the foundation of a model that can be implemented in other cleaning organizations. It is possible to work with influence and participation in both private and public forms of ownership, says Therese Öhrling.

The basis of the new research is Therese Öhrlings thesis in which she followed the reorganization that Piteå municipality cleaning unit completed. They were, like the industry in general, affected by high sick-listings and wanted a change.

To get more autonomy was a profit centre created, which resulted in shorter decision paths and also gave workers the opportunity to influence their own work situation – something that proved to be a winning concept.

– This led to increased job satisfaction, increased motivation and healthier staff. Errors and misunderstandings between cleaners and customers have declined and the business has become more efficient and simply works better, says Therese Öhrling.

Model that can be applied throughout the country

In the project participates also Kent Nilsson, senior lecturer in Accounting and Control, and Lena Abrahamsson and Jan Johansson, professors in Human Work Science.

Right now are the researchers having a conversation with Luleå Municipality cleaning device to identify their needs and expectations. In the end will a model that creates a greater involvement of the employees be implemented in the business.

– Luleå Municipality cleaning device speak in the current situation not about creating a profit centre, but want to work with this strategy. They hope it will lead to greater job satisfaction, increased motivation and customer satisfaction. Ten per cent of the cleaning is already outsourced and they are concerned that it will grow. The managers hope to create such a good cleaning business that this can be avoided, or that they can be the customers first choice if this happens, says Therese Öhrling.