Multiple actors, one shared workplace
Shared workplaces take place widely in industries, such as construction, manufacturing and mining.
There are many advantages to having multiple organisations or companies working under one roof. This type of work environment has many benefits, but what are the opportunities and risks from an ergonomics and human factors perspective?
From lobby services and cleaning staff to caterers and outsourced IT teams, we may be dependent on others working under the same roof. Furthermore, our actions can have an impact on the health and safety of others. Shared workplaces take place widely in industries, such as construction, manufacturing and mining.
In addition to shared workplaces, there are workplaces of mutual hazards that lack an employer exercising the main authority, but in which there are also risks to the wellbeing of employees by other employees. Due to the nature of work in these workplaces, occupational health and safety is an important issue.
Furthermore, there are also situations which do not fit under either the definition of a shared workplace or a workplace of mutual hazards, but where the actions of another actor - who comes from, for example, another team, unit or other organisational entity - can influence the work of an employee in ways that impact both productivity and wellbeing.
As the concept of a shared workplace itself is not very widely known, the situations that also share similarities with it, but do not fill its legislative definition, are often not identified. This is also reflected in the limited volume of the research that has been carried out to date regarding these types of situations.
The emergence of organisational networks
Due to the increased networking of organisations during the last couple of decades, both shared workplaces and situations that share similarities with them, have become more and more common. Outsourcing of support functions, for example, has become widespread as it enables organisations to focus on their core expertise. This has enforced the emergence of organisational networks, with various modes of joint-operation and collaboration between organisations.
These situations are often characterised by organisational complexity. Today, situations in which there are several actors working together in one workplace can be found in fields like healthcare, where several support services – which can be either internal or outsourced - are needed to enable the work of the medical and nursing staff. Another notable example is the municipal sector, where many service functions are provided by separate internal subdivisions, business units, shared service centres or external service providers.
In the previously depicted situations, a variety of both physical and psychosocial load factors can take place on which the employees working in these systems themselves cannot necessarily influence. These can include challenges, for example, related to premises and furnishing, such as tidiness or use of materials, or simultaneous actions taking place in the workplace.
There might also be a lack of communication between the employees of different units, such as the core process and a support service. This is often due to the employees not meeting directly during everyday work or a lack of time for communication. These load factors can have a negative impact on both the wellbeing and productivity of these employees.
The article is based on the doctoral thesis of the author entitled “Several actors, one workplace — Development of collaboration of several actors inside and between the organisations,” which is available at http://urn.fi/urn:isbn:9789526228327