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Flexible work – heaven or hell?

Press release   •   Jun 20, 2019 14:37 UTC

A research group headed by Gunnar Bergström, professor in occupational health science at the University of Gävle, will for a period of six years study the opportunities and challenges of flexible work.

Under the heading “Challenges of Working Life,” Forte: the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare awards Gunnar Bergström’s research group SEK 8.4 million with an opportunity to receive an additional SEK 9 million during a period of six years.

The researchers will study how workplace health develops during these conditions and use collected data to develop and evaluate policies together with actors at the workplace and, if needed, draw up action plans.

Most people prefer permanent contracts

Freedom of choice is important for temporary workers from a staffing agency as well as for those with fixed-term employment contracts, but most people prefer a more traditional permanent contract with the same employer for a safer a more predictable life.

Researchers know that workers employed through a staffing agency find it harder to become integrated in the workplace, that their health is poorer and that there is an excess risk of occupational injuries.

“We need to find the positive as well as the possible negative consequences of employing workers with fixed-term employments and contracts with staffing agencies. We do not know much about what is means for the working environment or for the productivity and profitability of the organisation,” Gunnar Bergström says.

“Working whenever you want” – no positive freedom

The second track is flexible employments, where remote working is an option or when you can set your own working hours. In Sweden, work flexibility options are greater than in most countries. Here, there is positive freedom, but also a kind of limitlessness which places very high demands on the individual to set his or her own limits.

“In the past, we used to say that high demands can be managed with good control over your work situation, but if demands become too high, being able to make many autonomous decisions about your work situation, like being able to freely choose where to work, is no remedy, it seems.”

“Flexible work also sets new demands on organisations and managers, for instance regarding how you can help your employees to draw the line between work and free time during remote working,” Gunnar Bergström says.

In the programme, the researchers will follow a large group of employees over time in close collaboration with organisations both from the private and the public sector. Gunnar Bergström invites organisations interested in participating to get in touch.


Gunnar Bergström, professor in occupational health science, University of Gävle
Phone: 073-622 58 60

Text: Douglas Öhrbom
Foto: Britt Mattsson

Education and Research at a Scenic Campus.
The University of Gävle has approximately 17 000 students, more than 50 study programmes and second-cycle programmes, about 1 000 courses in humanities, social and natural sciences and technology.

Research Profiles
Built Environment and Health-promoting Working Life are the general research profiles of the higher education institution. Important parts included are Spatial Planning with a specialisation in Sustainable Built Environment and Musculoskeletal Disorders with the purpose to prevent work-related injuries. In 2010, the higher education institution received permission to carry out third-cycle programmes in the profile area of Built Environment.
The higher education institution has applied for permission to carry out third-cycle programmes in technology, humanities and social sciences.