EFPA interviews: Siw Tone Innstrand, Marit Christensen and Karoline Grødal from NTNU

A new interview in the EFPA News Magazine informs about the progress of the H-WORK project and provide insights into the role of the different partners of the consortium. EFPA is one of the 14 partners of the H-WORK project. This time, Bruna Zani interviewed three members of the NTNU team: Siw Tone Innstrand, full professor at the Department of Psychology, Marit Christensen, associated professor at the Department of Psychology, and Karoline Grødal, researcher at NTNU.

1. Can you present us your team and the role of the members in the H-Work Project?

The NTNU-team belongs to a research group called Healthy workplaces at the Department of Psychology at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Embracing WHO’s definition of healthy workplaces as “….one in which workers and managers collaborate to use a continual improvement process to protect and promote the health, safety and well-being of workers and the sustainability of the workplace”, the research group are interested in what creates a healthy workplace and how to implement healthy workplace initiatives successfully.

The group leads and participates in a larger number of national and international research projects in the areas of occupational health psychology, health promotion and positive psychology, well-being, successful aging, healthy workplaces, healthy healthcare, leadership, and implementation and evaluation of interventions. One of our main projects now is the H-work project.

The NTNU-team for H-work consist of three members and we have a new post-doc coming in during the autumn 2022. NTNU have the responsibility for WP3, which is led by Marit Christensen and Siw Tone Innstrand. Marit is an Associated professor at the Department of Psychology, NTNU and have PhD in Work and Organisational Psychology on work and health in a changing world. Siw Tone Innstrand is a full professor at the Department of Psychology, NTNU and has a PhD in Occupational health psychology on work-home interaction. Both have an interest in what creates healthy workplaces and have been part of developing the ARK project a work environment and climate survey for the Norwegian university sector. ARK have been used by over 20 universities in Norway since 2012 and includes a database with over 55 000 responses. As part of the ARK project, we have conducted research on organisational intervention processes and how to create sustainable work environment and learning organisations. Karoline Grødal have worked as a researcher on the project since 2020. Her assignment ended this summer and she have brought here experience and skills from H-work into new tasks at the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authorities.

2. What is the role of your organization in the H-Work Project?

The NTNU team is responsible for Work Package 3 (WP3): the H-Work Assessment Toolkit (HAT). This means that we are responsible for creating assessment tools for the needs analysis and quantitative effect evaluation surveys (baseline, post, and follow-up).

3. What has your team accomplished in the project so far (results)?

So far, we have created a protocol for the needs analyses consisting of 1) focus group interview, 2) semi-structured interviews, 3) contextual measure, and 4) a plan for a stakeholder meeting and action plan. The needs analyses have now been conducted successfully among 11 different interventions sites in the following countries: Italy, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Spain, and Germany, and provides the basis for the choice of interventions tested in the H-work project.

The outbreak of COVID-19 forced us to find new digital solutions on how to collect the participants needs for intervention as face-to-face interviews was not possible in some of the organizations. Hence, we have created guides for how to conduct digital interviews and cognitive mapping exercises.

Our team has also been involved in many of the other work packages by contributing to for example process evaluation, meta process evaluation of the needs analyses, and a communication plan. Together with other partners in the project we have also written publications and presented knowledge from H-work at several conferences.

4. What are you currently working on and what are the next steps?

We are currently waiting for the data from the follow up data collection for effect evaluation of the interventions on mental health. The next step will be to analyze and validate data from the pre, post and follow-up data on mental health exploring the effect of the interventions.

We are also preparing symposia at EAWOP and SIOP conferences to be held this spring based on the results from the H-work.

As Norwegian partners in an EU-project we applied and got supplementary funding from the Norwegian Research council to develop an e-learning course, e-H-work, based on the results from the H-work project. The e-H-work-project is in its final stages and a prototype in Norwegian and English of the e-learning course will be ready in the beginning of 2023.

We are currently working on a policy brief on the role of participation in organizational intervention processes together with USFD and EFPA.

Together with partner from UVA and UFSD we are working on guidelines for how to conduct an intervention process for mental health and well-being in SME’s and public workplaces for the H-work platform.

5. What are your expectations regarding the outcomes of the project, after 2 and a half years of work?

Our expectations are that our work will have an effect on the mental health and well-being on the individual level, organizational level and on the societal level. We hope that new knowledge from the project will benefit leaders, HR, policy makers in the filed of mental health and wellbeing. The COVID-19 pandemic has revitalized the view of the importance of working with mental health in organizations. We hope that the H-work project will help to shed light the need for mental health promotion and reduction of stigma and give some answers to how to deal with the challenges Europe and the rest of the world are facing.

We have enjoyed the collaboration and knowledge exchange with the other partners in the project and hope to continue the fruitful work in the future in new project and papers.

6. There has been a change re the initial expectations?

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic we have not been able to travel and have face-to-face meetings. However, it was very rewarding to meet at the EAOHP conference in Bordeaux in 2022 having a writing workshop where we experienced a lot of brilliant ideas, engagement, and inspiration.

7. What are currently the main obstacles for your work in general and in the project?

The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed the data collection and we are still waiting for data to start writing papers and finalize the required deliverables for EU-commission.

8. What has been (and still is) the impact of COVID on the work of your organization for the project?

The data collection is delayed; however, we have managed to be innovative, finding new digital solutions in a way that we can continue our work as planned. We believe that COVID-19 pandemic has put emphasis on the need of our research and intervention work on mental health and well-being at work.

9. What is the biggest strength of your organization in advancing the project?

Our competence, knowledge and experience from the ARK-programme have provided us with an extensive knowledge base on how to implement organizational intervention processes for mental health in the workplace.

Moreover, the participatory approach and collaboration between the parties in work life, which is represented in one of the pillars in the H-work project builds upon the Nordic model which we base our work and have extensive knowledge about.  

We have through the development of an e-learning tool extended the dissemination of the results from the H-work project and created a motivational course for using the H-work platform for future organisations.

10. How do you think your organization and EFPA can collaborate?

Through the participatory perspective of the Nordic model, we can contribute with a more systemic approach to multilevel organizational interventions for health promotion and mental health in SME’s and public organisations. Together with EFPA we can translate this knowledge into policies and practices.