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Working environment crucial in academia

As one of Scandinavia’s leading technical universities, KTH’s work in education and research is based on internationalisation, gender equality and sustainable development, as I have previously mentioned. These aspects will, wherever relevant and whenever possible, permeate the way we do business and be a part of everything we do, from the ideas we have to the decisions we make and the action we take. But to be able to take the Royal Institute of Technology to the next level means a good working environment that is crucial for students, researchers, teachers and administrators alike.

Last week, Aftonbladet newspaper wrote a series of articles on how Swedish municipalities and agencies are spending money on travel, conferences, parties and entertainment. In broad terms, the newspaper lumped everything together to give a total sum of 44.5 million kronor. It may appear as if KTH is spending an awful lot of money on these things, though that is not the case for a workplace that has approximately 5,200 employees.

But a study of this kind is good to open people’s eyes as to how important it is to have clear, accessible guidance for entertainment expenses–so they can be properly monitored and accounted for. Everyone working at KTH should know these guidelines. It is actually reassuring to know where the limits are, so that we can focus on our mission. Here it is worth discussing or thinking about, for example, whether it is really necessary to serve alcohol at conferences. Even if it is just one to two glasses of wine, it’s about the guidelines, which states that events like this should be in moderation. Alcohol is often a major item in this context. We’re still there to work and for those who have problems with alcohol, it can be difficult to handle the situation. Or, what do you think? I welcome your ideas and thoughts on this subject.

When it comes to things like massage or skiing, to name a couple of things that are done in free time during a conference, you should pay for these things yourself. Here it is important that employees have to reconsider their limits and standards for what is reasonable and justifiable. But–and this is important; skills development is a must and always a good thing for KTH as a whole and for the individual. Conferences are an important element in the business for those who need new thinking, to exchange experiences and ideas outside of KTH–in Sweden and abroad.

Of course some entertainment should be included and should be a natural part of our business, especially when it comes to our interaction with industry and society, both regionally and globally; but it needs to be in moderation. And this is everyone’s responsibility; it is never just one person’s fault when the organisation around it fails.

It is extremely important that we have a working atmosphere that emanates from a clearly-defined culture. It is often said that these things are part of the fabric of the place itself. That’s not the case, of course–but it is the about the people. This means, among other things, that while conflicts are inherited, we also inherit the possibilities to solve and change things for the better.

Within the academy there are a number of special conditions, such as academic freedom and its counterpart responsibility, which are of importance for the working climate.

Competition for research funding and publications is another aspect to consider and discuss. Then it is important to remember that there is a lot of successful research with the team spirit that has fulfilled its importance built on that teamwork and on a respect for each other’s skills.

A good working environment is the foundation of a good atmosphere and a healthy culture at work–then we can concentrate on doing what we do best.