All employees develop Kuopio's best workplace

Anssi Hietanen and Eeva Tuomi are walking side by side and looking forward to the right.
Mondi Kuopio has set high targets for work ability management. With Varma's support, the company has developed its early support model as well as supervisor work and managed to bring down its contribution category.

Mondi Kuopio is part of the Mondi Group, a global leader in packaging and paper, employing 22,000 people in more than 30 countries. The group contributes to a better world by producing products that are sustainable by design. Mondi Kuopio produces a high-quality containerboard paper grade, which is primarily used in fruit and vegetable boxes.

Work ability management and its development is very much a priority for the company, and management is committed to it.

–The main guidelines come from the group, but local management is able and allowed to take into account local characteristics, says Anssi Hietanen, Human Resources Manager at Mondi Kuopio.

The development work is based on the Mondi Action Plan 2030 framework, which outlines the key sustainability commitments. People are an important aspect of this framework, which includes targets related to the physical and mental well-being of employees. Mondi Kuopio’s development work is driven by the goal of being the best workplace in Kuopio in 2030. According to Hietanen, work ability management also aims to strengthen the sense of community and pride in one's own workplace.

– We want to be a good place to work and a good place to retire from, having served well and in good health, sums up Hietanen.

Innovative solutions for a better desk and shift work experience

Most of Mondi Kuopio's employees work shifts in the paperboard mill. Staff turnover is low, and the employment tenure is typically long. Therefore, the employees have become familiar with each other and the occupational health services over the years.

– It makes it easier for us to keep track of where we are compared to a situation where staff turnover is high and people are less familiar with each other, says Hietanen.

Work ability challenges at Mondi Kuopio are often related to shift work and desk jobs. Some jobs are more physically demanding than others, making employees more prone to musculoskeletal problems. Most employees work 12-hour shifts for four consecutive days, followed by six days off.

– This form of shift work has been found to be the least straining for the employees, says Hietanen.

Most of the work in the mill is desk-based, performed in a control room in front of large screens. This requires learning new skills as tasks become more and more technical and duties expand.

Anssi Hietanen and Eeva Tuomi look at the camera and lean on a fence.

At Mondi Kuopio, all employees are invited to participate in the development of work ability, working environment, and the mill.

Proactivity above all, not forgetting response

At Mondi Kuopio, the focus of work ability management has shifted more and more from responding to proactivity.

– It's much easier to address problems before they become big and affect, for example, an entire team and its performance, says Human Resources Development Specialist Eeva Tuomi.

The proactive approach to maintaining work ability has been enhanced by, among other things, putting supervisors at the centre: developing day-to-day management, expanding the work of supervisors from process management to people management, and ensuring that they have the knowledge and skills to succeed in supporting the work ability of the team.

– The aim is that our supervisors have the courage to intervene, we have the right tools, and HR supports them, says Tuomi.

The early support model has also been updated using Varma's tools and the sparring assistance of Mira Turunen, Development Manager for Work Ability Management. The new early support model helps supervisors to address early signs of work ability challenges in everyday work and in teams. The model also sets out principles for cooperation with the occupational health services in the event of sickness absences. According to Tuomi, the early support model was previously led by the occupational health services, and the practice was to wait for the occupational health services to report issues requiring a response.

– We have now changed it so that the day-to-day work of our supervisors includes paying attention to the employees' situation and respond to any worrying signs, says Tuomi.

At Mondi Kuopio, it has been recognised that supervisors need tools in a broader sense. Turunen has been sparring with Mondi Kuopio's human resources department in the compilation of a guide for supervisors. The guide provides support in everyday work ability issues and guides supervisors to the right information, for example in the Varma Academy learning environment.

While proactive work ability management is key, there must also be good tools to react. Therefore, close cooperation with the occupational health services is important.

– The occupational health services are quite familiar with our employees and will report to us if there are any concerns, Tuomi says.

Eeva Tuomi is looking at the camera.

– It's much easier to address problems before they become big and affect, for example, an entire team and its performance, says Human Resources Development Specialist Eeva Tuomi.

All employees involved in development

At Mondi Kuopio, all employees are invited to participate in the development of work ability, working environment, and the mill. The employees have easy-to-use systems at their disposal, through which they can make observations and suggestions for improvement, for example in relation to safety.

– We strive for a very interactive and low-hierarchy culture at the mill. With a freedom and responsibility ideology and a Nordic style of management, we aim to move forward, says Hietanen.

The company's open and employee-listening culture is also reflected in its structured disability solutions, which can be used to support and lighten the workload. As one approaches the old-age pension age, ailments can arise that affect one's work ability. At Mondi Kuopio, the aim is to enable employees to continue working part-time, for example, alongside a partial disability pension if their health no longer allows them to work full-time. Such a solution benefits both the employer and the employee.

Working together towards objectives

Varma has been supporting and sparring Mondi Kuopio in the compilation of a guide for supervisors and the revision of the early support model, among other things. Cooperation with Varma's account team has been smooth and fruitful.

– Varma's Mira Turunen brought good insight into what should be included in the guide from the perspective of work ability management, Tuomi says.

– Varma was also a natural partner in the revision of the early support model, and we worked with them on a very concrete issue, Hietanen adds.
The changes to the daily work patterns are producing tangible results, such as a reduction in sick leaves, low staff turnover, and very few people retiring on disability before the end of their careers. One of the most significant achievements resulting from these actions is the reduction of the contribution category, which is typically high in industrial sectors due to workload factors, shift work, and limited opportunities to influence one's own work. In Finland, pension contribution categories encourage companies to develop their work ability management, as a lower contribution category means higher savings. Mondi Kuopio's contribution class is now six but will decrease to two in 2025 and possibly continue to reduce to one in 2026.

– We are very proud and pleased with the decrease of the contribution category. However, we are not going to rest on our laurels on this issue but are embarking on a new range of work ability development activities. This will hopefully keep the contribution category low or even bring it down further, says Hietanen.

Read how Varman helps its customers with work ability management

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