Recent survey shows: Finns’ workability forecast has improved – greatest challenge to workability is high strain


The workability forecast for Finnish employees has clearly improved. The proportion of those who estimate their own workability forecast as uncertain has declined 2.3 percentage points since 2009, standing at 8.2% in 2013. The risk of disability declined particularly among those aged 55–59. The disability risk is mainly influenced by work-related factors. There has been positive development in health behaviour, and alcohol consumption among young people is down. These are the results of a survey carried out jointly by the earnings-related pension insurance company Varma and the occupational well-being experts ODUM. The survey is based on nearly 101,000 employee self-estimates of well-being at work.

“It seems that the prolonged difficult economic situation hasn’t had a deteriorating effect on the well-being of Finnish employees, although stress and sleeping problems have increased, says Varma’s Consultant Physician, Tanja Rokkanen.

The risk of disability is most strongly linked to work-related factors, such as requirements at work and the fast pace of work. Work-related factors have an effect on employees’ assessment of their workability across all age groups, but especially among younger employees. With respect to senior employees, the role of physical symptoms increases.

“Because different workplaces have different issues, the solutions must also be found at the individual workplaces and workability management should be incorporated in companies’ strategies. The work itself and the targets that have been set must be clear and straightforward, and leadership should be fair. Once the basics of workability management are in order it is possible to achieve results by influencing the reasons behind disability,” Rokkanen points out.

The positive development in workability can also be seen in younger age groups.

“It seems that young employees’ disability risk has declined since 2009, and their future outlook has also improved. Challenges relating to mental well-being are most apparent among the 30–49 age group, which is often a hectic phase in people’s lives,” says Odum’s Medical Adviser, Riikka Mattila.

Prolonged absence foreshadows disability pension

Long absences of over ten days have declined, especially in the group with a high risk of disability. Short absences are frequent across all age groups, and their volume decreases with age.

“Long absences are higher among those with a high disability risk, and they foreshadow disability pension, while short absences correlate with workplace atmosphere and culture. Especially short absences can be influenced effectively by addressing the operating culture of the workplace,” says Rokkanen.

Workability management may create major savings in a company’s sick leave and pension costs, and a smoother workflow and improved productivity bring additional savings. If the decrease in the disability risk seen in this research material would materialise directly as fewer disability pensions, the theoretical savings in pension costs alone would amount to EUR 110 million annually.

Healthy lifestyle promotes good workability

The trend in health behaviour is clearly positive: smoking has declined in all age groups, and young people’s alcohol consumption is also down and approaches the consumption level of other age groups.

The proportion of employees that do not engage in any physical activity has decreased. Physical inactivity is highest in the group with a high disability risk and in the younger employees’ age group. Reduced work capacity related to musculoskeletal symptoms is a factor behind high disability risk.

“In terms of maintaining good workability, each individual is also responsible for his or her well-being, both mental and physical,” Mattila stresses.

The purpose of the survey was to determine the workability outlook for the Finnish workforce, the factors that threaten people’s workability and the factors influencing well-being at work. The well-being-at-work expert company Odum Oy and earnings-related pension insurance company Varma have conducted research on the occupational well-being of employees in Finland in 2009, 2011 and 2013. The material comprises nearly 101,000 replies to the well-being at work questionnaire, and data has been collected since 2005. The material has been collected nationwide and it includes responses from the following sectors: banking and finance, insurance and investment, metals and chemical industry, forest industry, food industry, data communications and electronics, and the public sector.

For more information, please contact:
Survey results, sample and methods:
Riikka Mattila, Medical Adviser, Odum, tel. +358 44 792 3409, riikka.mattila(at)

Varma’s workability management services:
Tanja Rokkanen, Consultant Physician, Varma, tel. +358 50 311 5151, tanja.rokkanen(at)

Odum Health System:
Jukka Suovanen, Managing Director, Odum Oy, tel. +358 41 5251 725, jukka.suovanen(at)

Other enquiries:
Leena Rantasalo, Communications Manager, tel. +358 50 300 7980, leena.rantasalo(at)

The material and research report presented at the media briefing can be found at Varma’s and Odum’ websites (in Finnish):

Jukka Kivekkään esitys
Riikka Mattilan esitys
Tanja Rokkasen esitys
Odumin raportti

Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company is the largest earnings-related pension insurer and private investor in Finland. The company is responsible for the statutory earnings-related pension cover of nearly 870,000 people in the private sector. Premiums written totalled EUR 4.3 billion in 2013 and pension payments stood at EUR 4.8 billion. Varma’s investment portfolio amounted to EUR 37.7 billion at the end of 2013.

ODUM is a leading health systems developer and supplier in Finland. The company was founded in 1988 and is owned by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, BPM-Palvelut Oy and members of the company's personnel. ODUM Health System enables the management of personnel’s health and workability risks together with different partners. The promotion of personnel’s health can now also be automated. ODUM Health System is used to assess the health and workability risks of over 50,000 employees.