Recent survey: Employees’ assessment of their workability has declined

workability management
working life

Finnish employees under the age of 40 have lost some confidence in their workability. The posi-tive development that started in that age group in 2009 took a downward turn in 2015. The good development that was seen in the workability outlook for older age groups has also slowed. These are the findings of an extensive ‘Employee Workability and Well-Being’ joint report by Odum, a company specialising in occupational health, and Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company. The report is based on the responses of some 124,000 employees about their well-being at work.

The number of employees who feel their workability is threatened declined between 2009 and 2013, but the num-ber rose in the 2015 results. The biggest change took place in the under-40 age group, where the number of em-ployees with a high workability risk increased to the 2011 level.

“Work-related factors continue to have the greatest effect on employees’ assessment of their workability across all age groups, but especially among the under-40 age group. Work demands and an intense work pace are important factors related to the disability risk, and their influence also on older age groups has clearly grown,” says ODUM’s Medical Adviser, Riikka Mattila.

Work-related factors are posing special challenges for current working life and its development.

“We need to switch from managing work to managing people and the strengths of individuals. Clear goals, ensuring competence, motivation and engagement are important factors in supporting work management,” says Johanna Ahonen, Development Manager at Varma.

Improving lifestyle contradicts rising workability risk

The health habits of employees have developed positively over the ten-year monitoring period: alcohol and tobacco use have declined, as has the number of people who lead sedentary lives.

“The increase in the workability risk among those under 40 contradicts the fact that it is particularly that age group that has taken positive steps in terms of their lifestyle. In younger age groups especially, the proportion of heavy drinkers has declined considerably,” Mattila points out.

“The improvement in lifestyle habits does not appear to have reduced the workability risk, because the impact of work-related factors is so great,” she adds.

Supervisor plays decisive role in managing absences due to illness

The total number of absences due to illness declined slightly since 2013. Brief periods of sick leave have, however, increased.

“The number of brief periods of sick leave among those under 40 is alarmingly high. In order to maintain workability and prevent the disability risk, efforts should focus on determining the underlying reasons for absences due to ill-ness and finding ways to reduce them, instead of monitoring and assessing sick leave,” stresses Mattila.

Work-related solutions are always individual and company-specific. Operating models for workability management should be based on the needs and concerns of the company in question.

“Ensuring a high standard of leadership and the ability of supervisors to recognise work-related problems early enough play a key role. Work-related challenges should be addressed with individual solutions. Job descriptions should be adapted to the strengths of each employee. Workability management processes and the continuous de-velopment thereof in collaboration with the occupational health care service and the earnings-related pension com-pany help in coming up with individual solutions,” says Ahonen.

Pain weakens perceived workability

Illnesses and symptoms are the reason behind the workability risk more often for the over-40 age group than for younger age groups, and their significance has grown in the past two years. Surprisingly, the number of illnesses and symptoms has increased also among younger age groups.

Intense pain and the reduced musculoskeletal mobility that comes with it increase the risk of disability. This risk is highlighted especially in older age groups.

“An important observation is that the experience of pain clearly undermines employees’ belief in their continued workability. There has not been much of a change in that respect during the ten years of monitoring,” says Mattila.
“The survey results raise the question of whether patients who are experiencing pain are being recognised and are they receiving the right kind of treatment? By treating the pain we can influence workability,” Mattila concludes.

The expert company in occupational well-being ODUM Oy and earnings-related pension insurance company Varma have conducted research on the occupational well-being of employees in Finland in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015. Close to 124,000 respondents from various business sectors have taken part in the ‘Employee Workability and Well-Being’ survey between 2005 and 2015. The purpose of the survey is to determine the workability outlook for the Finnish workforce, the factors that threaten people’s workability and the factors influencing well-being at work. Data from several sectors has been compiled on a nationwide scale since 2005. The 2015 survey involved 22,454 em-ployees.

For more information, please contact:

Varma, Communications Manager Leena Rantasalo, tel. +358 50 300 7980,
Varma, Development Manager Johanna Ahonen, tel. +358 50 501 7470,

ODUM, Medical Adviser Riikka Mattila, tel. +358 44 792 3409,
ODUM, CEO Jukka Suovanen, tel. +358 41 525 1725,

For more information (in Finnish):

Results in slide presentation (pdf)

Varma Mutual Pension Insurance Company is the most solvent earnings-related pension company and largest pri-vate investor in Finland. The company is responsible for the statutory earnings-related pension cover of some 860,000 people in the private sector. Premiums written totalled EUR 4.3 billion in 2014 and pension payments stood at EUR 5.0 billion. Varma’s investment portfolio amounted to EUR 41.9 billion at the end of June 2015.

ODUM Oy develops and markets management systems for maintaining personnel’s health and fitness for work in companies. ODUM Health System enables the identification of risks related to personnel’s health and fitness for work, a reduction of observed risk factors and maintenance of fitness for work throughout an employee’s career. The company is owned by the Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA, BPM-Palvelut Oy and a group of ODUM employees. ODUM Health System is used to assess the work fitness and risks of over 50,000 employees


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