Locating the Essential

Knowledge work is characterized by often excess amount of work, it can involve tasks that are inappropriate for one’s job description, and work and private life are often intertwined: the work is overflowing from its boundaries. The Locating the Essential study examines the overflowing of knowledge work in Finnish working life. Furthermore, the study will identify the needs and opportunities for delimiting work and create better prerequisites for focusing on the essential.




Overflowing of work means breaking or exceeding the boundaries related to the amount and content of work and workership. At worst, work overflows across all these boundaries, which can reduce the sense of control over work, wellbeing and performance at work.  However, the jobs and what is expected of knowledge workers can vary in different fields and types of work. This study provides a better understanding of the overflowing of work that threatens the wellbeing of knowledge workers and sheds light on its accumulation and the groups it particularly concerns. The study creates a new basis for locating the pain points of knowledge work in Finnish working life and highlights areas for development.  


  1. Map the overflowing of knowledge work in Finnish working life in a  European context (Quality of Work Life Survey 2018, EWCS 2021) and create an updated overall picture of the phenomenon. 
  2. Produce new information on the links between work autonomy and multi-location work and overflowing in knowledge work (Quality of Work Life Survey 2018) 
  3. Investigate the links between overflowing and work performance in knowledge work (BrainWork Questionnaire 2021)  
  4. Identify needs, opportunities, and practices for limiting and essentializing the work of knowledge workers and supervisors (supervisor and knowledge worker interviews, e-form, workshops) 

In addition, the project will produce new solutions for better management of work boundaries and for locating and pruning the core of work, i.e. essentialization. These solutions are aimed at workplaces, especially HR professionals, supervisors and those responsible for well-being at work, but also individual knowledge workers. In this way, the project will help workplaces to function effectively in digital and, in the future, increasingly multi-location working life. 

Data and methods

The project utilizes several existing quantitative datasets (Quality of Work Life Survey 2018, European Working Conditions Survey 2021 (EWCS), Brainwork Surveys 2021), which will be supplemented with qualitative data collected in this and a parallel project (e.g. knowledge worker and supervisor interviews). 

Results and impact

Based on diverse data, the project will create a structured view of the overflowing of knowledge work and the needs and opportunities for managing work boundaries. 

In addition, based on this and previous studies, and in collaboration with organisations and knowledge workers, a web material Ten Steps to the Essential will be created. The material aims to support work delimitation, management of work boundaries and essentialization.  The steps help knowledge workers and workplaces to focus on the essential and to analyze and better understand the boundaries related to the amount of work, its tasks and workership.  

Ask about the research

Henkilökuva Minna Toivanen

Minna Toivanen

Minna.Toivanen [at]
+358 30 474 2665


The Finnish Work Environment Fund