Extensive survey: Service sectors need to invest in work orientation – new guide offers solutions

Service sector employees’ experiences regarding the quality of work orientation has decreased. Nearly two out of three employees have considered changing employers. The experience of hurry has also grown significantly. These are among the results of an extensive research survey. Specifically the labour-intensive service sectors, which employ a lot of young people and people with immigrant background, need support when it comes to work orientation. A new digital guide by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health offers solutions.
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Sara Lindström

Sara Lindström

Irmeli Pehkonen

Irmeli Pehkonen

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release, 24 January 2023

The guide was produced as part of the “Well-being at work and competence in the service sectors” project aimed at surveying the impact that recent changes had on work in the service sector. The project aimed also to identify solutions to developments that are problematic from the perspective of well-being at work.

“Increased mental and physical stress and hurry are worrying developments. In addition, workplaces are still recovering from the stresses of COVID-19 and there is a shortage of workforce. Investing in the quality of work orientation allows providing professionals in help in their work from an early stage,” says Sara Lindström, Specialist Researcher and Project Manager for the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Experience of hurry and dissatisfaction with work orientation highlighted

The two-year research project carried out two extensive surveys aimed at service sector employees in 2021 and 2022. The data was compared to comparable data gathered in 2008. The respondents worked in the retail, accommodation and restaurant and real estate service sectors.

Increasingly varied work hours combined with a decrease in the ability to influence working time and work shifts pose a threat to well-being at work. The share of employees who experience hurry has grown a significant 15–20 per cent, depending on the sector. The share of employees who feel their work is physically and mentally strenuous has increased by 30–40 per cent.  

Satisfaction with work orientation has decreased as much as 5–10 per cent in various service sectors. Only approximately 60 per cent of service sector employees feel that they have received good work orientation for their work.

“The changed circumstances require increased work ability management in order to have an impact on employee retention and attractiveness of workplaces. Important measures include investing in proper work orientation, taking the changes into consideration in organising work, increasing employees’ ability to have a say about working hours and ensuring support by supervisors,” says Irmeli Pehkonen, Senior Specialist for Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Work engagement has not decreased

However, there are also positive developments in many areas of work life in the service sectors. Threatening situations and violence by clients have decreased over the last 15 years. There have been positive developments in regards to satisfaction with the work of immediate supervisors as well as the support and encouragement provided by supervisors and colleagues for work well done. Work engagement is still common in the sector.

“The results will likely be reflected on the ability of workplaces and the entire sector to retain employees as well as productivity, competence and well-being at work. The survey provides an important overview for the service sector. Hopefully, companies will finally realise the importance of investing in work orientation, if they haven’t already,” says Antti Veirto, Research Manager for Service Union United PAM.

See the guide Onnistunut perehdytys palvelualoilla (successful work orientation in service sectors): Onnistunut perehdytys palvelualoilla | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (ttl.fi)

Well-being at work and competence in the service sectors research project

For more information, please contact

  • Sara Lindström, Specialist Researcher and Project Manager, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 (0)43 824 4521, [email protected]
  • Irmeli Pehkonen, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 (0)40 708 3784, [email protected]
  • Antti Veirto, Research Manager , Service Union United PAM, +358 (0)50 465 7501, [email protected]fi 

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