Interruptions and an excessive amount of work have continued to grow as stress factors

Constant work interruptions, an excessive amount of work and high working pace cause a significant psychosocial workload at workplaces. According to the latest occupational safety and health panel, targeted at occupational safety and health personnel, one in three employees consider interruptions to be constant at their workplace, whereas in 2016 one in four felt this way. An excessive amount of information and being constantly available also increase stress.
Four busy office employees are discussing at a quick meeting.
Hanna Uusitalo
Hanna Uusitalo
Minna Toivanen
Minna Toivanen

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Centre for Occupational Safety media release, 8 February 2024

The occupational safety and health panel is an annual questionnaire survey by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health on the Centre for Occupational Safety. The most recent survey was carried out in November 2023. This time, psychosocial factors and their management was selected as the theme. The panel featured the same theme in 2016.

A total of 34 per cent of the respondents assessed that, at their workplace, interruptions caused stress constantly (25 per cent in 2016) and 53 per cent felt that this occurred to some extent. In addition, 19 per cent of the respondents estimated that an excessive amount of information caused constant stress at their workplace.

Focusing on the essential can help to make the workload more reasonable

In regard to the organization of work, 27 per cent of respondents felt that the amount of work or working pace was excessive constantly and 60 per cent felt this was true to some extent. A total of 21 per cent felt that, at their workplace, being constantly available caused stress constantly and 51 per cent felt that this occurred to some extent.

According to the researcher, if it seems that the amount of work is becoming excessive, one should stop and consider if resources could be added or something cut down.

“One way is to focus on the essential, clarifying what is most important in the work, identifying the most essential tasks and limiting work based on this in order to make the workload reasonable. The amount of work, work tasks and the organization of work should be discussed jointly to create a shared understanding of what is essential and what can be cut down,” says Minna Toivanen, Senior Specialist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.  

Stress factors are identified, but managing them is challenging

The occupational safety and health panel demonstrates that workplaces already have good measures in place for identifying stress factors. A total of 59 per cent of the respondents reported that a psychosocial stress factor risk assessment had been carried out at their workplace. According to 70 per cent of the respondents, a workplace survey carried out by occupational health care had included an assessment of psychosocial stress factors. Personnel and atmosphere surveys can also help in identifying stress factors.

Despite identifying them, managing the stress factors felt challenging. Of the respondents, 76 per cent estimated that managing a psychosocial workload is very or fairly challenging. Challenges in the sector or at the workplace, such as labour shortages or change negotiations, can pose challenges to workload management. There is no universal solutions to managing stress.  

“Different stress factors require different management methods. The number one method for managing a workload is to foster an open, confidential discussion atmosphere and interaction both between the employee and supervisor as well as within the entire work community,” says Hanna Uusitalo, Senior Specialist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Among the measures that respondents identified for managing workloads were occupational health services, the organization of work, including recovery opportunities, along with instruction and training.

Stress caused by changes in work has decreased

The occupational safety and health panel questionnaire survey also demonstrates positive developments. The psychosocial workload caused by constant changes in work has decreased by 11 percentage points between 2016 and 2023. One in five respondents assessed that the psychosocial workload caused by continuous changes in their workplace was constant (31 per cent in 2016).

The overall situation in relation to the social functionality of the work community in connection with stress factors was assessed to be somewhat more positive in this study, compared with 2016.  

A total of 73 per cent of the respondents did not identify any harassment or inappropriate behaviour at their workplace. Inequal or discriminatory treatment was not identified at their workplace by 69 per cent of the respondents. Two out of three respondents mentioned that there was very little uncertainty related to the employment relationship. 

Occupational Safety and Health Panel

  • The Occupational Safety and Health Panel is a questionnaire survey, implemented annually by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and the Centre for Occupational Safety, for occupational safety and health personnel. 
  • The panel collects information about the occupational safety and health needs identified in workplaces and the impacts societal phenomena have on everyday work. 
  • The most recent survey was carried out November 2023. The survey was sent to the occupational safety representatives and managers collected from the Occupational Safety and Health Personnel Register, of whom 597 responded.
  • The panel featured the same theme in 2016. (N=822) 

Explore the data

Occupational safety and health panel provides current information | Työelämätieto | www.tyoelamatieto.fi 

Occupational safety and health and psychosocial factors | Työelämätieto | www.tyoelamatieto.fi

For more information, please contact:

  • Senior Specialist Hanna Uusitalo, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)43 824 0034, hanna.uusitalo[at]ttl.fi
  • Senior Specialist Minna Toivanen, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)43 824 4506, minna.toivanen[at]ttl.fi
  • Development Manager Jarna Savolainen, Centre for Occupational Safety, tel. +358 (0)40 561 2022, jarna.savolainen[at]ttk.fi

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