Study: workload management needs to be incorporated into contingency planning

Workplace contingency planning rarely takes into account the safeguarding of employees’ functional capacity and well-being at work. However, especially in safety-critical work, the performance of the workplace depends on the functional capacity of people. Therefore, workload management needs to be incorporated into contingency planning.
Sote-ammattilaiset tarkkana sairaalassa.
Mikael Sallinen
Mikael Sallinen
Kuvassa hymyilevä nainen
Kati Karhula

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release 13 June 2024

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, work must be healthy and safe. This obligation remains unchanged in the event of a crisis. If anything, its significance becomes even more pronounced when working conditions grow more demanding than before. Accumulated stress and inadequate recovery reduce functional capacity and well-being at work. This significantly affects the workplace’s resilience, i.e. crisis resilience.

“In the event of serious external crises, such as pandemics, the workplace must have concrete strategies in place to manage the workload. They are rarely included in the current contingency or continuity plans of workplaces,” says Mikael Sallinen, Research Manager at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. 

Job accommodation and the strengthening of resources play a central role 

“There are two ways to manage workload in a crisis situation: job accommodation and strengthening the employee’s resources. The successful application of both methods in the workplace prevents employees from becoming overburdened,” Sallinen says.

People management and information flow are central means of job accommodation.

“A contingency plan usually describes the management of things. But how does one manage people? People management that supports the employee’s well-being is encouraging and interactive. In information flow, an emphasis is placed on transparency, tailoring the information to the target group, as well as timely and regular information,” says Mikael Sallinen.

In terms of strengthening the employee’s resources, sufficient crisis training and the support offered by the workplace and work community are particularly important.

“Workplace support covers everything from providing personal protective equipment to offering services to support mental well-being. Work community support means opportunities to discuss the work and share work-related concerns. It can also include asking colleagues for practical advice or help,” says Kati Karhula, Specialist Researcher at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

Workplace-specific plans for workload management in the event of a crisis

In addition to existing contingency and continuity plans, safety-critical workplaces must have a separate plan for managing workload in the event of a crisis. It helps the workplace prepare for workload management before a crisis.

“Workload management plans should be promptly put on the management agenda. In order for the plans to be usable and effective in a crisis situation, the various operators at the workplace must be widely involved in their preparation,” Sallinen points out.

A detailed and practical guide provides help with creating a plan.

Workload Management in an External Crisis – A Guide for Safety-Critical Workplaces provides guidance and templates. The guide was drawn up as part of the Workload Management in Safety-Critical Work During an External Crisis research project.

More detailed sector-specific recommendations have been prepared for safety-critical sectors that are important for the security of supply, including the health care, rescue and emergency care, and nuclear industry sectors.

Explore the materials 

Further information 

  • Mikael Sallinen, Research Manager, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)40 768 6956, mikael.sallinen [at]
  • Kati Karhula, Specialist Researcher, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 (0)43 824 2267, kati.karhula [at] (kati[dot]karhula[at]ttl[dot]fi)


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