The majority of employees in the municipal sector felt that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on their work

The COVID-19 pandemic increased stress especially in the social welfare and health care and education sectors, but improved the possibilities for balancing work and free time. After the pandemic, the popularity of private cars in commuting declined, which reduced the emissions of commuting in the municipal sector. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on work and commuting in the municipal sector can now be explored in the Work-Life Knowledge service.
Jenni Ervasti
Jenni Ervasti
Pekka Varje
Pekka Varje

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release 19 June 2023

There were significant differences in the experiences during the pandemic in the municipal sector by professional group. Mental stress and the perceived danger of infectious diseases increased especially in the sectors of health care and education.

However, the pandemic increased the perceived appreciation towards one's own profession. The greatest increase in appreciation was perceived among nurses and doctors, but also in worker professions, such as sanitation, street cleaning and waste management.

COVID-19 increased remote work also in the municipal sector

“Better opportunities to balance work and other aspects of life was considered to be a positive effect of the pandemic. About 40 per cent of respondents said they had moved to remote work due to the pandemic,” says Senior Researcher Jenni Ervasti from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

However, there are many professional groups in the municipal sector, such as doctors, nurses, early childhood educators and teachers, for whom remote work is not an option. On-site work was carried out by these professional groups either primarily or entirely throughout the pandemic.

In addition, a wide transition from remote work back to on-site or hybrid work occurred in autumn 2022. At that time, 91 per cent of the respondents said that they had either fully or partially moved back to on-site work.

Popularity of private cars in commuting decreased after the pandemic

In 2022, 31 per cent of the respondents drove to work during the summer and 34 per cent during the winter. The number of those who commuted by car on a daily basis declined by five percentage points from 2020. The number of kilometres travelled by car decreased by 11 per cent.

Longer commutes correlated with more common use of passenger cars. The average length of commuting was 15–16 kilometres per day for motorists and eight kilometres for those using other modes of transport.

“The polarization of commuting is also interesting. The distribution is clearly focused on both extremes, which means that the car is typically driven either daily or never,” says Jenni Ervasti.

Reduced number of people commuting daily by car reflected in lower carbon dioxide emissions

The average carbon dioxide emissions per employee from commuting in the municipal sector were 315 kilograms in 2022. In 2020, the corresponding figure was 356.

By profession, firefighters produced the highest carbon dioxide emissions per employee. However, the emissions are not caused by firefighters using cars for commuting exceptionally much, but by long distances.

Library workers caused the lowest emissions, as only 12 per cent of them said they drive to work every day.

“The use of cars for commuting is relatively common in shift work, where public transport is not necessarily even an option at all times. The use of cars has decreased and, consequently, emissions have also come down in these professional groups,” says Jenni Ervasti.

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The Kunta10 study

  • The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Kunta10 study is the most extensive nationwide follow-up study in the Finnish municipal sector. Further information: Municipal and well-being sector personnel follow-up study (FPS) | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (
  • The study involves Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Naantali, Raisio, Nokia, Valkeakoski and Virrat.
  • Employees in four large municipalities were asked questions about commuting, while employees in all 11 municipalities were asked about the effects of the pandemic.
  • In 2022, 57,572 employees (72%) responded to the survey. In 2020, the number of respondents was 65,179 (62%).
  • The study on commuting and the pandemic period in municipal work is funded by the Finnish Work Environment Fund and the Strategic Research Council (CLIMATE programme).

Further information

  • Kunta10 study: Jenni Ervasti, Senior Researcher, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 (0)43 825 5475, jenni.ervasti [at] (jenni[dot]ervasti[at]ttl[dot]fi)
  • Work-Life Knowledge service: Pekka Varje, Research Manager, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, +358 (0)50 576 8236, pekka.varje [at] (pekka[dot]varje[at]ttl[dot]fi)

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