Working while sick and plans to change jobs on the rise

Finns’ well-being at work has deteriorated, according to the How is Finland doing? follow-up study. Working while sick has become more common and more people are thinking of quitting their job, especially among managers and young adults. The prevalence of job burnout has not changed. Finns have a lot of resources at work, but concern for the future, for example, is stressful.
Jari Hakanen
Jari Hakanen
Janne Kaltiainen
Janne Kaltiainen

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release 28 February 2024

Finns’ well-being at work has continued to deteriorate, according to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s How is Finland doing? follow-up study. The change is particularly visible as a decrease in work engagement and an increase in boredom at work. Young adults' well-being at work remains at a worse level than the well-being of others.  

The prevalence of job burnout has not changed between summer 2023 and remainder of the year. Still, about one in four Finns are at risk of job burnout.  

“It is important that the growth of job burnout has now stopped. However, since we are aware of the effects of work engagement and boredom at work on health and productivity, the negative changes are worrying,” says Research Professor Jari Hakanen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.  

“The deterioration of well-being at work has many expensive knock-on effects, which employers should also be interested in. It can manifest, for example, as redundancies and poorer work performance,” says Specialist Researcher Janne Kaltiainen.  

More people are planning to quit their job, especially managers and young adults. About one in three people under the age of 36 have frequently considered changing jobs, while only one in four of older age groups have had such plans.

Working while sick has become more common

More and more Finns say that they have worked even when they have not felt fit to work. Up to 41% have worked at least twice while sick in the past six months. The growth of working while sick is particularly due to poor well-being at work.

“Working while sick is typically a vicious cycle. When a person is stressed out, they work while sick in order to manage their tasks. However, working while sick is even more stressful and can result in a deterioration of work ability and sickness absences,” says Jari Hakanen.  

“It has been estimated that the costs of working while sick are significant. Costs arise from both the transmission of diseases to colleagues and the reduction of productivity and work ability in the longer term,” Hakanen continues.  

Managers' well-being at work has decreased

The well-being at work of those working in supervisory and managerial positions has deteriorated at the same time as various resources at work that promote well-being. Supervisors experience less competence, success, learning opportunities and a sense of community in their work.    

Compared to employees, excessive workload is a significant stress factor for managers. One in four of employees felt that their workload was excessive, while the figure among managers was one in two (46%).  

“Typically, supervisors and managers experience more work engagement than employees, but this difference is now narrowing. To have human, high-quality management in our workplaces, managers must feel well in their work”, says Janne Kaltiainen.  

The work-related stress of managers and supervisors was also visible in the fact that as many as 45% of them had worked while sick at least twice in the last six months. Managers’ plans to resign, in particular, have also increased.

A lot of resources at work, but the future seems uncertain

According to the study, Finns have a lot of resources at work. Experiences of personal capability and fair treatment are at the highest level. Instead, concern for the future of work is stressful. 40% of Finns were worried about what their work would look like in the future.

“Uncertainty in work life and the related concerns are visible in workplaces as increased symptoms of job burnout. In times of uncertainty, it is particularly important to maintain a sense of community and servant leadership, which, unfortunately, rather show signs of a slight deterioration,” says Janne Kaltiainen.

“Sustainable work life consists of healthy, productive individuals and communities. Action is now needed at both national and workplace level to improve the work and working conditions of managers, supervisors and employees,” says Jari Hakanen.  

Research project: How is Finland doing?

  • The research project produces information on how well-being at work and different attitudes toward work have developed among Finnish employees over recent years.
  • Respondents are working Finns aged 18–65.
  • This time, the focus is on changes in Finns’ well-being at work between summer 2021, summer 2023 and late 2023.
  • Managers are respondents who have subordinates, that is, anyone who performs managerial and supervisory work.
  • The How is Finland doing? research is funded by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and Finland's Sustainable Growth Programme.
  • Learn more about previous study publications.

Additional information

  • Research Professor Jari Hakanen, jari.hakanen [at], +358 (0)40 562 5433
  • Specialist Researcher Janne Kaltiainen, janne.kaltiainen [at], +358 (0)50 476 5980

Learn more about the study 

Download the study summary (pdf)

Share content on social media!