Low-threshold mental health services for better work ability
Mental health absenteeism among staff in the ELY Centres, TE Offices and KEHA Centre had increased and there was a need to address this risk quickly. Solutions to manage the mental stress of staff were sought through low-threshold mental wellbeing services and brief psychotherapy in occupational health, and the importance of mental wellbeing was emphasised internally in the organisational culture. Low-threshold wellbeing services are now well established, easy to find and with positive user experiences. In addition, there was a significant reduction in psychological symptoms among participants in brief psychotherapy and a corresponding increase in perceived psychological well-being.
The staff of the ELY Centres, TE Offices and the KEHA Centre have a very diverse range of tasks. The ELY Centre has three areas of activity; transport, environment and business, so depending on the job description, the work can be more physical groundwork and construction work or more customer service-oriented work with business clients or individuals. In TE Offices, people work in demanding specialist roles and much of the work is done at the client interface. The KEHA Centre is the joint development and management organisation of the above organisations.
In particular, the psychological strain on those working at the customer interface has increased in recent years, both because of the global situation, which is a cause for general concern, and because of the planned restructuring of the sector, as the transfer of TE services to municipalities from the beginning of 2025 has been planned from 2020. The strain has been reflected in an increase in mental health-related absences, and one of the solutions is the introduction of the Terveystalo occupational health low-threshold mental well-being support services Mental chat and Mental sparri and the occupational health brief psychotherapy for mindfulness.
Sirpa Siikaluoma, Head of the Well-being at Work and Recruitment Services Team at KEHA.
Mental chat and Mental sparri has been offered to all staff in the organisation since mid-2020. The majority of those who have used the chat continue to unload their minds at the Sparri reception, but some are referred to an occupational health professional on the basis of medical concerns, so that any risk to their work cycle can be tackled early on.
– The year 2020 will surely be remembered for the pandemic that shook the world, which also made it necessary for our staff to unload their mental burden with a professional. In the acute pandemic moment, we managed to introduce low-threshold mental health services in an agile manner, which contributed to our staff's resilience and helped them deal with the challenging situation. The concern about Covid-19 is receding, but the reasons for contact still reflect the impact of non-work-related factors and the stresses and strains of personal life on work capacity, says Sirpa Siikaluoma, Head of the Wellbeing and Recruitment Services Unit at KEHA.
Low-threshold mental health services have been well identified among staff, as information about them was not a one-off campaign at the time of implementation.
– Simply mentioning it in the occupational health contract does not change things, but the most important thing is that there is a culture in the organisation where mental health problems are accepted and people are referred to treatment. Our management and frontline staff have an important role to play in regularly raising the issue and reminding people of the existence of services, adds Kaarina Autio, a wellbeing expert at the KEHA Centre.
Kaarina Autio, KEHA's well-being at work expert.
Effective results with brief psychotherapy in occupational health
In response to increasing mental health-related absenteeism in ELY Centres, TE Offices and KEHA Centre, occupational health brief psychotherapy was introduced from the beginning of 2022 to support staff's ability to work and help them cope with difficult emotions in order to avoid long periods of mental health-related absenteeism.
– We have received positive feedback on the brief psychotherapy from both employees and frontline staff. A follow-up study at the end of the treatment period showed that the perceived mental wellbeing and functioning of the participants improved and their mood symptoms were reduced to a very mild level, so the first year's results are impressive, says Siikaluoma.
– The magnitude of the change, and therefore the effectiveness of brief psychotherapy, has been clinically significant in this organisation as well. The feedback collected at the end of the treatment has also praised the way the therapy has provided tools for managing stress, says Tuija Turunen, Terveystalo's Chief Psychologist and Psychotherapist.
Read more occupationa health articles
No amount of therapy is enough if the work-related causes are not resolved
For work to produce well-being for its creators, the work community must be taken care of. Sari Nuikki, senior occupational health psychologist at Terveystalo, explains what supervisors can do to ensure a healthy working life.
Mental ill-health is rapidly increasing in working life - early intervention is part of a strong corporate culture
Sick leave and disability caused by mental health problems have increased rapidly. It is becoming increasingly important for employers to take preventive action to take care of the mental health of their employees.
What should employers take into account regarding the 1.6.2023 upcoming updates to the Occupational Safety and Health Act?
With the update of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, workplaces will have to assess workload factors more systematically from the beginning of June. The update clarifies the employer's duty of care by specifying which types of psychosocial work stress factors the employer must take into account. In order to make working life more sustainable, the update pays particular attention to psychosocial stress factors that are a risk factor for work-related fatigue, such as job content, work organisation and the social functioning of the work community. The law also takes a stand on employers' obligations to take measures to promote longer careers and better job satisfaction.
Returning to work made easier
Quick access to care is important, but quick recovery is just as important. An efficient care pathway allows patients to return to work and their everyday life after an occupational accident or an operation, for example, as soon as possible.
Quick referral to occupational health services after an accident supports the return to work
For years, Finnish organizations have systematically worked towards preventing accidents. The statistics of Terveystalo show that accidents as a cause of absences has decreased every year, and in 2022, the absences related to occupational accidents treated at Terveystalo was 9% lower than in 2021. The number of accidents has not decreased as substantially because accidents also occur in remote work but cannot, in most cases, be considered occupational accidents. In the event of an accident, it is important to ensure that the patient is referred to occupational health services after acute treatment in order to assess their ability to work and draw up a return to work plan.
Näin Suomi voi survey 2022: The number of sickness absences increased significantly and they affected an increasing number of employers
According to Terveystalo's data, morbidity among working-age people increased considerably when comparing the year 2022 with the statistics from 2021. More and more workplaces were affected by the prevalence of various illnesses as the flu epidemic at the end of the year was exceptionally strong and the contrast with illness rates during the COVID years was high. Absences related to mental health issues and musculoskeletal disorders were on a downward trend, but the change cannot be considered a purely positive one.