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Psychological and social workload factors

Harmful workload arises from the interaction between the work and the employee. Psychological workload factors refer to factors that cause a conflict between the demands of the work and the employee’s resources. Social workload factors refer to issues related to interaction in the work community.

  • constant changes, prolonged uncertainty
  • unclear or unreasonable goals at work
  • excessive amount of work, being in constant rush, failure to meet deadlines, poor quality of work due to time pressure
  • work bleeds into leisure time
  • insufficient amount of work, work not challenging enough
  • no opportunities to develop or learn new things
  • frequent interruptions or other issues that hinder the flow of work
  • a high level of responsibility for people, finances, the environment, etc.
  • lack of feedback and appreciation.

  • issues in the functioning of the work community
  • working alone
  • difficulties in reaching others in work carried out in networks
  • challenging customer situations
  • threat of violence at work
  • lack of communication
  • irresponsible behaviour in the work community
  • harassment, discrimination and other inappropriate treatment
  • shortcomings in management.

Work does not only cause harmful strain, but it also involves many positive features called resources factors. Identifying the resource factors of work reduces the effects of harmful workload factors. Resource factors of work include:

  • rewarding, developmental and meaningful tasks
  • success at work and work results
  • opportunities to influence work
  • clarity of roles and goals at work
  • flexibility of working hours.

Resource factors associated with the work community include appreciation, interaction, clear leadership, support from the supervisor and the work community, fairness and feedback. The organisation itself also has many resource factors: job security, innovative ways of working, and attitudes and practices that support work–life balance.

There are also personal resource factors, such as optimism, perseverance, flexibility and good self-esteem.

Workload management

The employer is responsible for choosing and implementing appropriate measures to prevent, eliminate and reduce harmful workloads. It is advisable to utilise various statistics and monitoring data obtained from the workplace as well as the knowledge accumulated by various experts at the workplace in the identification, assessment and monitoring of harmful workloads.

The expertise of occupational health care should be utilised when assessing the probability of encountering harmful workload factors and their impact on health. The implementation of measures related to the management of harmful workloads is carried out in cooperation with employees or their representatives. The employer must also ensure that the work does not put a continuous and unreasonable strain on employees, including supervisors.

Ways to support well-being at work in the workplace:

Management makes a difference

Management practices and the activities of supervisors have a significant impact on perceived well-being at work and psychosocial workload. This can reduce harmful workloads. Features of good management include:

Each member of the work community can make a difference by helping and supporting others, acting kindly and showing appreciation. Everyone should also strive to keep their workload appropriate by planning their work and keeping their supervisor up to date on their work situation. Taking care of one’s own well-being, planning the use of time and work and focusing on recovery can help reduce the effects of a harmful workload.

It is important that the workplace has tools in place to identify harmful workloads as early as possible. The early support model created in cooperation should also take into account ways to address harmful workloads.

Manifestation of harmful workload

Signs of a harmful workload can manifest themselves as changes in behaviour, on an emotional level, as various memory difficulties, as loss of control over work, as physical pain and as dysfunctions in the body, for example. Employees who feel that their workload is harmful should discuss the matter with their supervisor. This can be done together with a colleague or the occupational safety and health representative or shop steward at the workplace.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (738/2002)(opens in a new window, you will be directed to another service) obligates the employer to intervene in cases of a harmful workload. In practice, the supervisor will start resolving the situation together with the employee after noticing it or being informed of it. The expertise of occupational health care can be utilised in both identifying sources of harmful workload and choosing measures.

Workload Assessment Tool

The Workload Assessment Tool is an easy-to-use and free application that works on mobile devices and browsers.

Workload management

Learn practical tips for preventing and eliminating harmful workloads.

Introducing supervisors to their role in psychosocial workload management

The employer can delegate some of its duties under the Occupational Safety and Health Act to a substitute, who, in practice, is a person working in a supervisory position. When the employer delegates its duties to a supervisor, their duties, responsibilities and obligations in identifying, preventing and reducing harmful workloads must be defined in sufficient detail. These may vary depending on factors such as the line of business and the size of the workplace.

The employer must ensure that the supervisor has sufficient qualifications to perform the duties delegated to them and that they have received sufficient orientation to them (Occupational Safety and Health Act, Section 16).

Assessment of workload and early intervention

Identifying a harmful workload at an early stage is one of the main duties of a supervisor. This is important for the employee’s health and work ability, the functioning of the work community and the operational result of the workplace.

The earlier the better – show that you care