Aiming to prevent burnout and strengthen resources with the help of Auntie – City of Turku

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We are living interesting times regarding work ability as we are beginning to understand its different dimensions better than we did before, says Anna Kaisa Ojala, who works in the City of Turku’s joint services as a personnel planner. 

The health dimension of work ability, as in ”am I able to”, and the competence dimension, as in “do I know how to”, have long been understood. We are now also beginning to understand differently the ”do I dare to” and the “do I want to” dimensions, which are closely related to motivation, courage in career selection, and openness about how other life situations and private life affect work ability. Auntie has been in use as a pilot at the city of Turku and according to Anna Kaisa, Auntie can be very helpful especially in the ”do I dare to” and the “do I want to” dimensions.

The city of Turku has more than 11,000 employees. The work is divided into different service entities, which are well-being, education and teaching, urban environment, leisure, and employment. Additionally, some are working in joint services and in regional rescue services. Anna Kaisa states that the city’s organization is almost like the whole job market in miniature size. Working for the betterment of this big entity feels like a privilege. 

Well-being, education, and regional rescue have been the three service entities in Turku, in which the need for career coaching support have been identified as especially great, and each with slightly different emphasis. In well-being services, the physical demands are significant, as they are in regional rescue, in which fitness requirements and aging may result in the need to change career path. The demands and themes of mental well-being run through the entire organization, as they do through society.

Focal points are strategic management and a conciliatory approach to work

The importance of well-being at work is seen continuously more holistically. The major goals of the City of Turku start from the Personnel as a Resource program, in which well-being is built on these three goals: 

  • work increases well-being
  • work is healthy and safe
  • basic tasks are meaningful.

In addition, three action-based priority areas for well-being at work have been selected for 2021. Strategic work ability management is being pushed forward at a fast pace. In that area, more effective management of long absences is the clear goal. Absence from work due to mental health-related challenges has become the most common reason for employees needing time off in Turku, which is starting to be the case in some other municipalities as well. Another focal point of strategic management, which is currently being implemented, is a new type of goal and development discussion. When assessing performance and skills, all four dimensions of work ability mentioned above are taken into account. The third major goal in Turku is to implement a model of internal work community mediation. At the same time, the aim is to introduce a more conciliatory approach to working for both line managers as well as work communities.

Pilot for the prevention of burnout at work and in life

Auntie was introduced to the City of Turku through a pilot led by a pension insurance company in 2020. After that, the construction of a pilot done specifically for the city of Turku was started in 2021. A driving force was the strategic decision to prevent burnout both at work and in life. Another key reason in favour of Auntie’s implementation was that although vocational rehabilitation processes had been previously improved, consensus was that it would have been even better to offer support at an earlier stage. By doing so the employee is supported at a time when they may have more mental and work ability resources available.

Anna Kaisa remembered Auntie and its yellow color by having first seen it at an occupational health and safety expo. The target group of Auntie service in Turku is the entire staff, but for practical reasons it was limited in the pilot. Employees can start the service by going through either occupational health care or vocational rehabilitation contact person. It would be great if a person who felt they needed the service could register themselves, but I find it appropriate that a professional also identifies the need and gives permission to register for the service, says Anna Kaisa.

Strengths are verbalized in the Auntie package

When users were asked for feedback, many expressed genuine joy that their strengths were discussed and brought out in the sessions. The strengths were emphasized and verbalized. Users felt empowered and gained new momentum in their careers. Some experienced smaller changes with a few new perspectives to work, but some experienced significant changes to how they view their career path and set out to change their job description. During the process, people learned to look at their skill set from a new angle.

Anna Kaisa Ojala- Turun kaupunki

Anna Kaisa was surprised by how easy Auntie is to deal with and use. The people who participated in the pilot also found Auntie to be easy to use and flexible. Being able to access the service remotely has been great during these difficult times we are all living in. The exceptional circumstances have not delayed anyone from receiving help.

Flexibility, ease, and how quickly you get the service are all valuable. Auntie is a cutting-edge service and easily approachable. There is drive in how Auntie operates. As a bilingual city, there is demand for the service in both Finnish and Swedish in Turku. Anna Kaisa feels that as a partner they are cared for, and that Auntie is actively in connection with them.

Burnout at work or in life is a big challenge for all employers. It’s great that this is taken seriously at Auntie. They are also developing their service and actively seeking more information on how to prevent burnout. In addition, clients receive immediate feedback on how effective the service is in their organization. Personally, Anna Kaisa feels that Auntie’s webinar offering has been a great addition to individual sessions.

Anna Kaisa encourages other municipalities to try Auntie as well, as it is a great preventive service to meet the current demands of well-being at work. The service offering has been diverse and it’s continuously increasing. People can start the service with an open mind, as the aim does not have to be precisely focused in advance. Auntie in principle is suitable for everyone. You will get feedback on how the employees have experienced the service to be as well as what has been the individually perceived impact of the service.