Investing in working ability pays off


Maintaining working ability is the responsibility of both the employee and the employer. If you are faced with prolonged challenges regarding your working ability, it is important that support measures are taken early. Working ability support measures can be taken at the workplace, in addition to which rehabilitation that supports employment is also available.


You must have sufficient working ability to work. Working ability refers to physical functional capacity, ability to engage in social interaction, mental well-being and resources and coping with changes in your career.

“Understanding, managing and predicting life is increasingly challenging these days. Workplaces are in a state of constant transition, as management and operating methods keep changing, for instance. Work tasks are also carried out with more independence than before. Technology offers both advantages and challenges for working. The population structure and even the language used at workplaces are also changing. Climate change is also making its impact,” says Rehabilitation Manager Birgitta Ojala (in the picture), listing factors affecting working ability and, consequently, rehabilitation.

Shared responsibility for maintaining working ability

As an employee, you are required to take care of your working ability. It means, for example, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a proper work-rest ratio. A balanced life helps you to build a long-lasting career and to cope at work.

The employer is also responsible for maintaining its employees’ working ability. The employer must identify when there is a need for working ability support measures in the work community. Working ability support must be built over the entire career. Working ability can be monitored using various indicators at workplaces, such as well-being at work surveys and monitoring the quality of work and sickness absences. The employer must also be aware of the risks of potential hazardous situations and intervene in them.

“Employees’ experiences of working ability support at the workplace directly affect, for example, how quickly they are able to return to work from sick leave. That is why well-being at work is very important,” Birgitta Ojala points out.

Today’s careers are multidimensional, and your work tasks can change several times over the years. Working ability support is available from the beginning of your career path.

“In the pre-employment health examination, it is assessed whether your health status corresponds to your work tasks. As your career progresses, competence-related issues play an increasingly important role as your work changes, and you are faced with different challenges in your everyday life. Then, your ability to learn and adapt to new tasks and working methods will become significant,” says Ojala.

Promoting a healthy lifestyle at the workplace has proven to be an effective way of maintaining working ability. These days, there is also much talk about how to adapt work. Adapting work refers to adjusting work to match the employee’s working ability. Various safety trainings can also be useful.

Support measures should be taken at an early stage

You may experience different working ability challenges at different stages of your career. A certain kind of variation in working ability is normal. For example, your energy levels and working capabilities may vary on different days. But sometimes your well-being might take a long-lasting turn for the worse. What are the signs that would force an employee to think about whether there would be a need for working ability support measures if their supervisor or someone else does not comment on the matter?

“It is worth considering support measures when you feel that your work is too burdensome, your physical functional capacity is not enough to recover from work, you are constantly tired in the morning, your everyday chores are taxing, you experience stress symptoms or you are dissatisfied with your work. Before the situation prolongs, it is worth considering whether something could be done differently, whether it is the time to change jobs or whether there is a need for rehabilitative services. The earlier action is taken, the easier it is to restore working ability. For example, if you start considering training for a new profession or rehabilitation measures only after when your resources are exhausted, restoring your working ability is much more challenging,” Birgitta Ojala points out.

For older people of working age, musculoskeletal disorders are the most common cause for sickness absences and premature retirement. These disorders are also associated with psychosocial problems, such as depression, anxiety, psychological workload and pain-related fear. Problems related to mental health are the most common challenges to younger people’s working ability.

Rehabilitation as a measure supporting working ability

Rehabilitation is increasingly affiliated with employment.

“Rehabilitation is often perceived as just exercise, but in reality, the contents of rehabilitation are also closely related to employment. For example, KIILA rehabilitation is rehabilitation that purely supports employment. It seeks ways of coping at work in a group formed by the work community, or the group is formed of individual employees who have sought for rehabilitation,” says Birgitta Ojala. 

In rehabilitation, you can build your own rehabilitation path. You must consider your own goals and their suitability for your current life stage. You will also learn to recognise your resources, manage your changed life situation and improve your own activities with the support of a multiprofessional team. As this is a group activity, peer support also plays an important role.

Rehabilitation aimed at young people focuses on job seeking and life management skills, the ability to cope with everyday life and strengthening routines. For adults, rehabilitation strives to strengthen coping and continuing at work and to provide instructions for maintaining their own state of health.

“Investing in working ability pays off. If you notice that a person close to you could have a need for working ability support measures, you should talk to them about it. People may not detect their need for support themselves. We live in a country with an excellent service system for, for example, rehabilitation, and utilising it is worth it. If your wonder about your own working ability, one way to find out is to ask yourself how likely it is that you will be able to work in six months’ time. Usually, the answer to this question predicts coping at work fairly well,” says Ojala. 

Birgitta Ojala talked about supporting working ability at different career stages at the recruitment event RekryExpo held at the Turku Fair Center on 15 March. Ojala acts as the rehabilitation manager at Rehabilitation Centre Ruissalo.

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