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Well-being from cooperation

In English


Kesko Corporation employs about 23 000 people in eight different countries. Detailed action models are needed for taking care of the personnel’s health and well-being. The K-Well wellness programme emphasizes that each employee can promote their own well-being.

About 1800 people work in Kesko’s new head office, K-Kampus, which was completed in 2019 in Kalasatama, Helsinki. A wide flight of stairs dominates the central lobby; it attracts people to sit down and chat in a pleasant environment.

– One purpose of the building is to facilitate cooperation between people in different lines of business, explains Katriina Ahtee, wellness manager at Kesko. She is responsible for occupational health, safety and well-being matters. Her many-sided experience in human resources (HR) tasks, crisis management, and development of corporate wellness are an asset in the work, and she also has a highly qualified team of experts to help her.

When a person starts working in the Corporation, the newcomer’s supervisor instructs and guides him or her to the routines of the workplace.

– The supervisor follows a check-list on health and safety. Additional tips for each line of work are offered in the internal web coaching. Kesko’s integrated occupational health services instruct in health and ergonomics questions.

The behaviour of Kesko employees is guided by the K-Code of Conduct.

– We make sure that everyone understands the principles of conduct that guide our behaviour. They are, in a nutshell: “I trust people, I do my utmost, and interact in a straightforward way, transparently and honestly”.

The work environment and ergonomics at K-Campus are the very latest. The automation system is supported by artificial intelligence (AI) and it controls the building’s nearly 30 technological systems. For example, the lighting system learns people’s movements, and can thus save energy and increase employees’ wellness.

K-Well model supports well-being

– The K-Well action model describes a positive work day experience, which consists of working hours as well as free time, including commuting. Our everyday choices affect our own safety and well-being, as well as that of others, says Ahtee.

– Nowadays work and free time often overlap. This means that you have to make sure that enough free time is left. The K-Well model reminds that everyone is responsible for their overall wellness. We also stress the importance of interaction and cooperation, because no one works alone. It is also important to develop one’s expertise and know-how.

One of Kesko’s fringe benefits for their Finnish employees is an e-pass that can be used to obtain vouchers for physical or cultural activities. Participation in physical activities is also supported through e-programmes – for instance access to a gym, break exercises or fitness clubs may be available. The K-Campus has parking space for 300 bicycles, and also bicycles for joint use encourage employees to commute by bicycle.

– We organize information campaigns, lectures on healthy life-style, as well as happenings and more long-term programmes related to health and wellness. It’s also possible for an employee to have a personal trainer who helps them to make healthy choices via the web or phone. As work becomes more hectic, it is imperative to invest increasingly in the well-being of the mind.

– It’s a big job to inform all our employees of the many possibilities available to them.

Tools for tackling problems with work capacity

Kimmo Laine, well-being chief, has worked over 30 years in different development and supervisory tasks at Kesko Corporation. He is now responsible for the processes, activities and individual solutions that support the personnel’s well-being, as well as for improving the know-how of key persons.

– If an employee is having difficulties in work ability, a model called “Fixing the work by talking” can be tried. The solution depends on the problem in question. If the difficulties are related to work capacity, assessment by an occupational health physician is required. The employee, together with the physician, nurse and supervisor hold a meeting.

The employee can, if he or she wishes, ask another person to come along to the meeting. The employee’s work tools and ergonomics are checked, and sometimes changes in working times or other flexible solutions may be of help. In addition, in some cases the work tasks may be modified to suit the employee’s work capacity.

Other possibilities are part-time sickness allowance and vocational rehabilitation, in other words, trying out different work, getting work counselling, retraining or on-the-job training for new work.

– The last option is finding a new job for the person. An open job application is placed in the internal recruiting system, and the HR unit looks for alternative work for the applicant from inside the enterprise. If re-employment is not possible, in some instances a partner enterprise can arrange work coaching and help in finding a job outside the corporation, says Laine.

Kespro’s credit manager Päivi Finér is pleased that she got a fantastic new person to her team, thanks to retraining.

Jani trained for a new job

Jani started his work career at the Kesko warehouse in Hakkila. Everything went well at first, but gradually he developed severe back pains. He went to see the occupational health physician, who prescribed sick leaves. Finally a magnetic scan was taken: Jani’s back was unfit for work in the warehouse.

– My occupational health doctor recommended that I retrain for some other kind of work. I was told that I could stay at Kesko even if I studied for a different line work. The occupational health nurses helped me with the bureaucracy and paperwork. I began to study at a vocational college and later got a degree in business economics.

– The HR department helped me to find a new job. About a year ago I started working in a job corresponding to my education – at Kespro’s credit control department. I like the work, because economics interests me. We manage the accounts of Kespro’s customers, we check their collaterals, and so on. The work is versatile and I learn new things all the time. It’s also fun to get more responsibilities. And my back doesn’t bother me in my present job – it stays in good shape as long as I follow my physiotherapist’s instructions.

Jani’s supervisor, Päivi Finér, is credit manager at Kespro. She is happy to have Jani on her team. Finér has been in the enterprise for over 30 years, and is responsible for Kespro’s credit control and customer data.

– We have good ergonomic chairs and electrically adjustable desks. Jani doesn’t need any special support for working. His coping at work is supported just like everybody else’s. Jani is a fantastic asset for our team.

Psychological support from the occupational safety delegate

Kirsi-Marja Mattila is Kespro’s chief occupational safety delegate. She has held this post in several wholesale companies around Finland for over ten years. This work takes up four days every week, and on one day she works as a service specialist.

– My job is to bring the employees’ viewpoint into the work groups. If an employee has problems with his work capacity, I may participate in the discussions right from the start. I take the side of the employee and make sure that his or her rights are respected. The employees aren’t always aware of all their options, but I am able to inquire after them. I act as the employee’s safety net.

– Our ways of handling occupational safety matters are explicit. We cooperate closely with those who are responsible for risk management. After two years, we finally succeeded in establishing the post of an occupational safety representative in 12 Kespro enterprises. In this way we get information quickly from each enterprise. The sooner that models supporting work capacity and well-being are implemented, the more certain it is that employees can remain working.

We all want the same thing, to have our employees maintain their work capacity, says Kirsi-Maria Mattila, Kespro’s chief occupational safety delegate. – I go to the gym once a week, she says. And yesterday I promised to go to the gym with one employee, because she said she lacked courage to go alone.

K-Sensor supports supervisors

The K-sensor system is the newest tool developed for supervisors to help them tackle work ability challenges at an early stage, says Kimmo Laine.

– This e-system shows the absentees in the supervisor’s team, without revealing information on diagnoses. The system contains, for instance, the steps of the model ‘Let’s fix the work by talking’, as well as numerous e-forms, ranging from meeting memoranda to the decisions of the pension insurance company. Also various summaries and statistics are useful in managing the employees’ work capacity.

Laine believes that the K-Sensor facilitates the work of supervisors, and its real-time information supports the well-being of the employees.

– Even though the employees cannot access the system, they benefit from the fact that their supervisor is up-to-date on the situation at work, and problems don’t pile up.

The new work environment is inspiring, energizing and motivating, says wellness manager Katriina Ahtee. Work capacity chief Kimmo Laine agrees. – We have systematically developed tools to support employees’ well-being, for example the K-Sensor tool, which supports management by information.

Easy access to occupational health services

Nea Koso and Mari Liikanen both started working as sales persons at the K-Citymarket in Malmi. As a result of training provided by Kesko, they advanced to supervisory positions. Koso’s supervisor encouraged her to enrol in management training, and she now oversees 50 subordinates and is the customer service manager of the cashier unit at the K-Citymarket of Myyrmäki. The work includes personnel management, work-shift planning, follow-up of the productivity of cash registers, as well as recruitment.

– Working with different people is the best part, they brighten my work day. The work has taught me that different people have different needs. It’s also nice to see how people develop and succeed in their work. When I plan work shifts I listen to my subordinates’ wishes and take into consideration their well-being and make sure that they have sufficient time for resting. I try to listen to them actively, I ask how they are doing, and I encourage them to come and chat with me, Koso tells about her principles.

Koso’s own supervisor, Mari Liikanen, got training in supervisory and department house management, and she is now the manager of the entire K-Citymarket at Myyrmäki. She is responsible for the cashier unit, and supervises of the chiefs of the consumer goods section. Her motivation for additional training was the need to get away from three-shift work after she became a mother.

– I hadn’t thought about being a supervisor, but my own supervisor told me about that option.

Liikanen says that the wellness benefits can be used also during the workers’ free time.

– The e-Pass can be used for treatments like massage, which eases neck and shoulder pains that are typical to cashiers. The employees’ family situation and even hobbies are taken into account in work-shift planning, whenever possible.

Liikanen knows that well-being depends to a great extent on yourself.

– You have to have an overall view of your coping. Work and free time have to be in balance. We have a low threshold to guiding people to seek occupational health services – no problem is too small or too big. People tell us openly about how they are feeling, and we take the necessary steps when needed. Once the hands of one of our sales persons were so painful that working became impossible. We worked together with the occupational health service and HR personnel, and found her other work at Kesko.

We have a fantastic group here! If you happen to have a bad day, your workmates cheer you up, says customer service chief Mari Liikanen at the K-Citymarket of Myyrmäki. She is instructing Alecksi Sorjonen at the cashier’s desk.

Occupational health services – the basics for health and wellness

The second one of Kesko’s occupational health stations is located at K-Campus. The unit’s multi-professional team has 27 specialists: seven occupational health physicians, ten occupational health nurses, one psychologist, and occupational physiotherapists and secretaries.

The leading occupational health physician, Johanna Larkio, has worked in occupational health services in the public as well as private sectors. She has held positions of trust, for instance on the board of directors of HUS (Helsinki and Uusimaa Hospital District). She is responsible for Kesko Corporation’s occupational health services nationally, as well as the nationwide uniformity of the services. Her daily tasks include several projects on wellness and safety.

– Our main goal is to see that all employees have equal access to multi-professional health services and support for their work capacity. The well-being of Kesko’s employees is supported by easy access to the services, says Larkio.

– It is essential to continuously renew the occupational health services by implementing up-to-date, evidence-based, valid ways of action and services. Together with the wellness unit we develop also digital tools for our personnel for promoting their health and wellness.

A few years ago health problems were examined at a doctor’s reception, but nowadays we focus on prevention. For instance, we use smart garments for analysing the work postures of auto mechanics, says Johanna Larkio, chief occupational health physician.

On-going themes: prevention and motivation

A new employee first undergoes a health examination, where emphasis is placed on advising and guidance.

– If he or she is found to have health problems, we draw up a treatment plan and agree on follow-up. Occupational physiotherapists analyse the person’s working habits and the ergonomics of the work site and give advice. After this, health check-ups on the web are conducted every 3 or 5 years, depending on the work task, says Larkio.

Kesko carries out many health examinations based on the legislation on exposure, for example, night work, exposure to cold, noise and chemicals.

– Work life is demanding and changes rapidly. Many changes facilitate working, but may require learning of new things and even retraining. This is stressing and energy-consuming. As a result, more employees now have only partial work capacity, so new work tasks corresponding to their health status need to be found.

– It is important to assess people’s work capacity already in advance. We conduct many occupational well-being surveys and workplace assessments, and look for any hazards in the work environment. Earlier, occupational health services consisted mainly of visits to the physician and the treatment of individuals. Now we take the whole work community into consideration. Our aim is to advise, guide, motivate and encourage, Larkio describes.