Working in the Service Sector in Finland

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In this blog post, we discuss what it is like to work in the service sector in Finland. 

This blog post is based on a recent report by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. In this report, Jarno Turunen, Jouko Remes, Irmeli Pehkonen, and Sara Lindström discuss changes that have occurred in the private sector in Finland between 2008 and 2022. They specifically look at changes in the nature of employment relationships, work communities, working times, well-being at work, competence, and risk of threatening and violent confrontations with customers. 

The report is based on over 12 000 survey responses from employees working in retail trade, property services, and tourism, restaurant and leisure services. The surveys targeted members of PAM – Service Union United

In the following, we will discuss some of the findings of the report. 

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Working hours in the Service Sector in Finland

As we have discussed elsewhere, working hours in Finland vary widely according to industry. In the service sector in Finland, the share of employees having regular daytime working hours has decreased over the years.

In 2008, 41 % of those working in the retail sector had regular daytime working hours. Their share had dropped to 34 % by 2022.  In property services, the drop was from 76 % to 70 % within the same time period. Only in the tourism, restaurant and leisure sector had the share of those working regular daytime hours stayed the same.

In the retail sector, this drop is explained by the removal of restrictions on store opening hours in 2016. 

Although working hours in the retail sector have become more varied, working hours in the retail sector seem more predictable than in the property services sector and in the tourism, restaurant and leisure sector. In the retail sector, about 20 % of employees have had to daily or weekly adjust their working hours at the request of their supervisors. This share has stayed the same since 2008. 

In the tourism, restaurant and leisure sector, 50 % faced such requests in 2022. This was an increase from 40 % in 2008. 

Possibility to influence working hours in the service sector in Finland

It seems that in the service sector in Finland, employees do not feel they have much of a say over their working hours. In the retail sector, 57 % of employees in 2022 said they had very little control or no over their working hours. The increase from 2008 is notable. Then, only 25 % said they had very little or no influence at all over their working hours.

Similarly, their share has also noticeably increased in the tourism, restaurant and leisure sector. In 2008, 21 % of employees in that sector said they had very little or no control at all over their working hours. In 2022, their share had increased to 48 %.

Only the property services sector shows a small increase in this share of employees. In 2008, 31 % of them felt they had very little or no control at all over their working hours. In 2022, 37 % felt the same. 

Work community and leadership in the service sector in Finland

Although an increasing share of employees in the service sector in Finland feel that their control over their working hours has decreased, a majority of them think that that atmosphere at work is good.

In the retail sector, 66 % of employees said the atmosphere at work is good. This share has increased from 61 % in 2008. Approximately the same share (68 %) of employees in the tourism, restaurant and leisure sector feel the same way. In the property services sector, this share is slightly lower (60 %). In both of these latter sectors, this share has increased from 2008.

Support from managers and coworkers

All sectors show a significant increase in the support employees feel they receive from their managers. In the retail sector, 71 % of employees say that they receive help and support from their manager when they need it. In 2008, 57 % said the same. 

The tourism, restaurant and leisure sector show a similar increase from 55 % in 2008 to 71 % in 2022. In the property services sector, the increase was slightly smaller from 49 % in 2008 to 63 % in 2022. 

The sense of support from coworkers has also increased from 2008. In 2008, 71 % of employees in the retail sector said they receive support and help from coworkers when they need it. By 2022, 86 % felt this way. In the tourism, restaurant and leisure sector, this share increased from 72 % in 2008 to 83 % in 2022. Again, the property services sector shows a slightly smaller increase from 52 % in 2008 to 68 % in 2022. 

Discrimination in the service sector in Finland

In the 2021 and 2022 surveys, employees also had the possibility to report witnessing discrimination at work. In both surveys, 6 % of retail, tourism, restaurant and leisure sectors said they have witnessed discrimination. 

Employees in the property services sector report witnessing discrimination at a higher rate. 10 % of them said they had witnessed it in both the 2021 and 2022 surveys. 

The report does not elaborate on what discrimination here refers to You can read a more nuanced discussion of discrimination at Finnish workplaces here

The report, however, also discusses how equal and fair employees feel their managers are. And although management practices have improved in the service sector in Finland, there is still much room for improvement. The share of employees who feel that their manager treats everyone equally and fairly varies from 53 % in the property service sector to 62 % in the tourism, restaurant and leisure sector. So only a little over half of employees in the service sector feel that managers treat their employees equally and fairly. 

Notes on the report

This summary represents only a small part of the whole report. In addition to the above, Turunen, Remes, Pehkonen, and Lindström also discuss employees opinions on, for example:

  • communication in the work community;
  • feeling rushed or busy;
  • wellbeing and health;
  • flow and boredom;
  • threats of violence;
  • quality of onboarding; and
  • recognition of skills. 

They recognize that work communities in the service sector in Finland have made progress in some areas In other areas, though, there are still significant challenges. 

On the one hand, for example, there have been clear increases in support and help employees get from both their managers and coworkers. Employees also feel that their good work is being recognized more often than before. 

On the other hand, a larger share of employees than now feel the pressure to adjust their working hours in short notice. More often than before they also feel that they have little or no say over their working hours. Also, they feel busier than before. Employees also report increasing problems with communication at their workplaces.  

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