The rate of sick leaves due to mental health reasons was on the rise and in 2020 accounted for more than a quarter of all absences. This rising risk to work ability was tackled together with the occupational health care provider, and in summer 2021 Murata launched low-threshold mental health services and brief psychotherapy through occupational health at Terveystalo. Since the implementation of these services, the number of sick leaves caused by mental health reasons has decreased by 40 per cent. Moreover, savings of a similar magnitude have also been achieved.
“Mental health reasons were the biggest single contributor to sick leaves at Murata. In 2020, about one in four absences was due to mental health issues and the trend was rising. Moreover, compared to Terveystalo’s annual health statistics on the entire country, the proportion of absences due to mental health reasons was significantly higher. We had to do something, not least of all because of employee wellbeing, but also for financial reasons,” says Head of Wellbeing Kirsi Nurmela from Murata Finland.
Half of the employees of Murata Finland work in production and the other half at the office. Around 70 per cent of the employees are men, and the production workers, in particular, tend to be quite young.
“Production work requires great care and precision, regardless of the time of the day. The work at the office is fast-paced and professionally demanding, and many of the stressors there are connected to mental strain and time pressure. In other words, risks to our employees’ ability to work have been identified in both groups of people,” Nurmela says.
A shift in absence duration
In the past at Murata, mental health problems tended to result in long-term absences. Now, sick leaves are often shorter in duration. In 2022, short sick leaves of less than 30 days accounted for 64 per cent of the total, while 36 per cent lasted for more than 30 days. In 2020, these numbers had been reversed, meaning that more than half (61 per cent) of the sick leaves were long and 39 per cent were short.
“Early intervention in mental health challenges and treatment provided in time stop the problem from becoming worse. The services currently in place at Murata have clearly managed to reduce the risk of long-term inability to work, and the services promoting mental health have helped young adults to continue to work,” the senior psychologist from Terveystalo, Psychotherapist Tuija Turunen says.
Contacts made via a mental health chat service clearly show that stressors in personal life affect people’s ability to work.
“We are the same people whether we are at work or home, and our personal lives have an impact on our work capacity. Low-threshold services allow people to talk about their stressors outside of the workplace, which improves their ability to cope at work despite challenges in personal life, as their work can function as an element of support. Young adults, in particular – and Murata’s employees are fairly young – talk about their stressors in personal life, such as family situations, relationship themes and concerns about the wellbeing of loved ones,” Turunen explains.
The effects of brief psychotherapy seem to be positive. Based on the assessments by brief psychotherapy clients, the mood-related symptoms reduced from the medium level back to normal during treatment. They had fewer mental health symptoms, while their experienced mental wellbeing and ability to function improved significantly. Risky behaviors were initially relatively common, but these behaviors also lessened during therapy. The results indicate that mental health symptoms were clearly reduced in severity over the course of the psychotherapy treatment periods if the treatment had been initiated at the right time, i.e., as soon as the symptoms had appeared. The average employee from Murata attending brief psychotherapy is a young male, which reflects the company’s personnel structure.
Organization’s culture promotes mental wellbeing
Murata has been encouraging employees in multiple ways to seek help with mental health problems. Information about the services has been regularly shared with the workers, and the supervisors at Murata are familiar with the mental health services available from occupational health care, allowing them to guide their team members to seek these services, wherever necessary.
“Our aim has been to use our communications to normalize mental health issues and create an atmosphere where talking about these issues is allowed. We have also trained our supervisors to observe the mental wellbeing of their team members and actively talk about it. I am particularly glad that we have been able to achieve such good results in such little time, but the work continues. For example, we are planning to train our supervisors further on wellbeing themes,” Nurmela says.