Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Experiences of Cultural Activities Provided by the Employer in Finland

Academic journal article Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies

Experiences of Cultural Activities Provided by the Employer in Finland

Article excerpt


Traditionally, the worksite health promotion programs have included physical exercise, but the increasing mental demands of working life call for complementary approaches. Cultural leisure activities are associated with better coping with work-related stress (Iwasaki et al., 2005) and well-being at work (Tuisku et al., 2011). Cultural activity seems to protect employees from mental exhaustion (Theorell et al., 2013). Mental well-being is increased by community-based cultural leisure activities (Jones et al., 2013) and community art programs have health-promoting effects in disadvantaged populations (Kelaher et al., 2014). Workplace art activities in the healthcare sector seem to reduce burnout (Bittman et al., 2003) and increase occupational well-being (Bygren et al., 2009).

The well-being of healthcare employees is of special concern these days due to a shortage of personnel and increased occupational demands. Due to growing positive evidence of the cultural activities, an increasing number of employers have taken an interest in them. In Finland, since 2009, employers have been able to offer their employees tax-free vouchers for cultural events. The effects of culture vouchers have not been systematically studied (Hyyppä, 2014). The cultural vouchers have become increasingly popular, but there are no exact data about the usage. According to a national news report (2013), up to one-fifth of the vouchers may be wasted and up to one-third of the employees may give them away to other consumers. About quarter of the recreation budgets of Finnish employers are allocated to vouchers for cultural and sports services (National news, 2013).

Helsinki University Central Hospital Medical Unit was among the first large-scale public sector employers in Finland to introduce cultural events organized on a regular basis and available to all employees. The aim of the study was to establish how the participants were selected, their motives for taking part and how they experienced the cultural events.

Another aim was to find out which specific benefits are subjectively obtained by participation in a cultural program. According to previous occupational wellbeing studies (Kinnunen et al., 2011) and cultural intervention studies (Bittman et al., 2003; Bygren et al., 2009), we hypothesized the following psychosocial benefits to be experienced by workplace cultural events: psychological detachment from strain, relaxation, recreations, new ideas, reflection on professional identity, familiarization with workmates, increased communication, better atmosphere and cooperation in the workplace.

Materials and Methods

Hospital personnel of the Medical Unit at Helsinki University Hospital launched an employer-provided cultural activity program during 2011, which was regular, informed and available to all personnel during 2012. The recreational cultural activity program included events such as theater, concerts, musicals, dance-performances and guided museum and sight-seeing tours. The cultural events were scheduled outside working hours and participation was voluntary. Employees were invited to cultural events by workplace website information and meeting communications. They enrolled and reserved the tickets by organization website.

A survey of the experiences of cultural activity during the past 6 months was conducted by means of an anonymous questionnaire in September 2012. The digital questionnaire was sent to all email addresses included in the personnel register (2463). The amount of active addresses (employees working at the time of enquiry) was not known, but approximately 90% of the personnel were present considering holidays, family-leave, sick-leave, education and other absences. As 769 employees responded the questionnaire, the concluded response rate was approximately 35%.

The majority of respondents were female nurses in permanent employment reflecting the overall structure of personnel. …

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