EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Food Service Centrum, Finland: health and well-being, training and development, redeployment


Case study name: 
Ageing workforce
Organisation Size: 
Food beverage and tobacco
Target Groups: 
MenPersons with health problemsProfessional/managerialSkilled ManualWomen
Initiative Types: 
Health and well-being


Organisational background


The Food Service Centrum (FSC) is located in Espoo, the second largest city in Finland, and began its operations on 1 January 2004. The company provides food services to educational facilities, social and health organisations and the central administration of Espoo. Prior to the company’s reorganisation in 2004, the Food Service Centrum of the Finnish Training Center (FSCTC), founded in 1968, was responsible for providing food services to educational facilities in Espoo.

Originally, FSCTC had 230 employees. In comparison, FSC currently employs 534 people, the majority of whom are food service workers or supervisors and 25 of whom are managers. Only 23 of the employees are men. The average age of the company’s food service personnel is 43 years, while the proportion of employees over 44 and 54 years of age is 50% and 17%, respectively. Altogether, nine employees left FSC through early retirement, disability pension or old age pension in 2004. The staff turnover rate is 5%.

FSC is conscious of the ageing (over 44 years) and older age (over 54 years) profile of its employees and hence has invested in projects and rehabilitation courses to promote the work ability of all its personnel. Older workers are allowed to take a part-time pension and, if their work ability is low, to have reduced daily performance requirements, e.g. a reduction in the number of meals made.

Social dialogue is currently taking place in FSC between industrial safety representatives, the trade union and management, but no specific well-being advisory group exists.

The original initiative

From 1997 to 2000, FSCTC ran a well-being programme, which focused on the high average age of employees, the health and work ability of FSCTC kitchen workers and the company’s productivity.

The main aim of the programme was to support the work ability and well-being of FSCTC personnel, half of whom were aged over 45 years. The measures implemented consisted of:

• the analysis and development of kitchen work and the development of district teams: ‘inquiring learning’ based on an analysis of the work process was used;

• sharing the development of ideas and results of the team efforts, in order to make improvements among all workers;

• training workers in the use of electronic equipment in the kitchens;

• introducing interventions to improve functional capacity;

• establishing a group to discuss health issues for women over 45 years of age (the Senioriitta group).

Following the introduction to these measures, most of the psycho-social factors essential for well-being at work were assessed more positively than previously. Moreover, the overall work performance of food service personnel improved considerably. The company’s work ability index (WAI) was also enhanced, and the participants of the ‘Senioriitta group’ received much useful information.

As a result of the project, FSCTC learned that teamwork and continuous analyses, as well as development of the work and workers’ ability, were the most important aspects to maintain. On-the-job training produced good results and promoted the work ability and well-being of ageing kitchen workers. Therefore, the learning effects were very positive in this case.

Good practice today

Since 1997, FSCTC has invested in working capacity projects and in the integration of workers of all ages, especially ageing and older workers. From 1997 to 2000, the original initiatives largely remained the same. After this, from 2001 to 2003, FSCTC continued the development process without outside consultation as part of its normal work, applying the principles and methods learned during the original programme. On 1 January 2004, the food services of Espoo city were reorganised and FSC commenced operations. In addition to food services for educational facilities, it also provides food services for social and health organisations and the central administration of Espoo. Altogether, 200 kitchens and 200 service points are now operated by the company in five regions, whereas FSCTC operated only 85 service points.

Practices introduced by FSCTC in 1997 were either ended or modified following the company’s reorganisation. FSC does not have a clear good practice today in relation to its older workers, although possibilities for a part-time pension and participation in rehabilitation courses are available. Development work conducted by teams during the original initiative still forms the basis of current practices. Development of kitchen work consisted of three phases. First, the work process was analysed, then every district team introduced some unique factor in the work process, e.g. a familiarisation guide and diet forms; finally, the results of the individual teams were shared in the meetings among all workers. Inquiring learning, based on the analysis of work processes, was the main method used. The learning effect was very strong among ageing kitchen workers. From the viewpoint of overall worker well-being, the results of the original project were positive. As most of the workers were over 45 years of age, all beneficial changes also affected the work ability and well-being of ageing and older workers.

Currently, FSC is focusing on fine-tuning its basic operations. It envisages that when the situation is more stable, there will be more possibilities to recreate practices and to promote the work ability and well-being of employees. The biggest changes currently under way are in the kitchens. By the end of 2005, two groups of kitchen workers, supervised by one superior, will have been introduced in all five regions of the FSC. The performance in these groups will resemble the teamwork approach taken in the original initiative before the reorganisation. One aim is to bring the supervisors closer to the field work and to help substitution.

FSC has also carried out a survey concerning the number of workers whose work ability is low, which is estimated to be 15% of the workers. Most of these workers were in the ageing and older age groups. Based on these results, FSC plans to collaborate in the future with the occupational health service to determine how to improve the work ability of these groups of workers. According to the full-time shop steward at FSC: ‘The effectiveness of practical measures to promote the well-being of older workers and workers whose work ability is low has been minor. Therefore, efficient, younger workers are preferred.’

FSC is also conscious of the need to establish an advisory group of its own, to discuss, design and help implement actions to promote work ability and well-being among its employees. Currently, there is an advisory group for promoting well-being in the central administration, and FSC also has representatives in this group. The representatives, however, felt that the problems dealt with by the group are not closely related to the specific problems of kitchen work. Although broader definitions of policy may come from the advisory group in the central administration, the aim is to establish an FSC advisory group in the near future. However, FSC does not have many financial resources to carry out such work. Therefore, it is hoped that the resources for well-being development will be provided in the next budget. Current interaction between management, the trade union and occupational safety representatives is open and informal.

The current age profile of FSC indicates that by 2010 there will be an increased number of older workers. Kitchen work is physically demanding and redeployment is difficult because the work does not involve many lighter tasks. So far, there has only been around one redeployment case in FSC annually. In addition, the demands on occupational skills and professional competence have increased. Therefore, it will be a future challenge for FSC to create practices and policies to support its ageing and older workers. As inquiring learning has already proved effective among ageing kitchen workers, it should prove a useful method in the future.

Further information

Contact: Minna Ahola, Email:

Company website:


Hopsu, L., Leppänen, A. and Klemola, S., ‘A program to support and maintain the work ability and well-being of kitchen workers’, in Kumashiro, M. (ed.), Ageing and work, Taylor and Francis, London and New York, 2003, pp. 213–21.

Leppänen, A., Hopsu, L. and Klemola, S., ‘Can improvement of work and work process knowledge support well-being at work?’, in Costa, G., Goedhard, W.J.A. and Ilmarinen, J. (eds.), Assessment and promotion of work ability, health and well-being of ageing workers, Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on Work Ability, Verona, Italy, 18–20 October 2004, Elsevier, International Congress Series 1280, 2004, pp. 377–81.


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