Compassion will revolutionise work

Without compassion, there can be no human wellbeing or deep relationships. But can an organisation be both competitive and compassionate?

According to the CoPassion research project, companies and organisations are healthy if they can adapt to the new demands placed on work: more efficient teamwork, reciprocal aid and the spread of information.

In practice, researchers train employees in emotional skills and character strengths. Thus far, client organisations have included Nordea, LähiTapiola, the City of Espoo, the Finnish National Gallery (Ateneum, Kiasma, Sinebrychoff Art Museum) as well as Mtv3 Uutiset.

“One training intervention last about eight weeks, with a total of 20 or so hours spent together with the group (six three-hour sessions). We organise the training in groups of 15–20,” explains Miia Paakkanen, researcher and compassion coach.

“Through our training, employees learn to recognise their emotions and the emotions of others as well as to interact in a way that communicates caring and compassion – or perhaps shares the joy of another. We also study and promote charitable volunteering in companies as well as models for sharing good ideas in different organisations,” explains Anne Birgitta Pessi, professor of church sociology, who heads the project.

How can we become more compassionate? 

According to the CoPassion researchers, compassion is a skill that can be learned and honed.

“By learning to listen to others, becoming receptive to their perspective and boosting the skills associated with helping, we can learn to be more compassionate,” says Frank Martela (@f_Martela), postdoctoral researcher.

Consideration, emotion and attitude do much to increase compassion, as do concrete actions, no matter how small.

We should make room for emotions and the human aspect in organisations and businesses. According to Pessi, this can take the form of everyday feedback or taking care to greet the people around you:

“Friendly behaviour, compassion and empathy are the central mechanisms through which emotions and work motivation transfer from one person to the next in a workplace.

“In the midst of hurry and insecurity, we should also be compassionate towards ourselves so as to extend compassion to our colleagues,” adds Jari Hakanen (@jari_hakanen), research director.

If there is no space for compassion in an organisation’s everyday work, good energy cannot move from one person to the next.

“Just recognising compassion is important, so people understand the extent of the impact their everyday actions have. It’s ok to have emotions and empathy at work,” Pessi emphasises.

Compassion boosts occupational wellbeing as well as employment that is not only productive, but above all meaningful and humanly sustainable.

The CoPassion seminar brings the foremost compassion researchers to Helsinki

The topics of the two-day seminar range from perspectives on the etymology of compassion to managing compassion.

Researcher Katri Saarikivi (@katrisaarikivi), leader of the Helsinki Challenge-winning team NEMO (Natural Emotionality in Digital Interaction), will give a talk on compassion and the brain.

In addition to Saarikivi, the speakers of the seminar include PhD, Monica Worline (@monicaworline), CompassionLab/Stanford Compassion Center; Professor Dirk van Dierendonck, Erasmus University; PhD Christin Mellner, Stockholm University; Professor Bent Sörensen (@bent_meier), Copenhagen Business School; Professor Sally Maitlis, University of Oxford; Professor (ecumenism) Risto Saarinen, Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki; and PhD Walter Osika (@OsikaWalter), Stockholm University.

The commentators will be Professor Esa Saarinen (@esasaarinen), Aalto University; CEO, Leena Mörttinen (@LMorttinen), the Finnish Family Business Union; Director Olli Valtonen, HelsinkiMissio; and University Lecturer (dogmatism) Olli-Pekka Vainio, Faculty of Theology, University of Helsinki.


The seminar is in English and free of charge. The venue is the Great Hall in the University of Helsinki’s Main Building (Unioninkatu 34, 2nd floor/Accessible entrance: Fabianinkatu 33). Please join us!

The seminar is organised by the Faculty of Theology’s multidisciplinary and groundbreaking Myötätunnon mullistava voima (CoPassion) research project, which strives to make the job market more compassionate.

Further information

CoPassion seminar – Revolutionising work through compassion

Facebook: CoPassion Seminar

Follow the project: