An occupational wellbeing course provides skills you didn't know you needed

A wellbeing course originally developed for students by Henna Asikainen and Nina Katajavuori, senior lecturers in university pedagogy, was reformatted in spring 2023 into a version for University staff.

The course is aimed at providing tools for avoiding and navigating future difficulties in life. Henna Asikainen and Nina Katajavuori hope that those who take the course will gain tools for the overall development of their wellbeing and, through that, increase wellbeing in their work.

“The course is based on practising skills associated with psychological flexibility. Research has clearly shown that psychological flexibility is an effective way of improving wellbeing. For instance, we tend to think that we are the same as our thoughts. That’s not true. One of the key processes in the course is to learn to separate our thoughts from our person,” Asikainen says.

The course is suitable for everyone. It can be useful even if you feel that you don't really have time to take the course. In fact, time management is one of the themes included in it.

However, the course is no substitute for therapy. At the beginning of the course, the participants’ wellbeing is assessed. If this raises concerns about your wellbeing and coping, the course platform provides tips on where to start. In such cases, the course material can be reviewed independently, for example, to support therapy.

“Attending the course is beneficial if you are able to invest some time in working on the topics on a weekly basis. The course begins with a handful of more extensive and laborious assignments, but then the workload becomes lighter. The course includes many experiential exercises that can be easily completed as part of everyday life. For example, when eating or on the way home on a bus,” Katajavuori says.

Completing the course in a group gives the biggest benefit

The course consists of six themes: time management, discussing values, identifying and encountering your thoughts, self-compassion and skills associated with being present. Each theme includes an introduction, individual exercises and questions for reflection, which can be completed, for example, with colleagues or on your own.

The timetable can be designed to suit your specific circumstances. In the pilot, reserving two weeks for each theme was found to be a workable solution: the first week is dedicated to introducing the theme and completing individual exercises, while in the second week the topic is discussed in a group.

“Group discussions have proven to be a very successful solution. Besides the fact that taking the course collaboratively is likely to encourage people to complete it all the way through, discussing wellbeing with other participants has been considered the highlight of the course,” Asikainen confirms.

Participants can set a personal goal for the course by choosing a theme or two from the course topics to focus on at their own pace.

Wellbeing is a mechanical skill that can be learned

Postdoctoral Researcher Anne Honkanen participated in the pilot group of the University of Helsinki occupational wellbeing course in spring 2023. She was attracted by the idea of possibly gaining tips to share with her students. Having her own wellbeing improve considerably came as a real surprise.

“My worldview broadened when I gained entirely new perspectives on things. I learned that wellbeing is a mechanical skill that can be learned, and I realised that we natural scientists should also be interested in the humanities,” Honkanen says.

Honkanen praises the way in which the course is implemented: it is an online course that nevertheless includes peer group discussion. At the beginning of the course, there are a few slightly more extensive assignments, but otherwise it progresses in small increments and involves a lot of independent reflection. This ensures that the course is not a heavy load alongside everything else.

“I understood the importance of breaks. I marked lunch breaks in my calendar and installed the BreakPro program. I don’t compromise on the short exercise breaks suggested by the program, as I always feel better afterwards,” says Honkanen.

“I also made an innovation of my own: a recess. It means that I pop outdoors to my immediate surroundings when the calendar prompts me. I always come back happy. Breaks genuinely boost creative thinking,” Honkanen enthuses about the course.

Further information:

Piloting the course with the staff of businesses has been initiated in the autumn of 2023. The course and its service concept will be developed in the WELLS Research to Business project (2023–2025) on the basis of feedback from the businesses.

Ask more

Course content:
Henna Asikainen, University Lecturer, +358 294 124 691, henna.asikainen(at)
Nina Katajavuori, University Lecturer, +358 294 159 127, nina.katajavuori(at)

Piloting in companies:
Aino Muhonen, Specialist, +358 294 125 254, aino.muhonen(at)