Advanced Guide to Frostpunk Worker Mechanics

frostpunk screenshot 06 1024x576 - Advanced Guide to Frostpunk Worker Mechanics


"Long day of pointless work ahead… again."

Frostpunk provides a rather crude way of assigning your people to tasks. In each workplace, you can add or dismiss people only by their employee type. For example, you can set up a Sawmill to be assigned 5 Workers and 5 Engineers, but you don't know which Workers and which Engineers.

This can create unforeseen headaches. Did you assign hungry workers, who now will only go eat instead of building or working somewhere else? Maybe you assigned some sick workers who should be resting instead? Or, most likely of all, you assigned some workers who are building something else on the other side of the map. What's a Captain to do?!

If you've ever placed a new building and been horrified to see it take 3 or more hours for workers to even start building it, then you might find this guide helpful.


  • If you want some concrete tips and don't care about the detailed mechanics, skip to the Examples at the end of the post.
  • This guide does not yet include mechanics that are specific to automatons.


  1. When you assign workers to a building, they should start contributing to its resource production immediately.
  2. When you place a building, workers should start building it immediately.
  3. When you place a building, workers who are assigned to other buildings should not be disrupted.


"God, I'm so tired. Every day's the same grind, but we've got to keep going."


Here's what happens when you assign one unemployed worker to a building:

  • The game looks at where all the current unemployed workers are on the map.
  • It searches outward in a circle, centered on the building.
  • It finds the closest worker
  • If that worker is sick, the game skips and continues searching.
  • When it finds an unemployed worker who is not sick, it assigns that worker.
  • If all unemployed workers are sick, it assigns the closest sick worker.

Another way to think about it is that asking a building to assign a worker is like asking it to "ping" for an available employee to "pull".

There are two important take-aways from this:

  1. Location matters. Workers who are positioned closer to your building will be the first ones who get assigned to it.
  2. Other than being sick, the game does not care about the worker's activity at the time you assign them. In other words, workers who are stuck eating or building for several hours will still be assigned. They will contribute nothing to your building's production until their other higher-priority activity is done.


When you place a new building, the game does a similar search for available builders, prioritizing the unemployed.

  • It looks at where all the current workers and engineers are on the map.
  • It searches outward in a circle, centered on the new building.
  • It finds the closest eligible* builder.
  • If that eligible builder is unemployed, it assigns them to build and continues searching.
  • If no more unemployed people are available, it repeats the search, centered on the new building, but assigns employed eligible builders.

*For eligible builder info, see ACTIVITY CHART.

Just like when you assign a worker, placing a new building will "pull" people and assign them to the build. Unlike assigning a worker, placing a building effectively does two "pings": one for unemployed eligible builders, and a second for employed eligible builders.

Placing a new building is not the only time that builders are assigned, however. Certain changes you make, especially ones to unemployment (dismissing workers, dismantling buildings, etc.), will re-trigger the builder search again. You can have the perfect 10 specific workers "going to build", dismiss 10 workers somewhere else on the map, and end up with your assigned builders completely shuffled around.


  1. Unemployed people are the first ones assigned to go build when the game searches for builders.
  2. Game changes that trigger a search for builders will also affect people who are already "going to build".


Just because you assign a worker to the Coal Mine doesn't mean that person is actually going to spend their time working there. Depending on what you're doing in the rest of the map, it's possible to end up having your workers spend more time "going to eat" and "building" than actually working.

  • Someone who is sick (going to treatment/in treatment) will occasionally leave their healthcare building to eat, but will not work or build.
  • Someone who is building (going to build/build) will not stop to eat or work until they are done building.
  • Someone who is hungry (going to eat/eating) will not work until they are done eating.

Another way to think about it is:

Sick > Building > Dismantling > Eating > Working > Resting

Remember, when you add workers to a building, you're going to end up with assigned workers, regardless of their current activities. If they happen to be doing a higher-priority activity like building, then they're going to contribute nothing to your building's production until they are done.


Going to workMoving to their workplaceContributing to resource production during shift hours
WorkingPhysically at their workplaceContributing to resource production during shift hours
Going to eatMoving to the nearest CookhouseCan be interrupted to go build
EatingPhysically at the CookhouseCan be interrupted to go build
Going home / Going to restMoving to their shelter / generatorCan be interrupted to go build
Staying home / RestingPhysically at their shelter / generatorCan be interrupted to go build
Going to buildMoving to a new build site
BuildingPhysically at a new build siteContributing to the build progress
Going to treatmentMoving to a healthcare building
In treatmentPhysically at a healthcare building

This chart is the key to optimizing building.

  1. When a person has the "Going to work", "Working", "Going to build", or "Building" activities, they are "locked" in place and won't be interrupted by changes to other workers or placements of new buildings.
  2. The second a person becomes "unlocked", such as being dismissed, when a shift ends, or when the building is done, they are eligible to be reassigned as builders.


People are assigned to build streets in the same way they are assigned to build new buildings. However, streets are more awkward and complex to deal with because you have no way of seeing which individual is assigned to build which segment of street. You also cannot dismiss street builders without deleting the street segments directly.


Extended Shift at the Coal Mine

05:00Staying homeI wonder how our glorious Captain's going to fu*k things up today?
05:15Going to workI've got to haul my ass all the way out to the mine! Better leave now.
06:00Going to workI'm going, I'm going. What more do you want from me?
07:38WorkingDid the Captain notice I was late to work?
20:00Going to eatI'm not staying around a minute more than required.
22:51EatingWhy did the Captain build the Cookhouse so far away?
22:56Going homeI hope I don't have to spend the night building again.
00:56Staying homeHow much more of this do we have to take?

There are a few take-aways from this otherwise mundane schedule:

  1. Workers start the "Going to work" activity some time before their shift starts in order to compensate for travel time.
  2. Despite the early start, workers aren't guaranteed to physically arrive at their workplace in time for the shift.
  3. You can start placing new buildings before shifts begin without disrupting other assigned workers because of how early they switch to the "Going to work" activity.


"This can't last! We have to do something before it's too late."

So how do you use any of this information? The below examples illustrate some common scenarios and how to micromanage them effectively.


It is often necessary to temporarily assign one or more workers to an otherwise-unused workplace as a placeholder. The reason to do this is to take advantage of the assignment rules that check which people are employed and which are unemployed. When people are assigned to any workplace, even if it's turned off, has no power, or everyone is sick, they are considered employed.

Wood, coal, or steel piles make excellent placeholders because they have a maximum capacity of 15 and are usually vacant.

Example: Morning Building with Extended Shifts

Contrary to what some guides may tell you, building during daytime work hours can be a great idea. When you have more workers than places to work, an efficient use of the extra manpower is to allocate 10 workers to put up a new building and staff it immediately.


  • Count how many workers you need for streets by counting the number of street segments (X).
  • Assign X workers to a placeholder location where they will not work.
  • Assign 10 workers to a placeholder location where they will not work.
  • Assign all people to other workplaces (unemployment is zero).

05:01 – 05:59

  • Wait until all other people change to "Going to work" activity.
  • Place the streets for the new building (if needed, place the building first, then streets, then delete the building).
  • Dismiss the X workers.
  • Place the new building.
  • Dismiss the 10 workers. They will get "Going to build".
  • Reassign the 10 workers to a second placeholder location.

Build done (e.g., 10:30)

  • As soon as the new building is done, you will want to assign the same 10 workers that built it.
  • Ensure that unemployment is still zero.
  • Dismiss the 10 workers from their second placeholder location.
  • Assign max workers to the new building.
  • Resource production will start immediately.

Example: Night Building with Extended Shifts

Building efficiently at night is similar to building at the beginning of the shift, but you need to be careful to set up your building assignments before the shift actually ends. The moment it does, no one will be "Working" anymore and you won't be able to micromanage who is assigned to what.


  • Count how many workers you need for streets (X).
  • Assign 10 + X workers to workplaces that are close to where the new building will be.


  • Place the streets for the new building (if needed, place the building first, then streets, then delete the building).
  • Dismiss X nearby workers.
  • Place the new building.
  • Dismiss 10 nearby workers.
  • Building will start as soon as the nearby workers travel to the new build site.

Example: Efficient Dismantling

Most of the time, you think about dismantling a building because its resources are exhausted. This comes up all the time for Gathering Posts and Sawmills. You can always dismiss your workers and let the depleted building wait until you can send workers back later to dismantle it, but why not reclaim those resources immediately?

The big "gotcha" with dismantling is that it's easy to leave your workers assigned to the building at the time you mark it to be dismantled, but the game considers the building's own workers to still be employed! This means that when it searches outward for workers to dismantle, it skips everyone who is already closest. Oops! Perhaps this is an unintentional bug that will be corrected at some point. In the meantime, here's how to work around it efficiently.

06:00 – 20:00

  • Your building's resources become depleted at some time during the work shift.
  • Dismiss all the workers from the building.
  • Dismantle the building.

Example: Swapping Workshop Engineers

You can use alternating 24-hour Emergency Shifts with 2 Workshops to make very fast research progress at night. Ideally, you have 10 engineers across two workshops, but sometimes you have only 5 engineers and need to do a fast swap. If both workshops are directly next to each other, there should be minimal research downtime. However, there are a few "gotchas" that will delay your engineers and cause your research to continue hours later than it should.


  • In this example, the Workshop 1 started its Emergency Shift at about 17:55-17:58 on the previous day.
  • Before proceeding, check to make sure:
    • There is nothing being built, and if there is, it has the maximum number of people with the activity "Building" or "Going to build".
    • The engineers in Workshop 1 are not hungry. If they are, and if any food rations are available, they will not go to Workshop 2 without going to go eat first.
  • Start the Emergency Shift on Workshop 2.
  • Dismiss 5 engineers from Workshop 1.
  • Assign 5 engineers to Workshop 2.

Even if the engineers don't have the hungry status, there is still a chance they will go eat instead of going to work at Workshop 2 if their internal hunger level is high enough. If this happens, there's nothing you can do to make them work and stop them from eating. Your best option is to dismiss them and assign a different 5 engineers who won't put their selfish food needs above their Captain's orders.

Example: Quarantining the Sick

The game is quite generous about letting you know when sick people in treatment are assigned as workers. It isn't so great at letting you know when sick people are working who have no medical facility to go to. It also doesn't make it simple for you to see how many non-sick workers you have available to assign to resource production. This is a simple way to separate the sick from the healthy.


  • The people who are sick at this time are the only people who will be sick until the next day.
  • Find a placeholder workplace that all your sick people will be assigned to. No one will be working this resource.
  • TURN OFF production on the sick placeholder, so that sick people who aren't in treatment do not try to work.
  • Using additional placeholders, assign all your workers until every worker is assigned somewhere and none are unemployed.
  • Look at the list of workers at the last placeholder. All the sick will be listed there.
  • Dismiss each sick worker.
  • Assign all unemployed workers to the sick placeholder.
  • Dismiss all workers from the other placeholders.
  • Repeat these steps for engineers, then repeat them for children if you signed child labour laws.
  • All employed people are healthy.


I am certain these mechanics are not accurate in every situation and will need further refinement. If you find errors, please post corrections. If you have other insights about mechanics, or suggestions for the guide, especially post those! I will update the guide as I am able until it is more solid and fleshed-out. I also plan to add a copy to the Steam community guides for the game.

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