9/25/2020
  • Blog

The changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic accelerate the shift towards greater happiness and flexibility in working life

Ideally, the built environment supports our capacity for self-actualisation, communicates our culture and indicates what is important to us. Updates – and even major changes – to physical workspaces are inevitable.

The coronavirus pandemic changed our daily lives last spring. Some 40% of our employees worked almost entirely remotely, while the other 60% continued to work at our construction sites and rapidly adopted new procedures and operating methods in response to the health and safety threats posed by COVID-19. Everyone deserves a lot of credit for their flexibility and responsiveness.

Elbow bumps instead of shaking hands, safe distances during face-to-face meetings and maintaining a high standard of hygiene are hopefully part of daily life for all of us now. Fortunately, total isolation is starting to be a thing of the past, even for those of us who have been working remotely. Like many other organisations, we are now thinking about long-term solutions related to the use of space and finding a good balance between remote work and on-site work. 

The most important things I remember from the interviews in our publication “Year Zero: 7 Lessons on the Future of Work” are the importance of building trust, how important meetings and encounters are to human well-being as well as the change in work and managerial work in particular.

Facilitating remote work to the greatest possible extent was essential last spring for health and safety reasons. Following the elevated state of preparedness, guidelines and spatial arrangements, the safe and controlled resumption of on-site work is again possible. We recognise that there are some specialist tasks that cannot be carried out without physical interaction. Dramatically reducing face-to-face meetings and interaction also highlighted the issues of job satisfaction and well-being.

Co-workers play a key role in day-to-day happiness. The physical presence and support of the workplace community helps maintain the rhythm of daily life. When people work remotely, they may skip lunch and forget to take breaks, and having the family dining table turned into the family’s workstation can lead to increased tension at home.

When we switched to remote work last spring, we quickly learned the basics – even if some things had to be learned the hard way.  We were able to get the necessary technology running on short notice. The IT experts in our organisation got the recognition they deserve. The power of digital solutions was plain to see.

Meetings had packed agendas and were shorter, and people felt efficient. At first, we quite enjoyed being able to get our work done over video meetings while wearing pyjama bottoms with a sharp business shirt. There was no time wasted on commutes or having unnecessary random conversations around the office.

However, we soon began to hear feedback about people being fed up with marathon Teams meetings, the additional stress of children having to do their schoolwork at home, insufficient breaks and poor ergonomics. People started to miss contact with their colleagues. Virtual morning coffee meetings, morning runs, parties, concerts and different ways of celebrating birthdays and other special occasions remotely began to take shape. The need for human contact, empathy and informal discussion drove remote workers to hold virtual meetings without an agenda.

Based on our experiences and the feedback we have collected through surveys, we will continue to work under a flexible approach that combines on-site work and remote work. I encourage you to have open discussions, seek balance and build up your skills and knowledge on this subject. Where are the meeting points and interfaces of work where we can be inspired and engage in co-creation and collaborative development? How should we support people’s job satisfaction and well-being when the role virtual work is growing? What will the supervisor’s or manager’s role become, and what kind of support do we need there? What types of working life services and employee benefits will be offered in the future when people’s physical places of work can be almost anywhere in the world? How will labour legislation and taxation change?

"Companies have quickly made changes to their business premises and their use to respond to the new requirements and give employees peace of mind as they return to the office. In terms of well-being at work, the depth of collaboration and the productivity of work, remote work has become overemphasised in many companies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current business premises do not meet the needs, and it is likely that practically every organisation will be holding discussions on how to develop their offices and other business premises."

- Pii Raulo  

 

The entire world shares a concern about health and safety, which is significantly reflected in our day-to-day behaviour. The masks on our faces, the plastic screens at shop check-outs, the stickers on floors indicating safe distances, the temporary partition walls around workstations and the countless hand hygiene stations around us are all visible proof that we are taking health and safety seriously.

Companies have quickly made changes to their business premises and their use to respond to the new requirements and give employees peace of mind as they return to the office. In terms of well-being at work, the depth of collaboration and the productivity of work, remote work has become overemphasised in many companies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The current business premises do not meet the needs, and it is likely that practically every organisation will be holding discussions on how to develop their offices and other business premises.  

Updates – and even major changes – to physical workspaces are inevitable. Ideally, the built environment supports our capacity for self-actualisation, communicates our culture and indicates what is important to us. COVID-19 has made these issues relevant: What kind of life do we want to live for it to be happy and safe? In what kind of environment can we best achieve this? Where and how is it the most sensible, motivating and productive to work in the future?

YIT and Microsoft decided to join forces and explore this fascinating topic. We asked 20 influencers from various sectors of society to share their views on the future of work and the revolution taking place in working life. The findings were released in a joint publication. I hope this publication will provide you with inspiration and food for thought to help you identify challenges and resources in your working community. We believe that those organisations whose goals include happiness – even in working life – will perform the best going forward. As a strategic competitive advantage, this is an unbeatable objective.

Pii Raulo
EVP, Human Resources

 

Click here to download the publication

"Year Zero: 7 Lessons on the Future of Work”, for which we interviewed leading working life researchers and corporate managers in Finland during the summer 2020. The publication was produced in cooperation between YIT and Microsoft.

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