A successful “Back to the future” transition can be achieved in work life by involving the personnel in planning

Many workplaces are busily thinking about how work will be carried out in the autumn – and how detailed the instructions to employees should be. Hybrid, remote or in-office work? According to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, there is no single correct model; instead, the operational model should be chosen in co-operation with the personnel and clients. A “Back to the future” questionnaire template has now been published and is available for workplaces to use as a personnel survey template. And how would work life experts themselves like to work in the future?

All workplaces must soon plan how work will be arranged in post-COVID-19 work life. Before any guidelines are set, it is important to hear from the personnel as expectations related to work life after the COVID-19 crisis vary. Some can work in peace and have an electric sit/stand desk at home, while others have constant disturbances and bad ergonomics. The safety aspect is also particularly important at workplaces with in-office work. Solutions should be sought with a longer perspective than just the current pandemic and its changing infection situations.

“I warmly recommend involving the entire organization in planning. By genuinely listening to employees, you can reach an outcome that can be adapted to different working circumstances and life situations,” says Inka Korhonen, Head of Development at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

She participated in conducting a personnel survey in April. The survey provided the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health with a comprehensive overview of the needs in different units. Each team starts to plan ways of working that ensure the meaningfulness of work as well as work engagement.

The questionnaire template contains questions on leadership and management, premises, community spirit and occupational safety and can be freely downloaded and modified by organizations according to their needs.

“This is a discussion that all workplaces must soon have. Some workplaces have already made plans, but others are still waiting. Work life now needs co-operation and innovation to ensure that the lessons learnt from the coronavirus crisis are implemented in practice everywhere and that the wheels keep on turning. That is the start for getting back to the future work life,” says Antti Koivula, Director General of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

“Next autumn will be a unique point of transition, offering the opportunity to either establish the work community’s operations at a new level or improve them. The alternative is to slide back into the past,” Koivula points out.

What pulls your personnel to the office?

“No one wants to come to the office on Fridays,” Inka Korhonen says, summing up the wishes of those in remote and hybrid work.

The majority of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s employees who took the survey estimated that they will come to the office on 1–3 days per week. The most popular office day was Tuesday. Only 8% of employees said they would like to do only in-office work in the future.

Organizations should think about the factors that pull employees to the office if it is not necessary for their work duties.

“What our personnel appreciate most about in-office work is the community spirit, things like lunches together and relaxed encounters. Joint development activities and premises, equipment and devices needed also pull people to the office,” says Inka Korhonen.

Each workplace where the hybrid work model is applied should ask their personnel what the pull and push factors of their premises are. The location, for instance, is not necessarily as significant as before.

How would the work life experts themselves like to work in the future?

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s experts highlight three hot topics that workplaces should discuss: meeting practices, designated work stations and co-operative partners’ ways of working.

What if most meetings were not organized in person, even if it were possible?

“A key question is how we use our time together. In my opinion, it is not a good idea to use it for meetings with a strict agenda. New ideas emerge in spontaneous and not-so-scheduled encounters, which is why I want to organize team events, for instance, a couple of times a year,” says Päivi Husman, who runs a department that focuses on promoting successful digitalization.

Do we really need a work station or room of our own at the workplace?

“For a long time, I thought that I must have a designated office or at least work station. Now I have noticed that I can manage without. All that is needed is that the office has enough spaces for confidential conversations,” says Tommi Alanko, Director of the Occupational safety unit.

How do we align the needs of different organizations and clients?

“At the workplace, we are closely bound to how our co-operative partners or clients want to work. For instance, we are listening carefully to opinions about which training sessions people would like to have as online training in the future, too,” notes Marja Tuomainen, Director of the Academy unit.

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s hybrid, remote and in-office work survey

  • In April–May 2021, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health conducted a hybrid, remote and in-office work survey to investigate how its employees would like to work in the future.
  • Of the survey respondents, 73% was mainly doing remote work, 11% mainly in-office work and 16% hybrid work (a combination of remote and in-office work). There were a total of 348 respondents, or approximately 70% of the personnel.
  • You can find the questionnaire template attached and use it in engaging your own organization.
  • Download the questionnaire template (pdf).
  • Download the questionnaire template (docx).

For more information, please contact

  • Inka Korhonen, Head of Development, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 50 433 6440, firstname.lastname [at] ttl.fi (firstname[dot]lastname[at]ttl[dot]fi)
  • Antti Koivula, Director General, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 30 474 2340

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