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Southern Finland region trials free remote pop-ups to boost work flexibility

A region in southern Finland is piloting free computer-equipped workstations in locations such as petrol station and cafes to help promote remote working.

The work station at Virolahti bus station's cafe is free and available for anyone to use. Image: Juulia Tillaeus / Yle

Patrons of public hubs such as cafés, bus stations and service stations in the Kymenlaakso region of southeast Finland are coming across state-of-the-art workstations designed to make it easier for them to work outside the traditional office setting.

A modern elevator desk stands in the corner of a bus station café in Virolahti, Finland's easternmost municipality in the Kymenlaakso region on the southern border with Russia.

A similar workstation has been set up at the other end of the café. Both have large screens and one has a desktop computer.

During the past year, in addition to the Virolahti station, two similar pop-up work spaces have also been set up in Kotka and Hamina.

"We want to address the changes in working life and increase the options for flexible working," said project director Esa Partanen. "People want to do a lot of work that's not dependent on place and these kinds of options are much needed," he added.

Dozens of users

Altogether there are 15 work stations in three different Southern Kymenlaakso locations. The three new spaces are part of Southern Kymenlaakso municipality-owned regional development company Cursor’s remote working experiment.

The stations are free and available to everyone to use, with the experiment targeting telecommuters, entrepreneurs, and students.

"To date, the remote work stations have been used by those who do regular work from home as well as entrepreneurs, and people who work for companies and are visiting the region," noted Partanen, who works for Cursor.

At the Kotka and Hamina remote work spaces there have been about 50 different users who have benefited from the stations, which have been in use almost daily. The Kotka space spans two rooms and provides eight workstations.

Partanen said he believes that their popularity will grow in the future.

"It’s clear that the need for these (stations) will grow as the nature of work becomes more flexible. We've had very positive feedback. For example, a man from Porvoo was recently very pleased with the Kotka station and praised it greatly. He also said that he was surprised that such services exist."

For now, the remote work stations are part of an experiment by the municipality and Cursor, but the goal is to make them permanent. The plan is to set up additional remote working stations in the centre of Kotka next year.

"I hope that this trend continues, where people come to do work together and benefit from these spaces and the possibilities they offer," Partanen added.

The remote working station in Virolahti has also received positive feedback.

"It’s wonderful – there’s no need to work alone in the office. It’s possible to come and sit with others, meet other entrepreneurs, and even customers," said Piia Mäkelä, a spokesperson for the local entrepreneur and startup lobby group.

Remote working on the road

In addition to remote working stations, Cursor is aiming to promote Southern Kymenlaakso’s connection to the capital region. Municipal businesses and organisations have the possibility to rent meeting and work spaces at rates that are much less expensive than in the centre of Helsinki, for example.

The goal is also to improve public transit connections between Southern Kymenlaakso and the capital region. Cursor has different experiments with commuter traffic ongoing and has sought to disseminate information about existing connections.

”People often have to search for public transit information and schedules in different places. We’ve brought everything together on one page,” Partanen commented, and also encouraged people to catch up on work while the road.

"The working day is more efficient if you take advantage of the trip to and from work. Not everyone is aware of how easy it is to work on a bus. A laptop bag can be used to improve the ergonomics of working on a laptop and free wifi works on many buses, or with via the network on a mobile phone," he pointed out.

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