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Some 1m workers plot back-to-office plans

Organisations told Yle that Finland can expect a hybrid return to work this autumn.

Henkilö ruokapöydän ääressä työskentelee kannettavalla tietokonella.
Many companies are feeling pressure to change their practices as workers have come to enjoy the flexibility of working from home. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Several major organisations told Yle that the future of work in Finland was likely to include hybrid working models.

Some one million people in Finland are set to return to the office between September and October after working remotely for nearly 18 months.

Joensuu-based lock manufacturer Abloy, which employs some 770 people across Finland, said it was looking to welcome more employees back into the office in September.

"We're recommending that in addition to remote work, everyone does two to three days at the office," Abloy HR director Petri Lempiäinen said.

A number of organisations have indicated that workers won't all be arriving back at once. Instead, the return to workplaces will be gradual, and, in many cases, not fully onsite.

"We'll continue to provide broad possibilities for remote work, though remote-only won't be an option anymore," said Henrietta Aarnikoivu of the Finnish Government Shared Services Centre for Finance and HR (Palkeet).

The highly transmissible Delta variant could, however, impact the return to the office.

"We have a group monitoring the Covid situation that's guiding our remote working policies," Aarnikoivu explained.

Employers decide

Some workplaces in Finland have already called all of their employees back into work. Employers in Finland have full legal say in where their employees physically perform their duties.

The coming months will likely see companies and organisations working with employees to decide what a combination of remote work and office time looks like.

Finnish lock manufacturer Abloy said it was negotiating individually with employees

"People can, depending on their duties and situation, quite freely manage their working rhythms," Lempiäinen explained, adding that about 300 of its office workers are spending two to three days a week onsite.

Flexible working arrangements fall under the scope of local agreements as Finland has no laws governing remote work.

Juri Aaltonen, who heads private sector labour union ERTO, said Finland should amend labour laws to give workers the right to work remotely when possible.

"Remote work agreements can define what's working time and what isn't. Housework isn't working time, so that means doing the dishes is prohibited during working hours. But at the same time, working from home doesn't mean employees are available around the clock," Aaltonen explained.

Companies giving people the opportunity to work remotely will have a competitive advantage, according to Aaltonen.

"We're undergoing a massive shift in how people work, and I don't believe there's any return to the way things were before. Employers who don't realise this will lose out in the competition for employees," Aaltonen said.

Benefits agency Kela meanwhile said some 6,000 of its 8,000 employees will be able to continue working from home if they wish. Nina Nissilä, a director at the agency, said Kela has not placed any upper limits on remote working days.

"No one is being forced to telecommute," she explained. "We're also investing in good work spaces."

Nissilä noted that remote working arrangements help people attain a better work-life balance.

"The positive thing is that working remotely makes it easier for people to manage their personal and professional lives," she explained.

For this story, Yle spoke with Abloy, Stora Enso, Palkeet, the City of Joensuu, Metso Outotec, Kela, the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) and Local Government Employers KT.

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