Recent study confirms: Distance working improves well-being and efficiency – but only if the organisation cherishes communality
Sweco, Terveystalo and Taloustutkimus commissioned a joint study on people’s remote work experiences. More than half of the respondents felt that pandemic-induced remote work has both improved their efficiency and increased their opportunities to engage in recreational activities. At the same time, investment in communality is essential to maintaining well-being at work. Sweco is developing a hybrid work model based on the study results.
Many people have become familiar with remote work over the past year and organisations have faced new challenges due to the pandemic. This also applies to Sweco. Sweco decided to explore the current state of expert work as well as employees’ expectations for their work for the longer term together with Terveystalo. A broad study on the future of hybrid work was launched. Experts from various fields were interviewed for the study and the views of more than one thousand people in Finland were surveyed. Taloustutkimus carried out the study.
The study shows that at least one thing is clear: there is no return to the office work model of pre-pandemic times. Instead, work will be a flexible combination of various practices and locations in the future. The study indicates that almost 70 per cent of experts want to continue to work less at the office after the pandemic.
“We are designing the cities of the future and a more sustainable society. That is why understanding expert work is so important to us. We strive to be a step ahead in the development of work practices. Employees’ increased desire to be given more flexibility to work from home signals a need to reconsider working life and urban development and construction,” says Sweco’s Business Area President Markku Varis.
Opinions of the ideal number of remote days per week spread rather equally between one and five days among the respondent age groups. The average number of remote days among the most eager respondent group (41–50-year-olds) was approximately 2.8. More than half of the respondents felt that remote work had boosted their efficiency and improved their work–life balance.
Communality is worth cherishing
According to the study, the biggest challenges of remote work include non-stop video conferences, lack of creative innovation and weakened community spirit. Supporting the work community and enabling communal activities appear to be key challenges of hybrid work of the future. The benefits of remote work, such as increased well-being of employees, the feeling of accomplishment and good work–life balance, are only accessible if we can solve the lack of communality in the remote work model.
The study shows that employees must have good self-management skills in order to succeed in working both at the office and from home. One must consider carefully which tasks can be completed at home and which require physical interaction. Similarly, managers must improve their social skills and be more interested in interacting also bilaterally with their employees.
“Hybrid work has a lot to give. For example, people’s opportunities to schedule their days more flexibly and choose their workplace according to the nature of the tasks of the day can improve their well-being and work motivation. Organisations should definitely tackle the issues of communality, leadership and self-management in hybrid work. The most successful solutions are a result of cooperation and experimentation,” says Sweco’s HR Director Sari Metsänen.
Office work is transforming, not dying
The change in work environments brought on by hybrid work is not clear-cut: One the one hand, the experts interviewed for the study suggested that large office complexes may be replaced by smaller “meeting hubs” located in city centres. On the other hand, they speculated that organisations’ headquarters could be fragmented around their operating area, so that the employees could simply use the satellite closest to their location. In any case, the change poses big questions to the construction sector.
Organisational psychologist Jaakko Sahimaa from Terveystalo believes that hybrid work may have a great impact on the lives of individuals and organisations and even society. “This study shows that hybrid work of the future will change our work practices significantly. This change comes with wonderful opportunities. Organisations should invest in finding the best practices for their operations. I would encourage organisations to share information actively with each other, as most organisations are working on the same problems at the moment. In the long term, the change is also expected to impact social structures, such as labour legislation.”