Although there are significant differences across the separate countries, the Nordics share an ambitious social policy agenda with a strong focus on happiness and wellbeing. This ambition stretches to workplace and labour policy and practices with the Nordics being front runners in flexible working both pre and post pandemic. Now that we are preparing to return to the office in a managed and safe manner, can we look to the Nordics to see whether we will embrace a more balanced and blended work life?
Natural advantages in flexible working
The Nordics have natural advantages in progressing with a more balanced work life. Their progressive politics means that politically and culturally they are open to changes in the labour market that suit workers. The Nordic region also boasts a high standard of living, offering good home working space to much of their population as well as advanced digital access, education and connectivity. This means that “frictionless working” ie. smooth, effortless, without any difficulty is attainable, enabling people to work seamlessly from anywhere, anytime on any device. In fact, it is very common in the Nordic region, where populations can be relatively dispersed compared to European neighbours, to see remote work taking place across rail networks whilst people travel and commute. This is also testament to good cross-country network connectivity.
Hygge in the workplace
Hygge is regarded as a highly defining characteristic of Danish culture. Over the last few years, it has gained traction in other countries with many adopting both the word and the practice. The word conveys a quality of cosiness and comfort, leading to greater happiness and wellbeing.
During the pandemic, we have seen continual blurring of the boundaries between work and home with employees adding the commute time onto their working day, taking less breaks and failing to adequately switch off from the workplace. Some Nordic organizations have tried to support their workers mental health with the introduction of “Hygge calls” – daily or weekly calls to bring people together for a moment in the day. In some instances, these began with a song to boost morale and help employees stay connected to colleagues.
In a sign of their dedication to citizen wellbeing, the Nordics have also been at the forefront of pilots into the impact of reduced working hours on productivity, with further research on-going in this area. As we all dream of the four-day working week, we are looking to the Nordics to lead the way. An early experiment in Iceland for example suggested greater productivity comes with better balance and was an overwhelming success. Now nearly 90% of the working population have reduced hours or other accommodations and workers stress and burnout considerably reduced.
Enter the era of hyper-personalization
As we strive to find a new balance in our work lives, the workplace itself must also change to keep employees active and engaged in spending at least some of their time in a physical office. This race for workplace excellence is one of the trends being used to attract and retain new talent now that working from home is so widespread.
One of the biggest new trends to emerge is personalization. Understanding that individual workers want and need different things, including when it comes to their physical workspace.
Smart workplaces are likely to emerge over the coming years. These will mean that individuals have greater control over their work environment. In the future they may be able to set their preferences to automatically “switch on” when they enter the workplace. This could be automatic adjustment of the chair and desk space to suit personal preferences around height and lumbar support, to controlling the temperature, lighting and perhaps music that surrounds their workstation.
Change is guaranteed
One thing is for sure, the future of work will require changes in physical and digital infrastructure as well as in our behaviour and interactions. I believe the Nordic region is well placed to lead the race to excellence in the workplace.
A revolution in the way we work is truly underway that will not only optimize teamwork but will also drive creativity and innovation — essential ingredients for a sustainable, successful business!
“We, in Fortum, believe in hybrid first! We believe that physical meetings, collaboration and promoting personal relationships is vital for success. However, flexibility, where it is possible, is key in our Hybrid Work Model and this new way of working is important for our business. We see several positives to hybrid work, such as less wasted time and potential for greater inclusion in the future.”
Ann Boije af Gennäs,
Head of Future Work, Fortum