Statistics Finland has been located in the Kalasatama district of Helsinki for years. New facilities in the familiar building were completed in spring 2018. Senate Properties converted individual offices into a spacious activity-based environment in cooperation with Statistics Finland, in addition to helping with the change process. The building is owned by Keva, formerly known as the Local Government Pensions Institution.
How does it feel to work in the renovated facilities? Marjo Bruun, Director General of Statistics Finland, Mari Rantanen, Senior Actuary at the Data Collection unit, and Jussi Ritola, Project Manager at the Statistical Production unit, share their perspectives.
Marjo Bruun: “I have gained 500 new people in my life”
How has the Director General adapted to the activity-based environment?
Very well, thank you. However, being quite talkative, I have had to contain myself a little. I have steered clear of the silent spaces for work that requires concentration.
There is plenty of room for us here. The facilities look spacious, and the acoustics are excellent. I particularly like the multipurpose spaces on both floors. You meet people there. I think we could do with a few more coffee machines, though.
It’s also refreshing to be able to see all of the people you work with. With the activity-based environment, I have gained at least 500 new people in my life – people I had hardly ever seen before, as everyone used to have their own individual office. I like to work in different places now, and due to the nature of my work, I can usually only stay for a short time in one place.
I don’t know whether people are happy to see me sit down at the next table with my laptop. However, for a manager, it’s nice to be closer to the employees. I hope I will be able to encourage and energise people a little more. People are an incredible resource.
What has been the most significant change?
It’s still too early to answer that question. A colleague of mine from Estonia visited us recently, and was envious of our open space in particular. The staff in Estonia had turned down an activity-based environment. My colleague was also a little envious of our mobile phones, as the staff in Estonia had wanted to carry on using their landline phones.
An activity-based environment inevitably affects how people work on their own and how they collaborate. Small meetings are frequently held in the multipurpose spaces, which is a positive development.
Telecommuting and the overbooking of facilities provoked the most discussion beforehand, as it’s not possible to do statistical work at home, at least not yet. This discussion has subsided since we moved back here. The facilities have been in very high demand at times, and we had problems with data communication connections at the beginning.
My expectations had been extremely positive, but moving here was also a disaster for me, as my long-time assistant changed jobs at the same time, and I was no longer able to rely on my assistant to coordinate everything. However, I’m gradually getting used to the new situation and environment. I still have a personal office for meetings and telephone calls.
What are the cost effects of the change?
From my perspective as the director general, the cost savings have given us more room to breathe. We no longer need to continuously think about cost-cutting, investments or renewals. We have used the money we have saved in rent to acquire new furniture, telephones, computers and meeting equipment. That would not have been possible if we had not moved into more compact facilities.
Mari Rantanen: “You can concentrate in the quiet spaces”
How important was the pilot phase before the actual move?
It was absolutely necessary, as it enabled us to familiarise ourselves with the opportunities provided by an activity-based office. It’s also a good way to manage the phase that cannot be avoided in conjunction with changes: the phase when people complain about practically everything. When we moved into the pilot facilities, people were inspired and had plenty of ideas. I participated in the group that focused on well-being at work. We compiled the results of the personnel surveys. The new facilities also encouraged people to think about new ways of working and the qualities of a good work environment.
The pilot phase began at the same time that I returned to work after maternity leave. I had just moved into a new home with my one-year-old, and my things had not yet found their places – in other words, full chaos prevailed. It was wonderful to arrive in a beautifully designed and organised workplace. In the pilot facilities, all the materials were carefully selected, and the colours were calming. Nothing rattled or clattered. It was like an oasis.
After six months, we moved back into the temporary facilities. The furniture had been collected randomly here and there, and the facilities had been designed for a smaller number of people. I actually ended up sneaking back into the pilot facilities.
What has changed the most in your ways of working?
The most significant change is that the threshold for convening small meetings is now very low. Previously, I prepared for meetings very carefully to ensure that I was not wasting anyone’s time. Now we start to collaborate right away. I also need to be able to gather people together rapidly, and these facilities are ideal in that respect.
It’s also great that we can now see other people’s ways of working. It generates a nice buzz. There are plenty of opportunities for spontaneous learning, even in the coffee queue.
Before moving here, I thought I would change workstations every day. Much to my surprise, I now spend most of my time in the quiet space. This is partly because I have a six-hour working day and need to be able to concentrate fully all that time.
These are the best work facilities that I have ever seen. Aesthetic aspects are important to me. I love the artwork on the walls.
Telecommuting is also important. It gives you the freedom to organise your work.
Are there any development needs?
It’s still a little difficult to identify various places, so a clearly marked meeting point would be a good idea. Perhaps one of the paintings will turn into a meeting point that everyone knows. We are currently using Lync to locate one another.
Instructions for cleaning shared keyboards are also needed. Hygiene is an important consideration, particularly during the spring flu season. Cloths, cleaning agents and spray bottles are available in the copying room, but people don’t quite know how to use them properly.
Jussi Ritola: “The office backpack is an excellent invention”
How many workstations do you use in a day or a week?
I work in at least two places each day: the multipurpose space and my usual place. I usually use the same workstations, so that it’s easy for people to find me, when necessary.
It’s important for me to be surrounded by the people I need to keep up to date with regarding work. An activity-based environment promotes the spontaneous sharing of thoughts. Our communication has become more effective since the move and will probably become even more so in the future.
During a week, I typically have meetings in around ten different meeting rooms or project facilities.
I have mostly stopped having meetings for two or three people in meeting rooms, unless there is a special reason. I usually ask people to come to a multipurpose space and from there to the Flow space, which has all the necessary equipment: a large screen and writing boards. Our large meeting rooms are intended for twenty people, but they often seem to be empty.
If I need to concentrate, I put on my noise-cancelling headphones and listen to music, usually heavy metal, which makes it easy to concentrate, as you cannot make out what the singer is saying. I have not yet worked in a quiet space here. They often seem to be empty as well.
How and where can your colleagues find you?
Finding people in the activity-based office is clearly a challenge that needs to be resolved. We don’t have access control, so it’s more difficult to locate people. The only way to tell others where you are is to provide the location’s identifier, such as 3A789.
I usually ask people to come to my unit’s “home base”. I have worked in the same spot for such a long time that people are beginning to find me.
I used to sit in a peaceful recess, but now I want a little more life around me. Now I’m next to an access route, at a workstation without partitions. This busy spot has its benefits: a large number of people walk by during the day, and many matters can be discussed or taken care of spontaneously.
I mainly use Lync for communication. I’m easy to reach, as I’m usually online, even during meetings. I can’t remember when I last made a phone call at work. We also use Lync to communicate with other organisations and government agencies.
Where do you keep your things?
The office backpack is an excellent invention. We got to choose from six to eight different bags for carrying around everything you need in a day from one workstation to the next.
I keep my backpack in a locker on the third floor. It’s like a module that I pull out, containing my laptop, cables and mouse. I also keep my coffee cup and water bottle in the locker and grab them from there in the morning.
If I know that I will be gone for more than two hours, I clear my workstation. I think that’s polite. But I don’t do that for just one hour. There are no clear guidelines, so I use common sense.