Tax secretary Pirjo Vainio is familiar with the view from the second floor of the government office building in Porvoo. For a quarter of a century, ever since the office building on Tulliportinkatu 1 was completed in 1994, she has followed the changing seasons from her own office.
Now the walls of the former private office have come down and the place has undergone a complete makeover. Vainio got a bright multi-space environment and dozens of new colleagues around her when 60 Tax Administration employees and 35 National Land Survey of Finland employees in Porvoo moved into the shared facilities in August 2020.
“This turned out well. The new facilities are both beautiful and pleasant. Of course, it was a big change. At first, there were hardly any cries of joy as the idea of giving up one’s own office hurt. There were doubts about how working would succeed with another agency,” Vainio says, recalling the first feelings.
After initial confusion, things went surprisingly smoothly. The change was facilitated by the fact that, during the refurbishment, Tax Administration people relocated temporarily to what were then the facilities of the National Land Survey of Finland.
“Time together with surveyors made it easier to adapt to the change. Even though we were relocated on different floors, the shared coffee room provided the backdrop for natural and pleasant encounters. There was time to get to know each other and digest the future.”
“A common work culture is only just emerging”
Saija-Mariia Ropponen, Information Services Expert at the National Land Survey of Finland, was involved in the project in her capacity as chair of the National Land Survey of Finland’s office team in the project team.
“I acted as a messenger between the personnel and management and had numerous discussions with people. The change process was long and there was a lot to consider – first of all, we had to establish, for example, whether data security would be safeguarded as this is highly important for both agencies.”
Like Tax Administration employees, National Land Survey of Finland personnel used to work in their own offices. Unlike the Tax Administration, which operated out of the government office building owned by Senate Properties, the surveyors were tenants of a private property owner.
“When the idea of co-working was first introduced, there was of course some hesitation in the air. Some people felt that at least their own designated workstation would be the nicest option – after all, there are no designated places in activity-based environments. Now, after the move, many have said they appreciate the flexibility of the new work environment. It’s nice to be able to decide for yourself what kind of space and sound world you want to work in at any given time,” says Ropponen.
Work in the new co-working spaces has got off to a smooth start and in high spirits, despite the current exceptional times.
“Of course, coronavirus muddled the situation: most of us have been mostly working from home since the change. We’ve not yet properly learnt how to use shared spaces, creating rules of play and a common work culture.”
“Better work ergonomics than in the home office”
For a couple of hours, Tax Secretary Jonna Karlsson has been answering tax inquiries from city dwellers in the second floor retreat room. Next, she heads to the third floor for a coffee break with her colleague Pirjo Vainio.
“The new spaces are bright and functional, and the triple-aspect windows bring light to the floors. I’ve mostly been working from home, but the ergonomics at home are at a different level. Here, the activity-based environment has an electric desk, two monitors, a keyboard and an office chair which can be easily adjusted,” says Karlsson.
Both Karlsson and Vainio work for a few days a month in the customer service on the first floor of the government office building. The Tax Administration uses the customer spaces on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the National Land Survey of Finland on Thursdays and Fridays.
Both work mainly on the second floor which, with its various zones, is dedicated exclusively to working. The third floor is home to a coffee shop, coat rack, personal lockers and plenty of meeting spaces. The fourth floor is home to telephone service facilities and a couple of quiet retreat spaces.
“My previous job was in an open office, so I didn’t face the same adjustment challenges as my colleagues who had their own offices. I felt that the change process went smoothly and the personnel were openly consulted,” says Jonna Karlsson.
Tax Administration and the National Land Survey of Finland wanted their own “home bases” in the co-working space, where they can discuss even confidential matters. These home bases were placed on the second floor, where both agencies have their own areas agreed upon by joint decision.
Although many things still require a lot of joint thinking and the practical implementation of operating models, Vainio and Karlsson at the Tax Administration and Ropponen at the National Land Survey of Finland agree that the boundary fence between the agencies is gone.
“We are truly one work community. We’re looking forward to the end of the corona situation and finally being able to hold office-warming parties for everyone.”