Stories about Finland have been popping up in my news feeds a lot lately. Anyone looking to move there like me? I’m only half joking. My biggest hang up is the cold weather. And, well, I should probably visit first. So, why am I having a love affair with Finland right now? Finland is considered to be a major leader in flexible work and you know how much we love that! Today, I want to talk a little about Finland and what we can learn from their approach to work.
Finland first peaked my interest when I talked about recent research on retreats on our podcast. In sum, people that spent a week working from a different location saw increases in well-being. The study was done to rethink ways that Finland can address flexible work. I love that. Flexible work is strongly embedded in the culture in Finland. And there’s no reason that we can’t do that around the world. It takes time but we can all work to embed the right to a positive work environment instead of it being a perk.
History of Flexible Work in Finland
Finland is a unique place where trust, collaboration, consensus-based decision making, and a focus on work-life balance have long been part of the culture. All of these attributes play a part in Finland’s approach to work. For example, Finns trust their fellow citizens more than any other country in Europe. That level of trust translates to trusting coworkers and employees.
Imagine if the default was to trust people until proven otherwise. Managers and leaders often struggle with offering flexible work schedules to employees or remote work because they do not trust people will stay focused and on task. However, if they trusted their employees more, the employees would get the chance to show that they can make it work. Remote employees perform well and have even been found to outperform other employees. The fears around being flexible are unfounded and trust has helped Finland embrace flexible work more quickly than countries that may be a bit less trusting.
Working Hours Act
In the 1990s, Finland passed the first version of the Working Hours Act. It gave most employees the right to choose their start and end times at work within 3 hour windows. Employees in Finland choose the schedule that makes the most sense for them and their personal lives. This is HUGE. The Finnish government supports flexible work environments, ensuring it’s a right and not just a perk companies offer.
Finland was ahead of other countries and continues to strive for workplace greatness. A new Working Hours Act provides employees the right to work remotely! Majority of employees will have the right to decide when and where they work for at least half of their working hours. What does this mean? Employees can choose to work from a vacation house part of the time. They can decide to work half days in the office and then at home in the evenings. Basically, employees will have the right to work with their managers to create the work schedule that fits their life best.
Personally, I think this is amazing. See why I love Finland? Country culture helps but legislation is also used to help create an incredibly flexible work culture. Companies, unions, and the government collaborated to create amazing laws. Shout out to Finland!
What Can We Do?
Finland is lightyears away from the U.S. in their approach to work. It may seem like an unfair comparison or you may consider a big move like me! However, I think we can apply what we learn from Finland. Finnish companies are not falling apart even though they are flexible. They are a great case study in how effective flexibility can really be.
If you are a leader or a manager, consider how you can build a more flexible work environment for your employees. Can you give them flexible start times? Is it possible for your employees to work from home once or twice a week? Take your power and influence and help build flexibility in the workplace. You won’t be hindering productivity. In fact, you may improve it!
If you are an employee, think about the types of conversations you can have with your leaders to build a more flexible environment. In Finland, employees often make contracts with their managers on how they will handle their workload while taking advantage of the flexibility. If your manager has a hard time trusting and letting go, maybe try the contract approach. Give them an out. If the contract isn’t working as planned, you can go back to your old work approach. Hopefully, you can prove your point and blaze a trail for team!
Hopefully, you can get inspired by Finland and try to drive change within your organization and maybe, even more broadly, within our culture. Let us know if you are inspired AND let us know if you have any tips for travel in Finland. I really do want to go!