Mikko Kuitunen

By Mikko Kuitunen

Chairman of the Board

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Even though COVID-19 completely took away the foundations of some businesses, to their surprise many organizations found themselves looking at rising profit numbers and a good working vibe. The sudden shift to working from home had brought technological challenges, but those had been solved and the mental shock of the pandemic had been beaten. The world didn’t fall apart after all.

Travel and meeting expenses had completely disappeared, and since there were no more regular germs going around, the number of sick days had fallen close to zero. In addition, the positive effect was amplified by lowered pension contributions, particularly within high-paying industries. Business Finland’s disruption support had a stimulating effect on the small and medium business sector for both the supported businesses and their service providers.

For the average employee, telework seemed to be a rather nice experience. The opportunity to plan one’s own workdays and the massive leap in flexibility felt empowering to many. To me personally, this leeway combined with the time saved from commuting definitely brought about a positive vibe.

For some, of course, mandatory remote work quickly showed its downsides: cramming the whole family in an apartment way too small, handling remote work and school and keeping the family toddlers entertained, all at the same time. There was no way to avoid multitrashing and its tiring consequences. Figuring out home office ergonomics was also a challenge to many.

In any case, many expert organizations began last year’s summer vacation with a rather positive note, or at least more positive compared to the situation a few months earlier, when all business visibility came crashing down. Everyone was eagerly waiting for fall to see the pandemic pass and businesses booming.

In terms of enthusiasm, the situation has changed completely. Even though vaccinations have given us grounds to feel optimistic about a more COVID-free fall, and the economy isn’t showing signs of slowing down, the top feeling we sense isn’t a good buzz.

We’re suffering from severe work-from-home apathy, caused by an eroding sense of community due to prolonged remote work. Mental health issues have long ago passed physical illnesses in sick leave statistics. In many workplaces, employee turnover numbers have skyrocketed. It’s worth mentioning, of course, that this has also made hiring easier for many companies. Nevertheless, we’re facing a serious situation and need to take immediate action in order for our organizations to hang on to their most important resource – motivated people.

Luckily, the cure is a very natural and humane one: expose yourself to real-life encounters with your coworkers. There are several ways to do it COVID-safely. Book a walking meeting. Organize a picnic. Grab your bikes and meet up for a waffle or ice cream. Do anything. Avoid doing things alone and bring a colleague along even to any strange, atypical activities.

It’s time to move from lone rangers to dynamic duos.

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