HELSINKI, July 20 (Xinhua) -- The success of remote working in Finland during the COVID-19 epidemic appears to have prompted a rethink on the future role of the human in manufacturing and production, Finnish researchers said on Monday.
A broad based follow-up study conducted among remote workers has found that 60 percent of them thought that 80-100 percent of their work could be performed on an off-premises basis, said Kirsimarja Blomqvist, professor of knowledge management at the School of Business and Management at the LUT University in Lahti, southern Finland, on Finnish national radio Yle on Monday, adding most of the respondents were happy to work remotely in future.
Blomqvist noted that now is the time to come up with a remote work strategy. "The role of the human in bringing extra value should be assessed, as opposed to technology," she noted.
"The question now is how work-related social encounters could be innovated," elaborated Blomqvist. "Workplaces may exist in the future increasingly as venues for meetings between customers and colleagues. But much of those could be done virtually," she said.
Harri Melin, professor of sociology at central Finland's Tampere University, was quoted by the news agency Lannen Media on Monday as recalling that until this spring remote working in Finland had largely been a privilege for higher echelon employees. "But suddenly now, companies have realized that lower level jobs can also be performed from a distance," said Melin, noting that following this discovery companies are now reviewing their cost-saving options
Frank Korsstrom, head of the Operations Center at the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), told Yle on Monday that "robots will probably be able to do the basic work in the future," but for the duties that people will do human interaction will be needed. "Modern offices would be designed for group work and for occasional encounters," he said.
Korsstrom noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic single person offices have been important, while for the future he would vouch for "open plan" offices. "But distant work will have a larger role," he noted.
This spring, Finland was one of the world leaders in transforming workplace routines to at-home remote work routines. In Finland, 59 percent of employees were working from home during the pandemic, while in the whole of Europe the respective figure was 37 percent. Only nine percent of Finnish respondents said they felt lonely during the lockdown, while in France, for example, 23 percent complained about being isolated, a survey conducted in June by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) showed.
Experts of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health explained Eurofound's findings with the country's high level of digitalization and top-notch technical infrastructure. Added to this is the country's open and casual workplace culture. Finland has been a leading supporter of the transition to remote work for over a decade now, so the health crisis did not catch the country unprepared.
Statistics Finland records showed that just before the COVID-19 pandemic over a third of the nation's workforce had already done remote work when needed. Back in 2018, the share of Finnish employees working remotely was already 28 percent. Enditem