Four questions to Head of HR-Office and Chair of Saco-S at KI
Mats Engelbrektson, Head of HR-Office, and Torkel Falkenberg, researcher and Chair of Saco-S, share their thoughts about flexible working.
Why flexible working at KI?
- There are several reasons for doing so. In addition to preventing the spread of infection in the workplace and in society at large until such a need is no longer present, there are benefits to be gained from ensuring an attractive workplace, increased performance associated with flexible working arrangements for the individual and possibly also, in some cases, reduced cost of renting premises. Most other employers in Sweden and internationally will focus on more flexible ways of working.
- We believe that flexibility and individualised solutions promote creativity and productivity. Through the pandemic, many employers have experienced how digitalisation and teleworking have created new creative environments to complement our usual ways of working. Going completely back to the old ways of working seems unthinkable and indeed a waste of all the innovation that our employees and managers have contributed to at the KI - something we must continue to capitalise on!
That said, we need to be careful about how we change, moving away from the idea of 'one size fits all' and instead using tailor-made solutions wherever possible. In the long term, we believe this will lead to a better sense of coherence, innovation and productivity, as well as make it easier for our employees of different ages to achieve a better work-life balance. Something that simply contributes to healthier and happier colleagues in our workplace - job satisfaction pure and simple.
Can everyone work at home?
- Only those who have jobs that are suitable for working at home should do so. But we believe that the majority of those with suitable work can work more flexibly and to some extent remotely. The home workplace must be satisfactory in terms of the working environment as well as the possibility of working undisturbed. Each individual must also be able to cope with the responsibility that flexible working entails. But most people seem to be able to do that, based on our experience during the pandemic.
- Of course not. For many it is impossible, for example in laboratory or clinical work, and for many it is not even desirable for various other reasons. As people increasingly move their work away from the premises of the Agency, the employer must take more joint responsibility for the new situation. It is likely that what was impossible to do off-site in the past will become increasingly possible in the future. Innovation in this area is still in its infancy. We believe that the biggest challenge is the social working environment and how it can be sustained over time in an authentic way that feels meaningful to our employees. In other words, more desire-driven than coercive, but still effective and appreciated. This is a learning process between the organisation, managers and employees, developing together the workplace of tomorrow in relation to our overall Strategy 2030. In all transitions, it is important not to burn any bridges, but to ensure that we at KI also have excellent working environments on-site, and that our employees do not experience stress in decommissioning office environments, but that step by step this is made a collaborative process. Everyone should be involved in a way that is optimal for everyone, any other ambition is not compatible with KI's 2030 Strategy or core values as we see it.
How to introduce and apply flexible working?
- Our local collaboration agreement (Sustainable Cooperation and Participation for the Future) is an excellent basis to stand on. As a manager, you have a dialogue with your employees about how the work could be structured and designed. Based on the dialogue, the manager can then decide what it should look like. It doesn't take extensive changes in leadership to implement a flexible approach to work and much of this is already learnt from 18 months of working at home during the pandemic.
- The challenge of a more flexible way of working for our managers should not be underestimated. Most managers are good at conventional management. Suddenly, qualities such as responsiveness, trust, intuition, and the ability to create the conditions for a new way of working through dialogue become even more important than before. Some managers will need help here in order to succeed. We will need to adapt our leadership training and even think about how we view our staff meetings when a much greater proportion of the work is done elsewhere, largely without direct supervision from the immediate manager. Managing remotely starts with genuine friendliness and trust, and the next step is to build the trusting partnership that provides the foundation necessary for effective and sustainable remote working. Fortunately, much of this trust-based collaboration focused on our employees and managers out in the organisation's capillaries is described in our local collaboration agreements. These agreements, as we see it, are the very foundation of the work at KI where flexible ways of working and other needs can be raised, problematised and developed in consultation within the framework of Strategy 2030. How fortunate that we started this collaborative work long before the pandemic so now we just need to implement this in the organisation, at central, departmental and group level.
What about wellness and collegiality?
- We will encourage and support wellness. Teleworking requires the individual to take responsibility for implementing wellness activities and for taking breaks and rests. It is also important that those who call to digital meetings plan time for recovery before and after meetings, for example by deducting five minutes at the beginning and/or end of the meeting time so that the next meeting does not start immediately after.
- Employer investment in health factors at KI is crucial for all employees. A public agency that values employee health and wellness, such as the best lunches, green spaces, a sense of belonging, inner sustainability or exercise, is a winner that understands how to prioritise costs because it pays off in the long run in every way. If KI is to remain a world leader, we must also be a world leader in this. In a more flexible future, all health factors need to reach employees wherever they are with their bodies and minds. It could be in Uganda, Västerås or Campus Flemingsberg. It doesn't matter. We protect our employees wherever they are as much as possible. When KI comes home to us in a respectful and consensual manner, we are safeguarding both collegiality and excellence, and moreover, it brings elements of Strategy 2030 to life in practice.