Published: 2021-09-13 15:05 | Updated: 2021-09-15 15:24

Hello there, Head of administration and Head of HR at the Department of Dental Medicine!

We asked the head of administration and the head of HR at the Department of Dental medicine about the opportunities and challenges they see with a flexible working approach.

Åsa Diberius, administrativ chef Institutionen för Odontologi

Åsa Diberius, Head of administration, Department of Dental medicine

What are the key lessons from the pandemic in terms of leadership and working practices?

- The fact that we have been able to adapt as well as we have done during the pandemic and embrace new ways of working shows our flexibility, responsiveness and ability to evolve. Fortunately, many tools were already in place before the pandemic, but we needed to ensure that the technological tools were available to everyone and that we raised our competence in these digital tools.

- During the pandemic, we had to challenge and develop our leadership, to really adapt our leadership to the situation. The lessons learned are that we need to work more on the conditions that create a trust-based organisation, to maintain and strengthen internal communication, and to ensure that we have the necessary support structures based on new ways of working.

What does the possibility of a flexible approach mean for you as an institution?

- That we can maintain and strengthen our employer brand in an increasingly competitive environment, making us an attractive employer that offers personalised opportunities.  

- The need for smart tools to communicate and collaborate is increasing and creating a user experience is becoming important.

What risks and opportunities do you see as a manager and leader? What do your employees say?

- During the pandemic, we had to adjust quickly, and there is an obvious risk in that we have managed despite the structures rather than because of them. We need to ensure that we have supportive structures that allow us to behave in new sustainable ways in a long term perspective.

- For many of our employees, the pandemic has not affected their physical presence in the workplace in terms of flexible working. At University Dental Clinic we have clinical activities that do not offer the same opportunities for flexible working. It has also meant that several of our operational support staff have been physically present at work on a continuous basis. The employees who have had the opportunity to work more flexibly are positive and think that it has worked very well. On the other hand, they miss their colleagues and view the physical and social distance negatively and express the need for better digital system support.

Jörgen Johansson, Head of HR, Department of Dental medicine

Jörgen Johansson, Head of HR, Department of Dental medicine

What does the possibility of a flexible way of working mean for the HR function??

- Many of our "competitors" for skilled workers in a hot labour market will draw their own conclusions from the experience of the pandemic. I think many of them will end up with a similar solution. I see a flexible working approach as a natural part of keeping our employer offer current and attractive.

Risks and concerns?

- In my experience, about 15% of a workforce works too much and about the same number works too little. However, the vast majority have a reasonable work-life balance. I believe that the vast majority fit very well into a flexible working approach. For about a third of the staff, however, there is a latent risk - I think.

-The advantage is that with present leadership, we know which people in the workgroup are our risk groups. It tends to be almost always the same people as before the pandemic - when we still expected staff to be in the office "all the time".

- The lack of present leadership, and I don't mean in the room, is a risk factor. The absence of fixed procedures for communication within the team is also a risk factor, as is the absence of objectives and their follow-up. However, these risk factors are the same with or without a flexible working approach. The difference is that the risks mentioned above risk going under the radar for a longer period of time.

- At an administrative level, we see a clear risk with a regulatory framework open to interpretation. Here we would like to see clarity. For example, we will find it difficult to move office equipment across town to our employees. Flexible working should be an option, not a right. If, for whatever reason, you are unable to work elsewhere than in the office, you are always welcome to come to the office. Nor are we interested in practising our employer responsibility on health and safety issues in each other's homes if the regulations force us to carry out physical health and safety surveys in the home environment. But this risk I believe the later versions of the regulations address.

How do you prepare?

- In a different ways. We brought a representative (Maria Deckeman) for a flexible working approach to our management group to have the opportunity to ask questions and get answers. During the pandemic, we have stressed the need to build stable procedures to counteract the risks I mentioned in the previous question and feel that we have a reasonably good structure and preparation to get started with a flexible way of working.

Do you have any tips for local HR in other departments?

- The introduction of flexible working is an active action. There is a big difference in approach and activity between demonstrated trust and a 'let go' attitude. The latter is directly inappropriate when introducing a flexible working method, perhaps even in most cases...

  • Trust is not the same as blind faith!
  • Create a present leadership
  • Find clear routines for communication within and between teams
  • Be clear about objectives and, above all, their follow-up
  • Don't forget the "coffee chats" at your Zoom/Team meetings, they fill a universal need for belonging