A detailed look into Finland’s history of remote work and the contributing factors  

Image courtesy: Unsplash

Long before the pandemic struck, Finland showed impressive rates of remote working. It passed the Working Hours Act in 1996, which empowers employees to adjust the typical daily hours of their workplace by beginning or finishing work up to three hours earlier or later.

Supporting flexible working hours this way was how the country paved the way to remote work long before it became a norm for the rest of the world. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that flexibility at work has since become an integral part of the Finnish culture.

A recent study by Forbes Advisor that examined 128 major cities across the world, awarding each a score out of 100, ranked the Finnish capital Helsinki second with a work-life balance score of 65.1. This score had a lot to do with the flexible working arrangements offered by several Finnish companies, such as remote work options, which help employees strike a balance between their professional responsibilities and personal obligations.

Top Reasons Behind the Rise of Remote Work in Finland

The share of employed people in the EU who usually or sometimes work from home significantly went up from 14.6% to 24.4% between 2019 and 2021. According to an article in the World Economic Forum published in May 2021, Finland had the highest share of remote workers at 25.1% among all European countries. Let’s look at some of the key reasons that contributed to the rise of remote work in Finland.

1.     Widespread and Ease of Access to the Internet

Internet Usage in Finland as % of the population

Image courtesy: World Bank

Did you know Finland is one the world’s most connected nations, with 96% of its households having access to broadband internet? Even in remote rural areas, high-speed connections are available.

With the number of 5G networks growing fast, the stage is all set to leverage remote work with more enthusiasm. By 2026, it’s estimated that the country’s internet penetration rate will reach almost 97%.

According to the World Bank, close to 93% of Finland’s population has access to the internet (based on the data of 2021). As the country has one of the highest rates of internet connectivity in the world, people here find it easier to work remotely. By making the most of the widespread availability of high-speed internet, they can use video conferencing software and other digital tools without connectivity issues like lags and others to work efficiently from any part of the country or even from another place beyond the national boundary.

2.     Employers’ Receptivity to Remote Work

Once upon a time, employers believed in keeping employees shackled to their desks or at least within the office premises so they could track their work and make sure they were fulfilling their professional responsibilities. But not anymore!

Finland has always been the trailblazer. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic made remote work pretty common, Finnish employers were allowing employees flexible work arrangements.

From someone who found the long commute to work inconvenient and preferred to work remotely 2-3 days a week to someone who wanted to be close to his newborn son and wife (on parental leave) staying with his in-laws in another country, Finnish employers have been pretty receptive to remote work arrangements.

Since they have witnessed how their employees can be just as productive working from home, perhaps they welcomed and even facilitated remote work. The benefits such flexible work arrangements bring their way by helping them attract and retain global talent and facilitating cost savings are other reasons behind Finnish employers embracing remote work long before the world woke up to its benefit, all thanks to the pandemic.

3.     The Country’s Deep-Rooted Culture of Trust

Agile work hours have been a common thing in the Nordic nation since the late 1990s. Finland has embraced remote work for decades because this style of work suited well the country’s deep-rooted culture of trust, practicality, and equality. The country’s deeply-rooted culture of trust, in particular, acts as a strong enabler for remote and flexible working hours.

Since they were much ahead of their peers in other parts of the world, Finnish employers realised that not everyone may want to live amidst the glitz and hustle-bustle of a big city. If they found a suitable talent that could be four hours away, for instance, not utilising it would be wasteful just because the traditional in-office work schedule can’t be budged. They were quick to offer agile working patterns, which they foresaw becoming increasingly imperative in the race for talent.

Though some countries still viewed flexible work as a perk, and not as a right, in those days, Finland embraced it. Since it was the early adopter of the remote and flexible work style more than two decades ago, it remains way ahead of the curve even today. 

4.     A Strong Emphasis on Work-Life Balance

Though employees in Finland were used to remote work long before COVID-19 struck, the pandemic affected remote work significantly by helping it become more prevalent.

Finland has always laid a lot of emphasis on work-life balance. Though employers allowed remote work long before 2020, it was primarily granted to a handful of particularly deserving employees. Often, companies that allowed remote work regularly needed a written agreement between the employer and employees to do it.

The agreement typically specified the days on which a particular employee could work remotely and might have had provisions related to working hours, work equipment, etc. Thus, being allowed to work remotely was seen as a symbol of trust that was granted to a chosen few. And it was still seen as something that had to be highly controlled and regulated.

COVID-19 changed all that a lot. Now, it’s not just employers and business leaders who are more likely to allow remote work. Even employees themselves are more likely to request the opportunity to work remotely as they have found it to be extremely helpful to staying productive while striking a good balance between their personal and professional duties. 

5.     A Sizable Part of the Workforce is in ICT

A large proportion of Finland’s workers are engaged in knowledge and ICT-intensive sectors (ICT stands for information and communication technology). The country also has a high level of digitalisation compared to other European countries, as measured by the DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index).

DESI 2022

Image courtesy: Digital Economy and Society Index 2022

It ranked first out of the 27 EU Member States in the European Commission’s 2022 edition of the DESI. This Nordic country continues to lead in the integration of digital technology, human capital, connectivity, and digital public services, thus bettering its scores in multiple DESI dimensions.

Larger companies in Finland tend to have a higher proportion of their workforce working remotely. This is partially because smaller organizations are generally in resale and wholesale, construction, transportation and communications, or hospitality industries. These domains offer fewer opportunities to work remotely owing to the nature of the work itself.

Since the nation’s 30-40% of the population is employed in large companies, remote work has become quite common in Finland.

The Future of Remote Work in Finland and Its Impact on Hiring

Remote work in Finland is here to stay. However, employees may not just work only remotely. Experts predicted a combination of at-location and remote work in the post-pandemic world, which has become a reality today.

As the workplace becomes location-agnostic, employees will enjoy greater flexibility in deciding how and where they work from. Even when employers ask their workforces to return to the office, it will be a partial return as a hybrid work model is going to prevail as work in some particular sectors (ICT, for instance) has become much less location-dependent now.

For recruiters, remote work in Finland throws open a wider talent pool to leverage. But today’s prevalent multilocal work style also demands a shift in the traditional culture of the workplace. Companies should focus on renegotiating their formal rules and practices and create newer ways of communicating and engaging with each other.

They should also brainstorm on how they can create spaces and opportunities for those chance encounters that give rise to innovations and out-of-the-box ideas. From allowing more diversified forms of working to letting teams and even individuals have a say in remote work policies and getting a certain level of decision-making power, there are several effective ways to embrace that can facilitate remote work.

Final Words

Despite the rise of remote work in Finland and both employers and employees embracing it, some industries are still more likely to allow it than others. For instance, organisations in hospitality, construction, or transportation and communications may not allow such flexibility though the work itself would allow remote work at times.

It ultimately boils down to the employers and how quickly their attitude to remote work changes to a positive one to make it a widespread phenomenon in this Nordic nation.

What’s your opinion of remote work in Finland and its impact on hiring?

If you need help with hiring in Finland under today’s changed circumstances where hybrid and remote work have become trendy, you can get in touch with us at InHunt World.  

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