Happiest workers in the world? Scandinavia adapts to flex work

A region with a rich heritage of social democratic design shouldn’t be struggling with employee demands for flexible working. But a new survey from the Nordics shows there is still work to be done

Despite the Nordics consistently being rated as having some of the world’s happiest workers, new research from the region suggests there is still work to be done in terms of developing flexible working policies that meet the needs of both companies and employees.

A report by facility management company Coor reveals what’s on the agenda for Scandinavian firms over the next year. And a region with a rich social democratic tradition of worker welfare and high-calibre office design evidently has some catching up to do.

The Coor report is based on a survey of 557 decision-makers and 811 employees at large organisations across Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway. It examines employer intentions and employee desires, highlighting potential points of tension between the two camps as well as potential solutions.

It looks like change is on the horizon in Scandinavia:  59 per cent of the decision-makers surveyed by Coor plan on making structural changes to their office space within the next two years in order to reflect the new state of working in the post-pandemic world.

‘Employees want office space to evolve with their expectations and needs…’

For employees, this change can’t come soon enough: 36 per cent of workers would be prepared to move if they aren’t offered full flexibility in the next two years. These statistics rise amongst younger employees aged up to 30: more than half would look for work elsewhere if not offered flexible working.

What people want from their working lives is changing and their office experience needs to change too. Employers will need to reflect these preferences towards flexible working in both the policies they create and in the design of their office space, according to the report.

But what can companies do to make their offices more desirable to the modern hybrid worker?

Solutions for the modern office

The top five most important office improvements for employees were listed as support for health and wellbeing (including ergonomics), support for focused individual work, better meeting technologies, provision of social areas in offices spaces and support for creative group work.

These recommendations reflect the changes that have occurred in the working world in recent years as offices have increasingly become collaborative spaces where people come together to socialise. The challenge lies in creating office spaces which balance a sense of wellbeing and collaboration with the right digital tools to enable virtual and hybrid meetings. The overall workplace ‘experience’ needs to factor in the needs of hybrid workers.

Increasing convenience

For employers struggling to draw people back to the office, there are some perks that stand out for employees – particularly when it comes to their wellbeing. Offering subsidised lunches and take-home meal-kits for workers helps streamline the working day and take some of the stress out of planning days around the office. So does providing healthcare and exercise facilities close to the office for a subsidised price.

Making it easier for people to live their lives is the most tempting offer employers can make to workers who have been used to the convenience of home working. The flexible working ethos should be evident from the policies organisations implement to the design of their office and the experience it provides.

Playing catch-up

Despite a clear preference for flexible working and newly reconfigured office spaces, only 19 per cent of companies in Scandinavia are offering full flexibility to their employees, so there is some serious catching up to be done.

According to Helena Söderberg, Director of HR at Coor, ‘it should be fun to come to work. Carefully planned spaces for interaction, shared breakfasts, seminars and great coffee are things that employees appreciate’.

Coor is dedicated to curating an office experience that its employees appreciate and it is actioning research into employee needs. Its survey report, ‘Join The Workplace Revolution’, can be accessed here.

Coor is a Corporate Member of WORKTECH Academy.
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