The coronavirus has transformed working life – but employees can still feel happy and healthy

The financial sector is a major employer in Finland. Well-being at work is one of the sector’s main themes of responsibility, and now that the coronavirus pandemic has transformed so many lives, the well-being of employees has become even more important.

The pandemic drove a large population of financial sector employees away from their offices, with most of the new remote working arrangements continuing to this day. Many jobs in the financial sector are expert-level positions, and the nature of the work may have helped these changes go more smoothly than in many other sectors.

As the crisis affected markets, many customers became more interested in following their investments and insurance policies more closely. Customer work therefore gained an even more important role at Mandatum Life. We were able to respond to changing customer demands, and our surveys show customer satisfaction has remained high throughout the pandemic.

Just before the pandemic, we celebrated being awarded as Finland’s best workplace in the Great Place to Work Institute’s big company category. We have steadily worked towards improved HR practices, happy employees, and an enjoyable workplace ever since employee happiness was set as one of Mandatum Life’s main strategic goals in 2008. This work bears fruit especially during these exceptional circumstances we are now living in.

We are regularly checking in on our employees to confirm that they are still feeling good about their work. In early 2020 we established a COVID-19 preparedness group that has monitored the overall situation and handled all related communications. We have kept employees informed on how the changing pandemic situation affects our operations. It has proven important that handling the crisis and communication is not reserved only for the highest executives. Immediate supervisors have had a particularly important role in monitoring and communicating how their specific unit or team is doing. Their main duty has been to stay in touch, to ask and to listen. What are the employees most worried about right now?

Situations have changed rapidly – sometimes even daily. Therefore, we have regularly published clear instructions on all the circumstances that may affect day-to-day work. The clarity and accessibility of these instructions create a sense of security and permanence. We want to keep our employees safe and healthy and want to make sure that everyone can still focus their energy on their core tasks.

People experience very different situations throughout the crisis and have different challenges to overcome. Each employee needs to be considered individually. Our tasks and work-related arrangements have been readjusted as needed, and many employee benefits, for example, have been thought over to serve the employees better given the new circumstances.

Presence and trust, the cornerstones of leadership, work well even though we have been physically separated. And it’s not just directors and managers taking care of their employees, it’s also the employees taking care of each other. In our company the threshold to get support has been very low.

Returning back to the offices, even partially, again requires adapting to new working methods and new ways to interact with fellow employees and customers. But when we have the basics in order, new challenges will be easier to overcome.

This column is part of a series where Finance Finland member companies talk about responsibility in the financial sector.