Work is no longer confined by the walls of the office

Telework makes the financial sector more flexible and no longer dependent on time or location. According to a recent study, it also improves employees’ well-being and makes their work feel more meaningful.

On the other hand, the customer-oriented nature of the financial services sector, its regulation and information security requirements, and the lack of well-established practices slow down the implementation of telework.

”The higher the amount of telework, the more positively it was perceived in general. This was one of the most important findings in the study”, says its author Martta Asikainen.

The study brought up different attitudes that employees and managers have towards telework. All of them, however, felt that their efficiency was better due to the fewer distractions and interruptions of telework. The respondents wished that telework would become more widely popular and a permanent tool at their working place.

”Like many other sectors, the financial sector is moving toward a new world where working is more flexible, no longer confined within the office walls. It is important for the sector that customer service is not dependent on specific times or locations. Instead of watching whether the employees are sitting at their desks, management becomes more focused on the results”, predicts Hilkka Malinen, Human Resources Director at Elo Mutual Pension Insurance Company. Malinen is also the chair of FFI’s financial work and competency committee.

Trust is everything

Employees and managers both take part in developing new working methods for the financial sector. Antti Hakala, manager at Trade Union Pro, emphasises the importance of mutual trust. “Everything is built around people trusting one another. It is essential if we want to make progress and get results with telework. Shared rules, agreements and practices increase clarity and equality”, Hakala explains.

Good communication between teleworkers and managers is mandatory. The employer must be able to trust that work gets done without constant surveillance. But the employee must also be able to trust that the employer will support them when needed, for example by providing training.

Liisa Halme, President of the Union of Insurance Employees in Finland, emphasises that telework must be a win-win arrangement. The goals and requirements for teleworkers must be similar to those of office workers ‒ not unjustly higher, for example. “Telework creates good new opportunities, as long as the employees’ well-being and training are taken care of. It is an excellent tool to provide more flexibility if the rules are mutually understood”, Halme continues. Telework also makes it easier to coordinate work and free time, further improving employees’ well-being.

The study was conducted as a Master’s Thesis at the Jyväskylä University. It is a continuation to Asikainen’s Bachelor’s Thesis on the subject, published last year.