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Workstation booking trial brings flexibility to everyday life

Multi-location hybrid work has come to stay, so unused workstation potential needs to be reorganised. This year, the City of Kuopio has introduced a workstation booking trial, in which a new kind of work culture is being developed.

In the spring of 2020, a huge remote work and digital leap was made, which increased the well-being of employees nationwide. The following year, well-being at work declined as toiling alone started to become numbing and people began to long for social contacts. The same trend was also seen at the City of Kuopio.

- A year ago, a survey was conducted with the city staff asking about their willingness to continue working remotely. About 70–80 per cent expressed their willingness to do multi-location work in the future, i.e. to do so-called hybrid work, says city architect Liisa Kaksonen from the City of Kuopio.

Similar results have been obtained nationwide, as only 17 per cent of respondents in the Finnish Business and Policy Forum’s (EVA) survey last autumn wanted to return to work in the work place as extensively as possible. The rest wanted to work at least partially remotely. 

- After all, multi-location work brings tremendous flexibility. Commuting times get shorter and you can pace your own working day in a new way, lists Ilkka Kukkonen, IT Manager.

In practice, multi-location work means working freely from anywhere the Internet can be reached. For many, it means working alternately from the home office and alternately from the workplace. The job description affects how much one can work remotely or how often one has visited the office in general.

- Most of the employees in our unit mainly work remotely or their job description is so mobile that they only have to pop in at their workplace, says Designer of Sports Services Ilja Venäläinen.

woman using her laptop

Towards a new work culture with the workstation booking trial

Since people still wanted to work remotely as well, it was time to do something for the empty offices and workstations. The workstation booking trial was introduced in four different units of the city. Each unit has implemented it in its own way. The Sports Services decided to start testing how the staff would feel about using a workstation booking application, which would also indicate whether they are working remotely or in the workplace on a particular day.

- We are trying this out in a very tentative way. Our goal is to map out how much the workstations actually are in use, and to take the possibly following measures based on the data, says Venäläinen.

A workstation booking trial is also being carried out in the Facility Management Unit. 

-The trial is an excellent idea, as there is no point in keeping the workstations empty. During the trial, it is also possible to study what kind of facilities will be needed for office work in the future. It may be that we need both one-person “booth offices” for quiet work and a more communal workspace for group work, Kaksonen ponders.

Larger-scale launches have been made in the Growth and Learning Unit on Asemakatu and in the Employer Services at the City Hall. In connection with the move, workstations remained for about 60 percent of the employees in the Growth and Learning Unit. The Employer Services also reduced their premises from three floors into one.

It may be a bit sad to give up one’s own workstation. The challenge of the workstation booking trial has in fact been that employees are so used to their own workstations that they easily return to them. During the experiment, the work culture of the entire organisation will be developed, so that even the former managers’ offices are now shared through the booking system.

- The biggest challenge has been the fact that people are not accustomed to booking themselves space for office work. One may come to work at one’s former workstation out of old habit. Then there will be overlaps if someone has already booked the workstation through the booking system. But these are solved by common agreements and effective communication, says Kukkonen.

woman using her smart phone

Having no workstation requires a separation process

Human Resources Development Manager Saija Rahkonen from the Employer Services says that there are only eight workstations and a collaborative space available for their team of eleven.

- We processed the separation issues collectively. We reflected what it means to have to give up one’s own office, and how well-being at work can still be maintained. Talking openly helped, says Rahkonen.

Rahkonen also reminds that it is good to be aware of one's own prejudices and attitudes during the change. Through openness and working together, the new rooms got their own names and a new kind of operating culture became a functional part of the everyday working life. The trial, which lasted a few months, has been well received.

- Each employee has their own locker for both their personal belongings and work documents. In addition, we got smart, uniform laptop backpacks for everyone, in which the office can be carried along easily, Rahkonen describes

Assistance in the changing situation and launching the space booking experiment has been provided to all teams through the Human-Centric Digital Municipality (IDK) project. The project's workshops have discussed suitable practices, made the development work more down to earth and got to know other people in the city organisation.

woman sitting under tree with her laptop

Aiming for a good user experience

The reforms are part of the piloting of the workstation booking trial, which the various units have implemented in a way that suits them. All of these are united by the fact that the aim is to collect data on the utilisation rate of workstations. At the same time, different booking systems are being tested.

- Our aim is to create the best possible user experience. How easy is it to find and book a suitable space? What kind of on-site guidance is there? Do the machines and equipment work? What is written in the signs and information screens next to the doors?, Kukkonen lists a few key questions.

According to Kukkonen, everything can be measured and everything can be inspected in relation to how functions should be developed. He also calls for a clear ownership of the service and product, that is, for a party to take clear responsibility, for example, for the equipment in the collaborative space to function and for the tables and chairs to be in order for the next entrant. 

- However, the concept lives and is constantly supplemented. Our unit uses air quality sensors that call for more efficient air conditioning if necessary. The second sensor, in turn, measures whether there has been movement in the space for the last quarter of an hour. If not, the space is made available for the next user. Automation and artificial intelligence will enable a wide range of things in the future, Kukkonen sums up.

The workstation booking trial will last until the end of the year, after which the collected data will be brought together. Based on the data, new initiatives are made and consideration taken whether the operating model could be scaled to the entire organisation, and if so, how and with what applications.

Text: Oodia/Heta Jyrälä

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Human-Centric Digital Municipality project (1.1.2020–31.12.2022) is funded by European Social Fund (ESF), South Savo Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (ELY), the City of Kuopio and Savonia University of Applied Sciences.