Setting aside time to recharge
The future of work must balance flexibility with rest, says Stephanie Werner-Dietz, Chief People Officer, Nokia.
It’s always been good corporate practice to regularly take the pulse of employee happiness and wellbeing; Nokia has been doing it for decades. But during the pandemic, these check-ins have become increasingly critical, with normal routines turned upside down and boundaries between work and life blurred. Because the communication networks Nokia provides have been so instrumental in keeping the world going over the last 18 months, our teams have been busier than ever. With no commute or clear desk policy to force us to pack up at the end of the day and many aspects of our social lives on hold, there have been fewer reasons to disconnect from our laptops.
One of the recent internal surveys we conducted gave me real pause for thought. Although a reassuring 60 percent of our employees feel they are coping well with all the disruption, 25 percent of people feel that they’re simply ‘getting by’ and 15 percent feel strained or are struggling to cope. That concerns me.
Even before the pandemic, Nokia believed in, actively supported, and invested in work-life balance. We stepped up our efforts when the COVID-19 pandemic started to impact our workforce and we continue to reassess our initiatives to ensure we are doing all we can to help people cope with the disruption. For example, we shared practical guidance about successfully working from home, including how to cope with looking after kids and how to set up an ergonomic workspace. We also held virtual learning events on a broad range of health and wellbeing topics and extended our temporary work from home policy.
Today, we want to take another step towards recognizing the challenges our employees have faced in the past 18 months – by granting all Nokia employees a ‘Recharge Day’. This one-off additional day of annual leave is on us and serves as a thank you to our employees for their dedication and hard work, offering a chance to switch off and reset. We’re encouraging people to take this extra day off during our busiest quarters, because this is often when our people are under most pressure and could therefore do with some rest and relaxation.
I’m all too aware that this isn’t a cure for the burnout and overload issues some people are facing. A much more holistic approach is needed to drive deep change and take further steps towards genuinely sustainable working practices, as the new working reality takes shape for Nokia. That’s why I’ve also been thinking a great deal about the bigger picture and how to build the right behaviors to ensure a healthy symbiotic relationship between the wellbeing of our people, and our business.
Flexibility is in our DNA
Long before the pandemic, Nokia embraced a hybrid working model. Remote working, flexible work/life arrangements and choice have always been part of Nokia’s cultural DNA. That meant we were able to seamlessly transition to working from home as the devastating grip of the pandemic became apparent. Our people kept supporting our customers and growing our business from home. However, as the months – and years – have gone by, it’s become clear that we need to be more intentional about how we manage this new flexible reality.
One of our guiding principles at Nokia is to put our people at the heart of all that we do. Since so many have continued to thrive during these challenging times, I decided to ask for their help to design the Nokia workplace of the future giving people more choice over where they work, suited to their particular life circumstances. For most, that meant working from home more often than before which I’m convinced will ultimately enhance productivity and will definitely contribute to our vital sustainability initiatives.
Know your limits
With this flexibility comes the need for discipline to know when to take a break. As we’ve explored, it’s easy to feel compelled to be always on when working from home. With impending deadlines and delivery schedules, taking a break is often the first casualty. That’s why we’ve launched new ‘Find your balance’ and ‘Good day at work’ wellbeing programs. They encourage people to self-reflect and enable team discussions around setting boundaries and managing expectations. Last year, over 300 employees took part in workshops to discuss and agree team ways of working.
We all face personal challenges at some point and I’m passionate about ensuring that everyone has access to professional support when they need it. Our Personal Support Service is available to all Nokia employees and their families, in their native language. The service provides confidential support and guidance across a range of emotional, practical, and work-life issues, as well as mindfulness coaching to help with managing stress, and coaching to help navigate life transitions.
Let’s build back better
Being open, fearless and empowered are cultural essentials for Nokia and they have driven my thinking on this topic. I want our people to be open to exploring a more balanced way of doing things, fearless about asking for help if they need it and empowered to make good decisions about their wellbeing.
By strengthening our existing flexible working practices, rethinking workspaces and investing in technology to increase collaboration, I feel sure we’re on the right track. All supported, of course, by that welcome extra Recharge Day. Many small steps towards delivering the deep and lasting change our complex global operation needs.