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Extended period of working remotely required support and knowledge work management

Pia Rytilahti | 03.08.2020

Working conditions for all K Group employees changed in one way or another this spring due to the coronavirus epidemic. For office workers, it meant an extended period of working remotely, with increased utilisation of tools for knowledge work.

We at K Group have been managing knowledge work and multi-location work systematically for some 1.5 years now, but this was a real test to our remote work practices and skills. After a month of working remotely, we conducted a personnel survey to hear people’s views on remote work in general and their experiences of long-term remote work in particular. The results quite positive!

590 respondents said that working remotely is effective and a good addition working at the office. The survey showed that team spirit, emotional wellbeing and motivation remained good during the extended period of working remotely. The highest scores were given to modern knowledge work tools, which the respondents felt made remote working effective. People could access the applications they needed remotely, and knew how to use them. Meanwhile, maintaining good ergonomics had posed some challenges at home.

Smooth transition to working remotely enabled by long-term efforts

We were thrilled with the survey results, as promoting knowledge work both technically and in terms of employees’ skills has been a long-term effort for us. A little over a year ago we began determined efforts to offer training and instructions for knowledge work, also establishing a network of change agents. The ability to use knowledge work tools and common ways of operating become even more important when people work remotely. We can now happily enjoy the fruits of our labour.

As the Head of Knowledge Work, I am in charge of developing knowledge work and implementing best practices at K Group. Knowledge work refers to work in which people use, process and produce knowledge and information. In practice, all office workers can be considered knowledge workers, but there is a great deal of knowledge and information used also in logistics and our stores, for example. We estimate that K Group has some 5,000 knowledge workers in Finland.

As the Head of Knowledge Work, I act as a sort of glue between HR, IT and Communications. This is a unique role, as no other company employs a person with the same title and responsibilities. Our team provides training, workshops and instructions on tools and ways of operating, as well as supporting our over 90-person strong network of change agents. I consider our work very meaningful and there is a need for developing knowledge work further in K Group!

I strongly believe that when modern ways of working become more widespread, work will become even more effective. We will learn to share more and utilise efficient forms of collaborating. Using common knowledge work tools is starting to become an everyday thing for knowledge workers. This autumn we will examine how we could utilise the tools even more effectively, thus improving efficiency in our units. We will especially focus on e.g. developing meeting practices and utilising facilitation.

Various forms of support for remote working under exceptional circumstances

By no means do all K Group employees work remotely. For those who do, we have established common rules for multi-location work for guidance. Remote work can be very effective if the employee has a clear understanding of their own and their team’s goals and if the work does not require the person to work at a specific place.

When the extensive period of working remotely began this spring for our office workers, we quickly produced comprehensive guidelines to help people work from home. The guidelines included ways to maintain a sense of community and establish common rules for teams, as well as tips on ergonomics and wellbeing.

In addition, our physiotherapists held open virtual exercise sessions during the workday, and we paid even more attention to services that promote emotional wellbeing.

K Group has state-of-the art office facilities at the new K-Kampus headquarters in Helsinki and elsewhere, where we can happily work both independently and together with others. Few people would want to constantly work remotely.

We began a gradual return to office work in June, yet could still not meet all our colleagues at that time. This hybrid model of remote and office work actually posed bigger challenges for teams and especially for managers.

The months of collective remote work have enabled us to practice operating in a virtual community, and we have gained valuable experience for the future. I am certain people will need these and other knowledge work skills also going forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pia Rytilahti
Head of Knowledge Work at K Group

The writer is a long-time K Group employee who has a passion for developing work culture and also strives for constant development as a person.

 

 

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