HR in Activity Based Working
12/02/2015 - 08:04

I feel at home in an activity-based office


Openness and job satisfaction are key factors in working life today. They are guiding principles according to which the world is developing and revolutionizing.


I started working at Martela at the beginning of September, before that I’ve experienced many kinds of working environments. I became interested in Martela precisely because it is one of the forerunners in this revolution in working culture. As an HR professional, I feel that the most interesting place to work is right in the midst of change.


Martela is also undergoing change as a company. In October, Heikki Martela, the company’s long-time CEO, stepped down and became Chairman of the Board and was replaced by Matti Rantaniemi, the new CEO. The company also has a new strategy, in which the company’s departments are being aligned under the same targets.


The working culture will not change overnight, of course, as we have 70 years of history and culture behind us. This is another thing that makes Martela a very interesting environment for an HR professional.

Human resources in an activity-based office

I believe that HR managers should proactively meet with people. The working environment has an impact on employee behaviour at workplaces.


In the 1980s we still thought that HR work should happen in dark cubicles behind closed doors. However, this kind of working environment does not suit modern working culture in which informal meetings with people, social interactions and work efficiency are emphasized.


At Martela, we help our customers improve their working environments. Several of our customers have moved over to activity-based offices where there are no designated workstations for employees and the workspace can be selected according to the type of work task. Martela also follows this type of activity-based office thinking.


I worked in an activity-based office for the first time at Nokia, and therefore I found it easy to get used to this type of arrangement when joining Martela. My work is now more social and efficient as things progress more quickly.


It is much easier to get to know other people when they are not barricaded  in their offices. This automatically makes the work community more functional, and studies have also shown that job satisfaction also increases.


Some people may have concerns about the new type of working environment; for instance, HR deals with a lot of confidential information. Hence, in addition to more open and social areas, we also need more quiet and sound-proofed areas to work in. However, I think that the level of information security is higher now in our paperless activity-based office than it was before when we often left printouts lying around on our desks in our offices.

New type of leadership

In order to succeed, our new type of working culture needs, above all, a new type of leadership. I consider the fact that managers now work in the same space as the other employees to be a very positive change. Large private offices, leather sofas and other symbols of power are old fashioned and leadership should be demonstrated in other ways, than a large office or personal parking space.


These symbols are traditionally connected with the managerial role, but it does not have to be this way. Wise managers understand the added value that is evident in the form of efficiency and employee wellbeing.


However, changing the working culture is a long process. The change may be more difficult to make in some working cultures than others and some managers may be scared by the idea of giving up status symbols. HR professionals should lead this change by finding out employees’ opinions and providing them with support.

Change is inevitable

I think that the activity-based office is the perfect tool for initiating change. I have noticed that the threshold for dialogue is now much lower and I get much more information about the company’s operations than I did when I was sat in my office. Employee feedback has also been encouraging.


The expectations of young people today regarding working life are different from those of older generations. Cooperation, work satisfaction and catering for individuality will all be emphasized in the future. The workspace and method of leadership must take these matters into consideration. During my career I have seen how people support one another and how important community is. I would say that it is a resource and forms a foundation for everything,.


In order to achieve results, it is vital to think outside of the box!




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