If’s employees have made incredible efforts under demanding conditions

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has marked the working life of all If employees and challenged many of the ordinary processes and ways of working. In March 2020, If Finland successfully managed the transition to remote working in around 24 hours.

At the end of February 2020, when the COVID-19 situation was quickly becoming more serious around the world, all countries in which If operates set up COVID-19 contingency planning groups. The first test of If Finland’s group was the transition of practically all If’s employees in Finland to remote working on a very fast schedule.

‘We had a shared objective and we committed ourselves to achieving it, with the whole organisation acting decisively. The most important thing was to see to the safety of If’s employees while ensuring business continuity’, says Marketta Helokunnas, Head of Nordic Employment Relations.

Some of If Finland’s employees were already familiar with remote working, but in some units, little had been done before the COVID-19 crisis, for example due to technical constraints.

‘Now we had to quickly roll up our sleeves and enable remote working for everyone. For example, many managers delivered computers to their team members who were working at home and, together with IT experts, were there to make sure that the equipment worked. It was great to see how solutions to practical problems were found quickly and with an open mind across the organisation.’

The importance of a strong corporate culture

If has been working for a long time to support a strong corporate culture. One of the cornerstones of If’s corporate culture is trust. The importance of trust has become even greater in the exceptional circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We are confident that If’s employees will do their best under any circumstances. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, If’s mission and values had been clarified and their implementation was already in full flow. I believe that our strong culture helped us to move to remote working and to facilitate it successfully during the pandemic. Our operations have been very much in line with our values, and, for example, the level of customer service has remained excellent throughout the year’, explains Helokunnas.

Enabling flexible working in exceptional circumstances has required updates to HR processes. HR also made a toolbox to support remote work and teamwork for both supervisors and If employees.

‘During the year, we have arranged several training and discussion sessions for supervisors on remote management. Supervisors have not only consulted experts in these events, but also shared remote working tips. Regular contact with the teams working remotely has become a priority during the year’, says Helokunnas.

There’s no going back

Marketta Helokunnas believes that the lessons learned during this year and the experience of remote working will continue to have an impact after the pandemic has passed.

‘By introducing new virtual working methods, we have made a big digital leap at If, just like in Finland and around the world in general. We have also seen that there are many advantages to working remotely, which we will want to utilise in the coming years. A more flexible way of working that combines both office and remote work is surely here to stay.’

To support remote working, we will need better virtual methods for working together and ways to maintain a sense of community and a company culture.

‘However, the need to meet others face-to-face will not go away – this is important both for business development and for the teams’ sense of community. I believe that all of us need to see our colleagues face-to-face’, concludes Helokunnas.

Marketta Helokunnas

Head of Nordic Employment Relations, If