Life of a telecommuter
I have been telecommuting since the beginning of the year so that my employer is located in Turku, while I’m based in Seinäjoki, in southern Ostrobothnia. What is the everyday life of a teleworker like then?
According to some studies, Finland is one of the leading countries in Europe when it comes to telecommuting systems. Telecommuting refers to working in one or more locations and is also known e.g. as telework, flexible work, mobile work and multi-location work. I have been telecommuting since the beginning of the year so that my employer is located in Turku, while I’m based in Seinäjoki, in southern Ostrobothnia. What is the everyday life of a teleworker like then?
The first thing that makes a difference is the physical distance. I work 300 kilometres away from the office, so I won’t be able to meet my colleagues too often. From the beginning of this year, when I started work for Turku Science Park Ltd, I and my colleague Mari who telecommutes from Mikkeli have visited Turku every now and then. As new employees we were familiarised with the tasks and goals, the systems of the company, colleagues etc.
It’s great to meet the new colleagues sometimes face to face and see which duties each of them takes care of and who you can turn to in case you have questions to ask. The colleagues have received us very well. Of course, I’m not so often in touch with everyone due to our different duties, so I still can’t remember everyone’s name (sorry about that, dear colleagues, I keep on learning!) J
Skype and other telework tools
Use of various electronic information and communication tools is a typical feature of telecommuting. Those of us who work in the Enterprise Europe Network, in Turku or elsewhere, use at least Skype in mutual communication and of course also other electronic tools shared by the whole network. Especially at the beginning there were frequent Skype calls, mobile calls and e-mails to Turku on various subjects.
Now that the operations are fairly established, Skype has become a standard tool, and regular team meetings are held every two weeks. We can also participate in other regular meetings online. Peer support from Mikkeli has also helped a lot: if I can’t remember something, I just send a message to Mari by Skype and soon I’m a little wiser. It’s nice to know that I have a colleague in a similar position.
The people in the Enterprise Europe Network form a new kind of network of colleagues. It promotes the internationalisation of companies by organising e.g. matchmaking events and finding partners for businesses. We mainly communicate by e-mail and through the network’s own electronic tools. That way successful matchmaking events have been organised in Norway, Poland, and Germany.
Twice the number of colleagues
People often fear that as a result of telecommuting they will lose the important social contacts at the workplace. In that sense I’m very well positioned. My social life of a telecommuter is enriched by former colleagues with whom I worked for seven years at the service of my previous employer. I still work in the same premises and the same working community with my former colleagues in Seinäjoki. The situation would undeniably be completely different, if I had taken on the job as a brand new employee.
Although the employer is no longer the same, my former colleagues and I share the interest of serving the local companies in the best possible way, working together. Of course I have many customers from elsewhere, but it’s been easy to continue the work with the local companies and other familiar partners. The coffee table talk with the colleagues continues as before. So luckily my social contacts have not disappeared.
One of the fundamental features of telecommuting is trust between the employer and employee. The employer needs to trust that the employees do their job although they are far away. In the same way, the employee needs to trust that they can get advice and support from the employer and supervisors when required. In my case that works well. I get to work in my own way while keeping the goals in mind, and the employer trusts that the work gets done. It’s essential that the results are reached and support is available when needed, whether it has to do with an outdated password or drawing up a company profile.
Telecommuting is not a value in itself, but at least in my case telecommuting and the related arrangements have exclusively enriched my life. I have got a new kind of job, an international network, new colleagues, and different ways of working and networks. Colleagues from Ostrobothnia and Southwest Finland like to tell jokes about each other. Perhaps I’m a bit of a cultural ambassador in my current job, and it may be that Ostrobothnian dialect will gradually assume some influence from Turku and on the other hand the people of Southwest Finland will better understand the boasting characteristic of Ostrobothnians. Great! So I’ll be seeing you online or live in Turku!
Satu is part of Turku Science Park Ltd’s team responsible for Enterprise Europe Network, and is based in Seinäjoki.