Fragmenting the workplace – an opportunity, not a threat

Work can remain meaningful even in a fragmented workplace, according to the findings of a labour market survey carried out by the Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo. Work that is perceived as meaningful brings economic and psychological benefits to both individuals and the wider society.

Employment patterns in the design industry, where permanent posts are rare but work is abundant, remain in transition. People in this sector are passionate about their work, which they are increasingly performing on a project and consultancy basis; nearly 50 per cent of respondents to Ornamo’s annual labour market survey intend to remain in work until the age of 65. Some 30 per cent would prefer to remain in work beyond this point. Designers lead the way in the new labour market, and enjoy the challenges, the freedoms and the opportunities it affords for pushing yourself professionally.

“With the turbulence currently being felt across the labour market, flexible working and self-employment are on the rise. This should be seen as an opportunity, not as a threat,” Salla Heinänen, Executive Director at Ornamo, points out.

Heinänen believes the labour market should be sufficiently structurally flexible to allow all types of working. All forms of employment should also be incentivised and paid employment should not disqualify workers from receiving benefits, including the jobseeker’s allowance. It is critical that policy makers develop a fundamental understanding of the needs of this highly-skilled profession to ensure that policies and practices that serve as a barrier to people undertaking this type of work are eliminated.

“This type of brain-intensive work is neither time or location specific and our previously held truths about working hours and workplaces simply no longer apply. Distance working and time-in-lieu arrangements create some flexibility but we need bolder initiatives. For example, we expect to see more calls for workplace organisational and pay hierarchies to be dismantled and people will also be calling into question the significance and purpose of e-mails and meetings. Eventually, we will arrive at a situation where the only thing that matters is your ability to deliver results.”

High-quality workplaces boost productivity

The theme for this year’s Ornamo labour market survey was quality in the workplace. Along with the sense of satisfaction they derive from their work, as many as 70 per cent of the respondents highlighted the time pressures they experience.

The time pressure is often driven factors such as poor leadership and organisation, which can lead to overtime. Nearly 50 per cent of respondents reported that they had had to compromise on quality to due to time constraints.

“Lower quality output and overtime are both significant challenges in terms of productivity. What I find particularly concerning is that nearly half of our labour market survey respondents work in medium to large enterprises. If we want to improve our competitiveness and productivity, we need to engender corporate culture change,” Ornamo Senior Advisor, Asta Boman-Björkell, argues.

Network economy and digitalisation challenging the status quo

Asta Boman-Björkell sees a number of interesting trends emerging as our working culture changes and believes it is critical professionals in the creative industries respond to them.

“Digital, technological and structural changes all challenge businesses to combine permanent and continually shifting processes in their organisation and commercial activity. Instead of strategies for change, perhaps what we need are strategies for continuous change,” Boman-Björkell says, in reference to the latest McKinsey Quarterly report.

“With the emergence of the sharing economy and the Airbnb and Uber-style business models, what we are seeing is a diversification of the traditional business-client and employer-employee relationships. Instead of bi-lateral trade, value is now exchanged in global networks, between parties inhabiting a number of different roles. Network-based working is better geared towards making the most of people’s potential and gives them the freedom to determine their own working hours.”

The Finnish Association of Designers Ornamo carried out a labour market survey among its members in 2015. The survey attracted a total of 409 responses by the deadline. The survey findings have been complemented with data derived from Statistics Finland’s Structure of Earnings data, Register of Enterprises and Establishments and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment’s Sector Online service. The full survey results are available at (Finnish only).

Ornamo’s latest economic survey is due for publication in August.