In some of our previous blogs, we’ve looked at the effects the Corona pandemic has had on the Finnish labor market. In this one, we’ll look more closely at the effects it has had on social relationships at Finnish workplaces.
This blog is based on a research publication that came out just before Christmas last year from Statistics Finland.
Hanna Sutela and Anna Pärnänen from Statistics Finland are participating in a government research project that looks at the effects of the pandemic on gender equality in Finland. Their examination of the labor market is a subproject of this larger project. We mentioned this research briefly when it first launched.
The research report in question discusses the effects of the pandemic on several different aspects of the labor market. However, in this blog, we will only focus on the topic of social relationships at Finnish workplaces. We’ll look at some of the other topics in some of our later blogs.
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Support from supervisors and coworkers
Sutela and Pärnänen take the support employees feel they get both from their supervisors and coworkers as one measure of social relationships at Finnish workplaces.
They conclude that overall a larger number of employees feel supported by their managers now than before the pandemic.
In 2018, 16 % felt that they always receive support when work gets difficult. In 2021, their share increased to 19 %.
However, there were differences in this feeling based on gender and whether employees were engaged in remote work or continued working at the workplace.
Prior to the pandemic, 13 % of men engaged in remote work felt supported by their supervisors in difficult work situations. In 2021, their share had increased to 21 %.
In contrast, the share of women doing remote work who felt the same had decreased a bit from 22 % to 21 %.
A slightly larger share of both men and women who continued working at the workplace now felt that they always received support from their managers in tough work situations. The share of men who felt that way was now 17 % (16 % in 2018). For women, it was 18 % (16 % in 2018).
Similarly, a larger share of employees always felt supported by their coworkers in difficult work situations now than before (26 % vs. 24 %).
Particularly the share of men who felt they always received such support increased. This was irrespective of whether they were working remotely or not. In 2018, 19 % felt this way. In 2021, their share was 24 %.
For women working at the workplace, the situation had actually worsened a bit. In 2018, 28 % then always felt they received support from their colleagues. In 2021, 26 % of them did.
Conflicts at work
Remote work has allowed employees, especially men, to separate themselves somewhat from conflicts at work.
In 2018, 8 % of men felt that there were a lot or quite a lot of conflicts between employees. In 2021, their share had dropped to 6 %. For men doing remote work, the share dropped from 6 % to 3 %.
An increasing number of women continuing to work at the workplace, however, felt that there were a lot or quite a lot of conflicts between employees. In 2018, 8 % of such women employees felt that way. In 2021, 13 % did.
Sutela and Pärnänen do not give an explanation for this. I wonder, however, if this has to do with the industries men and women work in. We know that, for example, the healthcare field is women-dominated. We also know that employees in this industry have been at the forefront of battling the pandemic. Healthcare employees have been under a lot of pressure. Such pressures related to increased workload and limited resources are bound to increase tensions at work.
The situation is slightly different when discussing conflicts between employees and supervisors. For both women and men, the situation has improved for those engaged in remote work and deteriorated for those working at the workplace.
3 % of men engaged in remote work feel that there are a lot or quite a lot of conflicts between employees and supervisors. This is a drop from 8 % in 2018.
In terms of women, 15 % of women working remotely in 2018 felt that there were a lot or quite a lot of conflicts between employees and supervisors. In 2021, only 8 % felt that way.
However, an increasing share of both women and men working at the workplace during the pandemic said that there are a lot of conflicts between supervisors and employees. For men, the increase was from 10 % in 2018 to 11 % in 2021. For women, it was from 12 % to 14 %. Perhaps this is understandable considering the health risks working together with others presented especially before the wide availability of vaccinations.
Interviews provide insight into social relationships at Finnish workplaces during the pandemic
Interviews associated with the survey provide some additional insights into social relationships at Finnish workplaces during the pandemic particularly when it comes to remote work.
Sutela and Pärnänen, for example, detail with interview excerpts how some report increasing tensions between those working remotely and those who don’t have that option.
Interviewees also highlight problems with communication, again, particularly in remote work. They mention a lack of sufficient communication and increased misunderstandings.
According to a quoted interviewee, the lack of serendipitous encounters in remote work may result in slight hiccups developing into larger problems.
Interviewees also mention that it’s difficult to maintain team spirit in remote work. Virtual coffee breaks are just not very enticing for people who’ve been in remote meetings all day anyway.
Survey questions measuring the employees’ satisfaction with the amount of discussion at work reveal that problems with communication plague especially remote work.
For example, a larger share of women working at the workplace is happy with the amount of discussion about problems and the organization of work now than before.
12 % of such women agreed completely that there is enough discussion about those things in 2018. 16 % did in 2021. In contrast, a smaller share of women engaged in remote work was satisfied with the amount of discussion now than before. in 2018, 14 % were completely satisfied with the amount of discussion. In 2021, 11 % were.
So, although social relationships at Finnish workplaces have not significantly deteriorated due to the huge changes the pandemic brought, there still remain things to do. This is especially true for communication, team spirit, and the sense of belonging.
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