Working in Finland

Finland is known as the world's happiest country. The country has a unique work culture which makes going to work enjoyable! Framery, a Finnish manufacturing company is one of the many companies that builds this work culture by making these five phrases a part of their daily work ethic:

  • "the person who asks questions will not stray away from the path"—this encourages open dialogue and respect for differing opinions,
  • "a crazy person does a lot of work; a smart person gets away with less"—emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy work-life balance,
  • "put the cat on the table"—employees are advised to talk openly and honestly about difficult or awkward issues in the company,

  • "whatever you leave behind, you will find in front of you"—issues must be addressed the moment they arise, and

How people approach deadlines

According to The New Yorker, as the last day to complete a task approaches, people respond to the pressure differently. Some, perhaps well-adjusted and diligent people, jump in, figuring that the anxiety of an unpaid bill or an unfinished project is far more painful than the difficulty of sticking to a sensible schedule. However, others live in denial until the last minute, when they bolt to the end, vowing that they’ll do it all differently next time. And still others dismiss deadlines altogether, believing them to be at best imaginary and at worst contrary to creativity.

Do you know how to rest?

Our society has taught people to always work hard. People are learning how to be more productive, but they also have the idea that they should always be busy. These people think "busy" and "productive" are the same thing. When these people finally rest, they feel bad. They think they are lazy. They might even work until they break down from tiredness.

American psychotherapist Sarah McLaughlin says 70% of visits to the doctor are because of stress-related issues. She suggests we start taking care of ourselves as much as we try to complete tasks. She says that we need to think more realistically about ourselves, “If this task does not get done today, it does not mean I have failed. It just means that I will get to it tomorrow.” Here are some pieces of advice from two psychotherapists, McLaughlin and Pantha Saidipour, on how to forget about work before resting:

The right way to handle layoffs

In recent times, big tech companies have been getting a reputation for their inability to fire their staff gracefully. Due to an economic slowdown, they have been forced to conduct massive layoffs but choose to do so in the worst possible ways.

Klarna, a fintech company, cut loose 10% of its workforce through a prerecorded video. They did not make it clear who was leaving until two days later. Another business,, fired hundreds of people in a single Zoom call accusing employees of “stealing from the company” because of low productivity.

Consequently, Continuum, a consulting start-up, began providing layoff consulting services. It offers part-time consultants to advise and devise a plan to proceed with empathy and professionalism. This helps soften the blow for those leaving and builds a positive image of the employer’s brand.

Some of the advice given by the company is:

Dealing with slow periods at work

According to The Harvard Business Review, most people are able to focus on getting work done during the peak, but how we handle slow periods also has a dramatic impact on our overall productivity and happiness. 

When the pressure is off, we might over-invest in email, or focus on unimportant items or errands, thinking we have plenty of time. To counteract this tendency, aim to start each day with a clear plan. You have to be more deliberate about planning than you would during a busy period.

Slower times at work present an opportunity to enhance your entire life, if you take advantage of them. Consider professional development activities that you would not normally have time for and add them into your daily plans. These might include attending an industry conference, brushing up your CV or taking an English class online. You are making an investment of time that will either help you in your current job or open up future doors.

Venture capital discrimination

Paul Graham, co-founder of Y Combinator—the tech accelerator that supports early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing—has funded a number of successful start-ups including Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit. Despite this, in 2013 he made a controversial comment about how he evaluates potential companies. He managed to both offend many foreign-born Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and reveal a prejudice common among venture capitalists.

“One quality that’s a really bad indication is a CEO with a strong foreign accent,” Graham told Inc. magazine. “I’m not sure why. It could be that there are a bunch of subtle things entrepreneurs have to communicate and [you] can’t [do that] if you have a strong accent. Or, it could be that anyone with half a brain would realize you’re going to be more successful if you speak idiomatic English, so they must just be clueless if they haven’t gotten rid of their strong accent.”

Invisible disabilities at work

It is easy to see that someone in a wheelchair has a disability, and workplaces are becoming much better at making accommodations for them. But what about people whose disability doesn't show? Chronic illnesses like heart disease, lupus, or diabetes aren't visible to others. Neither are mental illnesses like depression or anxiety. Because of this, it's much more difficult for these workers to get the support they need.

Quitting the rat race

According to CNN, young people across China are getting tired of the fierce competition for college and jobs, and the relentless rat race once they get hired. They are now embracing a new philosophy they've called "tang ping," or "lying flat," which emphasizes the pursuit of a simple life.

Talk of "lying flat" has spread rapidly throughout China as young people contend with intense competition for the most attractive jobs, especially in tech and other white-collar fields. The public has grown wary of what many see as a grueling work culture.

This type of phenomenon, though, is not limited to China. Across East Asia, young people say they have become exhausted by the prospect of working hard for seemingly little reward.

When you become your career

According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), many people with high-pressure jobs find themselves unhappy with their careers, despite working hard their whole lives to get to their current position. What happens if you identify so closely with your work that hating your job means hating yourself?

Psychologists use the term “enmeshment” to describe a situation where the boundaries between people become blurred, and individual identities lose importance. Enmeshment prevents the development of a stable, independent sense of self. You can become enmeshed with your career, too.

The work culture in many high-pressure fields often rewards working longer hours with raises, prestige, and promotions. Also, certain careers or career achievements are often highly valued in an individual’s family or community. When high pressure jobs are paired with a big paycheck, individuals can find themselves launched into a new socioeconomic class.

Consultancy will survive COVID-19

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted the consulting industry in ways that seem potentially ruinous. But do not lose hope. Yes, consultants are used to traveling a lot, and widespread travel restrictions make that impossible. And much of consultancy work is done face-to-face in internal and client meetings, which can’t be done when gatherings are prohibited. There is also the fear that businesses will suspend contracts in the economic downturn.

But we have an advantage this time that we haven't had in past catastrophes. We have the internet. We can have virtual meetings, share documents online and even give presentations with conference software that lets everyone be in the same “room” at the same time. So travel restrictions are less disruptive than in the past—people can do much of what’s needed almost as well from home.

High heels at work

Men jam their feet into high-heeled shoes and walk back and forth, some falteringly, others with unlikely confidence. Some women watch, gauging the men’s reactions while sympathizing with each other’s stories about wearing the torturous items masquerading as fashion.

They were all participants in a recent event in Tokyo held to highlight the plight of women forced to wear heels in the workplace, in an extension of the #KuToo online movement. Organizers of the event gave the men stilettos with 5-centimeter-high heels and asked them to quite literally walk in a woman’s shoes. The experience allowed the men to understand the discomfort and inconvenience that come from walking with one’s heels raised.

One key tool for inclusion at work

The key to inclusion is understanding who your employees really are, particularly those in underrepresented groups. One of the best practices for this is to segment employee engagement survey results by minority groups.

Many organizations conduct employee engagement surveys, but most neglect to segment the data they collect by criteria such as gender, ethnicity, generation, geography, and role in the organization. By only looking at the total numbers, employers miss out on opportunities to identify issues among smaller groups that could be leading to employee turnover, as the views of the majority overpower those of minorities.

Tired? Maybe you're actually lonely

More and more people are feeling both tired and lonely at work. In analyzing the General Social Survey of 2016, close to 50% of people say they are often or always exhausted due to work.

What’s more, there is a significant correlation between feeling lonely and work exhaustion: the more exhausted people are, the lonelier they feel.

This loneliness is not a result of social isolation, but rather is due to the emotional exhaustion of workplace burnout. The problem seems to be pervasive across professions and up and down corporate hierarchies.

Loneliness, whether it results from social isolation or exhaustion, has serious consequences for individuals. Research by Sarah Pressman, of the University of California, Irvine, demonstrates that while obesity reduces longevity by 20%, drinking by 30%, and smoking by 50%, loneliness reduces it by a whopping 70%.

Declining productivity growth

Productivity growth has slowed since 2004, and nobody is sure why.

Certainly, technology has done its job. In the wake of downsizing, budget cuts, re-engineering and outsourcing, it has filled in the gaps at company after company. As a result, supply chains are efficient and lean, the financial services industry is automated and manufacturing processes are flexible. 

One theory that may explain declining productivity growth has been advanced by management consultancy McKinsey & Company, which believes that companies have finally cut the non-complex transactional positions that benefit from productivity-stimulating technology. All that's left are complicated and nuanced jobs requiring experience, expertise, judgment, interaction and collaboration—or tacit knowledge. Increasing productivity for employees whose jobs can't be automated has thus far proven to be a challenge for software developers.

Worshipping workaholism

In August, an emotional Elon Musk described how he was working so hard to keep production of the Tesla Model 3 on track that he missed his own birthday. Musk had been working 120-hour weeks, often not leaving the factory for three or four days.

Musk has long been celebrated by the business press for his work ethic. His extraordinary schedule—a long working day broken into five-minute increments, so that every second is accounted for—has been reported, approvingly, for some years now.

Historically, the boss who dedicates his life—every second of it—to corporate success has been an icon of the U.S. boardroom. Could Musk’s tearful disclosure be the moment all that changes?

Japan moves towards labour reform

Japan's lower house on May 31 approved controversial labour reforms that the government has defended as necessary to boost the economy. But, critics warn could result in more death by overwork. The legislation would scrap hourly overtime pay for some employees, while setting overtime caps for others at an annual limit of 360 hours for normal cases, and up to 720 hours for "temporary" and "special" cases. 

The government says the measures will boost efficiency and equality, and they form a key plank of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "Abenomics" policy to kickstart the country's sluggish economy. The reform's key feature is letting Japan's corporate sector hire select highly paid professionals, such as currency traders and consultants, on contracts which include no overtime pay. The category only applies to those who earn at least 10.75 million yen ($100,000USD) annually, with employers required to seek the consent of professionals involved.

Emotional surveillance of workers

Employees' brain waves are reportedly being monitored in factories, state-owned enterprises, and the military across China.

The technology works by placing wireless sensors in employees' caps or hats which, combined with artificial intelligence algorithms, spot incidents of workplace rage, anxiety, or sadness.

The "emotional surveillance technology" helps employers identify mood shifts so they can change break times, an employee's task, or even send them home.

"When the system issues a warning, the manager asks the worker to take a day off or move to a less critical post. Some jobs require high concentration. There is no room for a mistake."

Another type of sensor, built by technology company Deayea, is reportedly used in the caps of train drivers on the high-speed rail line between Beijing and Shanghai. The sensor can even trigger an alarm if a driver falls asleep.

The gig economy

The gig economy will become mainstream in the office within the next five years and life as an employee will "fundamentally change," a CEO that works with 30% of the Fortune 100 has said.

Catalant runs a matchmaking service that connects companies with professionals on-demand for specific projects. Users sign up through the website or access the service via a number of consulting firms that Catalant works with. Their profile is then put in front of company managers that are hiring for projects and at the end of the work the employee is given a rating.

Japan promotes 5-day workweek

The government plans to promote a five-day workweek for construction workers involved in public works projects as part of its work-style reform initiative. Construction workers tend to work more than five days a week because many are under pressure to complete projects faster. Less than 10 percent of construction projects in the country see workers take eight days off over a four-week period.

The ministry will pay up to 5 percent more in labor costs for state-managed public works projects in which workers take two days off per week, to prevent a dip in construction incomes due to the shortened workweek.

The construction industry faces an urgent need to improve its working environment to attract younger workers because many older workers are set to retire in the near future. Of all skilled construction workers in the country, those between the ages of 15 and 29 account for only 11 percent, compared with 25 percent for those 65 or older.

Entrepreneurship in Japan

The start-up scene in Japan has historically lagged behind the Silicon Valley and China, but several investors told CNBC that things are changing.

Workers have traditionally seen starting a company as "kind of a Plan B," according to James Riney, head of 500 Startups Japan. Finding entrepreneurial talent in the country used to be difficult because of an aversion to risk among Japanese workers. Many wanted the stability of corporate or public-sector jobs.

"If you didn't get into the major companies, the brand name companies, entrepreneurship was kind of like this second option that you could consider," Riney told CNBC.

Today, many young people are joining start-ups even as corporate Japan grapples with a labor shortage.