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Anders Boll and Jane Pedersen from Pension & Savings in Nordea have embarked on one of the walks that employees in the team have to take together with a randomly selected colleague for half an hour a week to create cohesion. The project is part of Future Work Lab, which is exploring new avenues for mental health.

16. Jun 2021
5 min

“I look forward to having more contact with colleagues again and the walks should help us along the way.”

Jane Pedersen works at Pension & Savings in Taastrup and was one of the employees who had a very hard time letting go of everyday life in the office when corona forced her home.

So it suits her very well that she is part of one of two teams that are now in the process of testing a model for how the cohesion at the workplace and amongst colleagues can be reopened and strengthened with the experiment “Colleague to go”.

It has been prepared by Future Work Lab, which is backed by parties in the financial sector and Velliv Foreningen. There are a number of researchers affiliated and the purpose is to work with companies to conduct experiments that can improve the mental health of the digital working life of the future. So far, eight different experiments are in process or underway”, says Signe Bjørg Lyck, Project Manager for Future Work Lab:

“When we listen to what employees and managers need, it’s actually not huge major changes that we’re talking about, but rather micro-changes. Small changes in everyday work, which in turn can make a big difference to well-being and motivation”.

Therefore, the focal point for the experiment in Nordea is “Belonging”, and Jane Pedersen – who we spoke to shortly before the kick-off meeting for the entire department – thinks that going out with colleagues will have a positive emotional effect.

The plan is for employees to walk in pairs for half an hour once a week.

I occasionally go for walks with colleagues during lunch break myself, but it’s generally the same colleagues, and it’s not structured like it is now. So I look forward to getting started with the walks, it’s always good to get out, get a break, fresh air and a chat”, says Jane Pedersen.

She has been involved in preparing suggestions for walks in the local area around the office, which the colleagues received in a package prior to the experiment along with a thermo cup and snacks for the walks. Plus conversation cards, which are meant as an aid if you need inspiration to get the conversation started.

Photo from the walk

Her team leader, Anders Boll, says that they will also encourage the employees to take a picture together after the walk and post it on the joint team site. Along with a little story about the walk and what they got out of it.

It is not an accident that they have to upload a photo, Signe Bjørg Lyck explains:

“When they have to show it in front of the other colleagues, it adds something different to the trip than if they have to go for a walk alone. The photos also provide an opportunity to talk about the trips with the rest of the colleagues and share experiences and stories together.”

Anders Boll is looking forward to seeing what comes up on the team site from the walks:

“I think it’s a cool idea for the employees to go on walks together. They are put together in pairs randomly, so they get closer to each other across the team, get a break and have an opportunity to talk a little together about anything at all. It may also be work, but it doesn't have to be”, he says.

“The pandemic has done something to job satisfaction. You can’t say that it’s all bad, and some people think it’s nice to be at home more – but it can't help but affect team spirit when you are not seen physically or seen much less. The interaction that is otherwise in the office is also something I miss. Just someone nodding appreciatively or exchanging a quick remark. It’s difficult to replace digitally.”

Slow conclusions

Trine Thorn, Head of Group Workplace Management & Physical Security at Nordea, is also excited about what will come out of the project.

“It’s extremely interesting to explore how we can make greater use of outdoor space. I think it’s exciting that this is where Future Work Lab is putting the focus. I was not that aware that it could play such a big role in terms of Belonging, which is the framework we have set for the project from Nordea’s side.”

“You could argue that we already know the meeting form walk & talk, but the difference is that this is very structured. We give the outdoor space new weight in the same way that we also had virtual workplaces before, but have given it a different weight with corona.”

Instead of rushing conclusions, Trine Thorn makes the suggestion:

“We have to be brave and curious in our quest to use the outdoor space in a new way. What can the individual use it for – and what can the manager use it for? I'm really looking forward to getting wiser about what it can contribute.”

Signe Bjørg Lyck does the same, and she is also excited about how the other experiments will turn out – one thing is that in Topdanmark they are in the process of testing different models for digital coffee breaks, and Danske Bank will also soon begin its experiment.

“Even small changes that the experiments involve require thorough preparation in order to work. Our hope is that the various methods and tools for improved mental health will have such a good effect that companies and employees will want to use them even after the experiments end.”

Future Work Lab

The purpose of the Future Work Lab project is to create tools and knowledge about how to improve the mental health of the digital working life of the future. The project was created in a collaboration between Forsikringsforbundet, Finansforbundet, Finanssektorens Arbejdsgiverforening and Velliv Foreningen.

The project runs for two years.

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