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Alumni meeting 2022: A socially sustainable working life creates both well-being and profit

Today’s working life is undergoing changes, and we have a demographic structure that requires us to feel up to, and want to, work for a longer time. At the same time, we need more people on the labour market. How could employers, employees and leaders work together to obtain a socially viable working life? That was the theme of the alumni event “Alumnträffen 2022”. The event was arranged by Åbo Akademi University, Hanken School of Economics, Arcada University of Applied Sciences, Novia University of Applied Sciences,  and the University of Helsinki.

The keynote at the event was given by Charlotta Niemistö, the manager of the research institute GODESS at Hanken.

– There should be a measuring tool that measures the working capacity of an employee when they join and leave an organisation. The working capacity should be at least as good when it´s time to proceed; then the workplace could be classified as humanly sustainable, Niemistö states.

Alumnträffen 2022
Camilla Wardi, Charlotta Niemistö, Mikael Nylund, Muluken Cederborg, Christina Forssell, Johanna Stenback.

Human sustainability entails that the working life is organised in a way that humans are capable of working and staying healthy up to – and after – the pensionable age. Nobody should feel less worth in the workplace, for example due to more difficult phases in life.

– During certain periods, people have lesser possibilities of prioritising their jobs, for example if you have parental responsibilities, must take care of your own parents, your partner or if you have health problems yourself. Particularly in Finland, where the working career is to be extended, these aspects must be taken into greater consideration.


The managers should set a good example

Today, Finland has a large number of persons on disability retirement, and many of them are young, at the start of their working career. In this relation, the managers play an important role by setting a good example in the shape of sustainable leadership.

– If as a manager you love your job, want to work a lot and need less sleep than others, it´s not only about you. That attitude contributes to a certain organisational culture. In particular young persons need to show that they are available and ambitious. If they receive an e-mail in the night, they may feel obliged to reply right away.

When the boundaries between work and personal life are on the wane, it has consequences not only at the individual level, but also at the organisational and societal levels.

– It´s important not only to think of your own organisation and extract everything out of the employee as long as they work there. We need to have these experts in the working life also until the pensionable age. Research shows that thriving employees are more productive and profitable at the financial level, says Niemistö.


Adapt the labour market so that everybody fits in

At the alumni event, there was also a panel discussion on social sustainability in the working life, lead by moderator Johanna Stenback, managing director at All Things Content and an alumna from Arcada. The panel also comprised Christina Forssell, leadership coach, managing director of Inner Key and an alumna from Hanken, Muluken Cederborg, leisure time coordinator of DUV Mellersta Nyland and an alumna from Åbo Akademi University as well as Mikael Nylund, development manager of N3M Power and an alumnus from Novia.

Panel diskussion, alumnträffen 2022.
Panel discussion, from the left: Moloken Cederberg, Mikael Nylund, Christina Forssell och Johanna Stenback.

– We must include the well-being aspect, not only at the individual level but also at team and organisational levels. Well-being is the result of inclusive leadership where the manager really listens and has dialogue with the employees, Christina Forssell states.

Mikael Nylund says that persons, who for some reason has difficulties in their private lives, better cope with getting over it if the workplace shows understanding.

– It´s a matter of assessments and the culture created in a workplace. Much is also about whether you, as a manager, has strong self-esteem and self-identity, then it´s easier to be humane to the people you manage.

Muluken Cederborg suggest incentives to hire persons that contribute to diversity and who have a greater risk of alienation.

– Persons with an impairment of function are discriminated against already in the application phase; we must ensure that this target group participates in the labour market on the same terms as others. The same applies to persons with another ethnical background. They encounter everyday racism, among other things as they are not invited to job interviews because of their names. It´s the market that must adapt so that all persons fit in.


Get rid of your prejudices

In conclusion, the panel gave its best tips for promoting social sustainability in the working life.

– Create a coaching organisational culture. As individuals, we must be attentive and aware of our social contacts. You can always empower a human being, but also weaken them, Christina Forssell points out.

– Everything begins with us as individuals. We have a responsibility to take care of ourselves. Then we can also provide our best efforts to the work. I see it as my task for the sake of others, Mikael Nylund says.

– Be open-minded and accommodating, and get rid of your old prejudices. We need to nurse attitudes and changes of attitudes in a broad sense – perhaps even more in a Finnish-Swedish context where we often have reasons to reflect on our own behavior, even if we sometimes can see ourselves as an exposed minority, Muluken Cederborg concludes.


The alumni event was arranged by Hanken School of Economics, Arcada University of Applied Sciences, Novia University of Applied Sciences, Åbo Akademi University and the University of Helsinki.

The event was led by Camilla Wardi, Head of Corporate Relations and Outreach at Hanken. The panel participants Aija Salo, Catariina Salo and Tore Teir had been prevented from attending.