Amidst global competition for talented professionals, Helsinki takes pride in its mission of becoming the most functional city in the world. The pursuit to provide a good life for its citizens has yielded good results. At Slush 2019, Helsinki takes on the hot topic of work-life balance.
In recent years, the city of Helsinki has focused its resources on a specific goal: to create the best urban life for everyone through, for example, developing housing, infrastructure and transportation, as well as creating better jobs. Everything is based on functionality, equality and a sense of community – the very founding values of what is currently one of the fastest growing cities in Europe.
Functionality requires innovation, a fact Helsinki has long appreciated. The city is relatively young, and was built literally from nothing. Unhindered by too much tradition, the city cherishes unbiased grassroots experimenting and new ideas by locals and officials alike. With a can-do attitude in its DNA, the city’s telling motto is: “One HEL of an Impact”.
Impact is a fact, say statistics
The good life in Helsinki is not just talk. Recent years have seen the city racking up outstanding results in global comparisons focused on the quality of life.
To mention a few, it ranked #1 in work-life balance in a 40-city survey by the technology company Kisi; in social cohesion in IESE Business School Cities in Motion Index, and in equal opportunity in a European-wide comparison conducted by Spotahome. Furthermore, Helsinki received 6th place in Monocle’s highly esteemed Quality of Life Index, which is no small achievement. Other areas of success in surveys include life-long learning, security and happiness.
Just getting started
What is behind all the success? Helsinki’s Director of Economic Development, Marja-Leena Rinkineva, has an answer: “It’s a combination of many things that support each other. Besides concrete things like family-oriented social benefits, remote work opportunities and a first-rate transportation system, there’s equality, cohesion, mutual trust, work-life balance and low hierarchies. In short, it means we’re able to provide security and predictability that enable people to thrive and prosper.”
According to Rinkineva, this is only the beginning: “There’s so much more to do. As a mother of three with a long career, I’m a living proof of that Helsinki redefines itself constantly through the actions of its people. It’s about small things in our daily lives we seek to improve. We feel that this humble attitude has served us well.”
The city at your service
In the competition for attracting the best talent, the city of Helsinki draws from its strengths and tackles the problems of today’s working life by focusing on work-life balance. “Nurturing a healthy balance between work and leisure is essential to our values and we want to get that message across around the world”, explains Tommo Koivusalo from Helsinki’s NewCo startup services.
To turn words into action, Helsinki has designed the City as a Service (CaaS) platform, a service bundle that states its mission is to motivate, guide and help international tech talent to feel at home in the city. As part of showcasing its first demo, Helsinki invited a number of tech pros from around the world for a visit. “We want to show that when everything works seamlessly, maintaining a work-life balance becomes so much easier”, Koivusalo says.
Talking balance at Slush
In conjunction with the CaaS project, Helsinki continues its partnership with Slush by launching a new campaign at the event that aims to jump-start discussions among the tech elite and challenge their conceptions of work-related values. To encourage reflection, Helsinki brings artful mirror installations to the centre of the event. On these mirrors, change provoking questions about working life are presented in ways that invite the Slush generation to stop and think about their work-life balance. The same kind of questions are placed on ads all over the city for the duration of Slush. The slogan is “Worklife worth living”.
“First, you’ve got to make people rethink their values and the way they work. Only from recognising the problem can a change be brought about and a healthy and a productive working life be made possible. At the end, it’s not only about the quantity but more and more about the quality of your work”, Koivusalo sums up the idea.
Helsinki means business
Work-life balance is a soft metric. It doesn’t really arouse images of hard-working go-getters – the likes of which we see in movies about Wall Street.
Is Helsinki really encouraging people to forget their careers? Says Rinkineva: “We want to be really clear on this. Helsinki as a city is very pro entrepreneurship. The next leap in productivity comes from innovations. The innovations are brought about in inspiring environments where creative minds can flourish. Our strategy is proving to be successful. A healthy work-life balance means business. And, make no mistake, I mean serious business.”