VTT Future Hub – Designing work together

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is the leading research and technology company in the Nordic countries and Finland’s largest research centre carrying out applied research. Its customers include Finnish and foreign companies, plus the public sector. New innovation in a drastically changing world requires collaboration and open interaction across organisational boundaries.

The decision to move to new premises signalled a change in workplace, working methods and working culture for the company’s employees, who were situated in various locations all over Otaniemi in Espoo.

Activity-based work and consideration for specific needs

Activity-based work was seen as an essential part of VTT’s working methods and work culture in the future. This meant a change towards shared, activity-based spaces.

Specific needs relating to various tasks were identified with top experts in different industries, and the aim was to incorporate these into design to ensure that smooth work continues in the future. The company understood that the change had to come from within by working together.

“We have always had an extremely participatory work culture. At VTT, we study the future, so it was natural to develop our own working models together. As workers are experts in their own tasks, we wanted to include them in the design of how we plan to work in the future,” explains Kirsi Nuotto, VTT’s Senior Vice President, Human Resources.

In addition to working methods, there was also collaboration on solutions for spaces that promote smooth work. It was clear that sometimes you need peace and quiet to be able to concentrate on research work. However, modern research is constantly being carried out among increasingly different stakeholders. A clear need was highlighted for project and co-creation spaces to which outsider stakeholders would have access in addition to VTT’s own people.

Journeying together towards change

The journey to the change in working methods began with the creation of a shared vision. Workshops brought people together to consider how work should be carried out at VTT in the future, and the strategic objectives that the work culture and workplace should support.

The change in working methods was extracted via bootcamp-style work. Cross-disciplinary groups considered their individual and shared relationship to the vision and the steps towards change that should be taken in everyday work. Between shared moments, new operations were practised in everyday work together with colleagues. This led to fantastic trials of physical space solutions, working methods, and even social interaction.

The change was conveyed through multichannel communications and people were given the opportunity to comment on plans at open events. The employees spoke about their own agile trials both through the shared digital discussion channel and through videos shared over the intranet.

“There are uphills and downhills on every change journey. Active discussion and questioning often spark new, functional solutions. It was rewarding to working with top researchers. The proposals for solutions that were submitted to the workshops were very well-thought-through. It was wonderful to see how the organisation’s management also committed to very concrete practical trials in everyday operations,” says future work consultant Tarja Paanola from Workspace.

Change is permanent

The newly constructed building, VTT’s Future Hub, is the first step on a three-phase journey to create future workplaces for VTT’s employees. The office spaces were completed during the coronavirus pandemic and have acted as a fantastic pilot environment for the next phases of development. Inspiration for the next phases of development is drawn from the spaces and their functions, and we are prepared to adapt spaces that have already been completed based on experience and the changing nature of work.

“Due to the prevailing circumstances, use of the space has so far been very low, and measurement results and verifying the functionality of the space will wait until after the pandemic. We understand that the past year has permanently changed the way we work and organise around work. All over the globe, people have taken giant strides in virtual working. However, we believe that spaces that enable shared, physical collaboration will continue to highly valuable in the future,” says Kirsi Nuotto.

Photos: Anders Portman, Kuvatoimisto Kuvio

All over the globe, people have taken giant strides in virtual working. However, we believe that spaces that enable shared, physical collaboration, will continue to be highly valuable in the future” says Kirsi Nuotto.
- Kirsi Nuotto, SVP, Human Resources, VTT