Tokmanni has started using flexible work arrangements. The aim of the model is to support the continued employment of partially disabled or persons with reduced ability to work by offering them more diverse and more flexible work tasks and roles. The need for more flexible solutions arose in the summer of 2016 when the company investigated the partial disability pensions they were responsible for. When going through the cases, the company realized that in the previous years, they had determined the ability to work too narrowly. If the employer in all cases, expects full ability to work, then the categorization between different abilities to work is black and white. They wanted to change their attitudes on partial ability to work by offering more varied employment options and in that way support employees paths from unemployment or disability back to employability.
We believe that diversity is closely linked to personal identity. The group that a person most strongly identifies themselves with, has an impact on their choices. By introducing flexible work arrangements, we wanted to offer our employees more variety in the building blocks for their professional identity instead of reinforcing their disability identity. Our wish is that employees have the opportunity to see themselves strongly as part of the workforce despite challenges with their ability or capacity to work.
Based on our insights we started building a flexible work model together with our staff and our occupational healthcare provider. In flexible work, the treatment of an illness or disability can’t be compromised and the healing process can’t be prolonged unduly. The person will start working with the flexible model with consultation and recommendation of the occupational doctor and with negotiations together with the employee and the supervisor. The occupational healthcare provider has access to detailed descriptions of different task descriptions of the company and a listing of what kind of work and tasks can be performed with different disabilities.
It is also important to identify situations, in which the retail environment no longer is suitable for the employee. In these cases we aim to find a path for a less stressful career or industry by utilizing job coaching services. During the transitional stage, it improves the person’s employability notably when we can offer work and employment instead of prolonged sick leaves.
Through the model we have been able to diversify the definition of employability. We wish to communicate that only few people are fully employable or fully disabled. For example, a longstanding warehouse worker, whose physical condition could have rendered him into early pension, was built a new role as an occupational instructor. This also helped to transfer all the tacit knowledge to the next generation.
Our goals is that people’s competencies are utilized across organizational boundaries. For example, for a cashier with a panic disorder when meeting customers, we can design and offer a job in the logistics center where the focus is not on customer service interactions.
Flexible work arrangements require the help and support of the superiors and the work community. It is important that all the employees understand why the same requirements do not apply to all employees equally. It helps to realize that anyone can run into challenges in their own abilities to work through their career, so we all have the same right to stay at work even if only partially capable of work. The team leaders and superiors have welcomed the model well and we believe that through flexibility and accommodation we will receive great positive results and results that will improve our work environment in the short and long terms.