Towards the unknown – Entrepreneur's experiences of remote work
The changes in everyday life caused by the coronavirus pandemic have now lasted for more than a year, and the word “remote” has been on everyone’s lips for a long time. Concerts, meetings, fairs, competitions, training, and everything else seem to be arranged remotely. Even coffee breaks are organised remotely. This has caused a significant change in the lives and operating practices of many entrepreneurs.
Digitalisation is a long-standing term, but it has become much more concrete during the pandemic. Many people believe that remote work will remain a bigger part of our work culture with the coronavirus pandemic behind us than in the past.
Effects of remote work on work well-being
Remote work has also been found to have numerous effects on entrepreneur’s work well-being. The effects on work well-being are both positive and negative, and they vary depending on the person. For some entrepreneurs, remote work has enabled more flexible working hours, enabling better free time planning. Harmonising work and other life is more manageable, which positively impacts both mental and physical coping.
Unfortunately, there are two sides to this issue too, and the effects are not always positive. All of us who have worked at home have certainly noticed how separating work and free time has become more challenging. For entrepreneurs, this issue has been more of a rule than an exception. Although remote tools have become widely used over the past year, face-to-face interaction has decreased considerably. This may impact one’s work, but above all, it harms the well-being of employees and increases exhaustion at work. We in the EntreFox project understand the challenges posed by digitalisation and the importance of workplace well-being, and the importance of focusing on one’s health amid work tasks. These are the themes we focus on in company-specific digital pilots and well-being workshops.
Challenges in transition to remote work
Remote work is by no means a new thing. Still, with the coronavirus, people transitioned to working remotely with great force, pressure, and a tight schedule. With the corona pandemic closing offices and forcing workers home to work, the deployment of remote solutions and tools progressed on a swift schedule. It wasn’t long before new applications began to appear in everyone’s competence repertory, apps that had never been used before. This mainly affected many small business owners who did not need Teams and Zoom before the corona. However, now these tools may be the lifeblood of the company.
In addition to communication tools, ways and routes to market the company’s products and services had to be rethought entirely in many companies. In many companies, the entire business model has been achieved and considered from a new perspective using digitalisation. In the EntreFox project, we implement digital pilots in cooperation with entrepreneurs according to the needs of companies. We support digital skills and lifelong learning by focusing on supporting digitalisation and information work processes in projects.
We decided to ask the education sector entrepreneur from Turku involved in EntreFox’s digital pilots about their experiences of moving to remote working and the challenges and feelings it brings.
How did it feel to turn your activities into online operations?
“The change to online activities did not come as a surprise. My business closed due to coronavirus on 12 March 2020. I spent about a month wondering how on earth I could move forward with my company. Then I went to ask for courses on digitalisation and e-learning from different places. Turku University of Applied Sciences has contacted me and offered a project specifically related to digitalisation. It seemed like a perfect solution to my problem.”
When you started planning online events, did it feel scary at first?
“I didn’t feel scary. I’m not usually scared. I was eager to be involved – towards the unknown.”
How difficult do you find it to organise an online event compared to events on-site?
“I do not think it is difficult, but if we talk about teaching skills remotely, there should be a considerable amount of initial work. Everything I would show in class, i.e. presentations, has to be done as online teaching using videos or image sets.
The resource calculation is quite close. For example, preparing the digital materials for a 12-hour course connected with a subject is about a hundred hours of work. For over 30 years, I have been teaching mainly theory (2/3 of all course), and the rest would be practice. Time to prepare material is much greater and more significant in distance learning than in teaching live. I work in an industry that doesn’t have textbooks. The material I use is the image bank I have collected before, and extensive teaching material found on the shelf in my home.”
What is the biggest drawback, for example, when organising a lecture online? What about the positive sides?
“I’ve only done a few online lectures so far. I know I’m going to be adjusting and looking for the right things for a long time. I will make my learning processes about how I develop solutions, and I will learn to use different things while doing this work. For me, contact with clients and students means a lot. During teaching, I can monitor how students are progressing. Still, now micro-expressions and other body expressions, all fineness seems to be left out. I can’t look at student ergonomics or follow up on student’s problems the same way as before. I have had many discussions with students on how we can identify the problem and what solutions can be found together. I believe I can develop as an online teacher. I already know what equipment I’m going to get to facilitate teaching. I like the experience of being a skilled live teacher. These formats are two different worlds.”
How have customers respond to online events?
“Now, there are only two pilots behind us. It’s too early to tell.
I’ve talked to students in general (i.e., I haven’t taught them online) that many people say they’re not the kind of people who get so much out of distance learning (in terms of skills). Many teachers are facing a new issue. I believe that developing this and getting a wide range of devices for interactive activities will be a success.”
Do you feel that after the pandemic, you will continue to organise online events?
“I will develop the matter further and believe in this “liberating action of time and place”.
I stand before an exciting future. I’m moving towards new challenges for teaching and guidance. The journey will be exciting and offer new challenges altogether, but also opportunities!”
We are currently looking for entrepreneurs to join digital pilots. We support digital know-how and lifelong learning by focusing on supporting digitalisation and information work processes. This may include support for the procurement of various systems and training on the use of new systems, increasing productivity, social media strategy and marketing, improving customer understanding, digitalisation of services and innovation of new services.
All projects are tailored to the customer’s needs on a company-by-company basis. Digital pilot prices are subsidised (financier 80%, entrepreneur 20%), i.e. the self-employed’s deductible in the majority of projects is a few hundred euros. Read more and join digital pilots.
Read more about developing well-being on our blogs:
Samuli Gratscheff, an ICT engineering student at Turku University of Applied Sciences
Tuomas Sillanpää, an ICT engineering student at Turku University of Applied Sciences
Marika Säisä, Project Manager of EntreFox project, Turku University of Applied Sciences