Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home

A six-minute meeting drove Portia Twidt to quit her job. She’d taken the position as a research compliance specialist in February, enticed by promises of remote work. Then came the prodding to go into the office. Meeting invites piled up. The final straw came a few weeks ago: the request for an in-person gathering, scheduled for all of 360 seconds.

Twidt got dressed, dropped her two kids at daycare, drove to the office, had the brief chat and decided she was done. “I had just had it,” said Twidt, 33, who lives in Marietta, Georgia. With the coronavirus pandemic receding for every vaccine that reaches an arm, the push by some employers to get people back into offices is clashing with workers who’ve embraced remote work as the new normal.

While companies from Google to Ford Motor Co. and Citigroup Inc. have promised greater flexibility, many chief executives have publicly extolled the importance of being in offices. Some have lamented the perils of remote work, saying it diminishes collaboration and company culture. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon said at a recent conference that it doesn’t work “for those who want to hustle.”

But legions of employees aren’t so sure. If anything, the past year has proved that lots of work can be done from anywhere, sans lengthy commutes on crowded trains or highways. Some people have moved. Others have lingering worries about the virus and vaccine-hesitant colleagues.

And for Twidt, there’s also the notion that some bosses, particularly those of a generation less familiar to remote work, are eager to regain tight control of their minions. “They feel like we’re not working if they can’t see us,” she said. “It’s a boomer power-play.”

It’s still early to say how the post-pandemic work environment will look. Only about 28% of U.S. office workers are back at their buildings, according to an index of 10 metro areas compiled by security company Kastle Systems. Many employers are still being lenient with policies as the virus lingers, vaccinations continue to roll out and childcare situations remain erratic.

But as office returns accelerate, some employees may want different options. A May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. The generational difference is clear: Among millennials and Gen Z, that figure was 49%, according to the poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.

“High-five to them,” said Sara Sutton, the CEO of FlexJobs, a job-service platform focused on flexible employment. “Remote work and hybrid are here to stay.” The lack of commutes and cost savings are the top benefits of remote work, according to a FlexJobs survey of 2,100 people released in April. More than a third of the respondents said they save at least $5,000 per year by working remotely.

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Jimme Hendrix, a 30-year-old software developer in the Netherlands, quit his job in December as the web-application company he worked for was gearing up to bring employees back to the office in February. “During Covid I really started to see how much I enjoyed working from home,” Hendrix said.

Now he does freelance work and helps his girlfriend grow her art business. He used to spend two hours each day commuting; now the couple is considering selling their car and instead relying on bikes. One of the main benefits, he says, is more control over his own time: “I can just do whatever I want around the house, like a quick chore didn’t have to wait until like 8 p.m. anymore, or I can go for a quick walk.”

Of course, not everyone has the flexibility to choose. For the millions of frontline workers who stock the shelves of grocery stores, care for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, or drop off packages at people’s doors, there are scant alternative options to showing up in person. But among those who can, many are weighing their alternatives, said Anthony Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A&M University, who’s researched why people quit jobs.

Bosses taking a hard stance should beware, particularly given labor shortages in the economy, he said. “If you’re a company that thinks everything’s going back to normal, you may be right but it’s pretty risky to hope that’s the case,” he said. At least some atop the corporate ladder seem to be paying attention. In a Jan. 12 PwC survey of 133 executives, fewer than one in five said they want to go back to pre-pandemic routines.

But only 13% were prepared to let go of the office for good. Alison Green, founder of workplace-advice website Ask a Manager, said she’s been contacted by many people with qualms about going back, citing concerns about unvaccinated colleagues and Covid precautions. Some have said they’re looking for jobs at companies they feel take the virus seriously, or will let them work from anywhere.

Some things are indeed lost with remote work, Green said, like opportunities for collaboration or learning for junior employees. But, she added: “I think we need to have a more nuanced discussion than: hustlers only do well in the office.” For Sarah-Marie Martin, who lived in Manhattan and worked as a partner at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. when the pandemic struck, the months at home gave her time to redraw the blueprint of her life.

“When you have this existential experience, you have time to step back and think,” Martin said. “In my previous life, I didn’t have time to get super deep and philosophical.” The mother of five moved her family to the New Jersey shore. And once the push to get back to offices picked up, the idea of commuting hardly seemed alluring. This spring, Martin accepted a fully remote position as chief financial officer of Yumi, a Los Angeles-based maker of baby food.

Gene Garland, 24, unknowingly opened the floodgates to people’s frustrations about office returns. After his employer, an IT company, in April told people they needed to start coming in, two of his close colleagues handed in their resignation letters. Hundreds of people responded, with many outlining plans, or at least hopes, to leave their own jobs. Garland says he himself has no plans to quit, but empathizes with those who do.

“Working inside of a building really does restrict time a lot more than you think,” he said. “A lot of people are afraid of the cycle where you work and work and work — and then you die.” Twidt, the compliance specialist in Georgia, had already lined up a new job by the time she handed in her resignation letter: a role at a Washington-based company.

The recruiter that approached her, Twidt said, asked what it would take to get her on board. She replied that she would prefer something 100% remote. Some employees have enjoyed working from home so much that they’d rather quit their jobs than go back to the office full time, a new survey found.

Out of 1,000 US adults polled in May, 39% said they’d consider quitting if their bosses weren’t flexible about them working from home. The Morning Consult survey was first reported by Bloomberg. The survey showed that 49% of the respondents who said they’d consider quitting were millennials and Gen Z — i.e., adults born after 1980.

Many global companies are embracing a hybrid work model as staff start to return to offices post-pandemic. Finance giants, who were known for having a strict work culture, are now adopting more flexible work models. Some have decided to redesign the workplace for more collaboration, and keep solo tasks for remote working. Others plan to cut back on office space entirely.

But some firms, such as JPMorgan, are not won over by the idea of remote work and want to see the majority of their workforce in the office. Jamie Dimon, the company’s CEO, said on May 4 that remote work “does not work for young people” and “those who want to hustle.” Chris Biggs, a partner at the consultancy firm Theta Global Advisors, told Insider that employers need to be “tuned into people’s mental health” as staff return to the office.

“You could do a lot of damage to those who don’t want to go into the office,” he said, adding that employers shouldn’t force people to come into the office.

— With assistance by Sridhar Natarajan

By: and

Source: Return to Office: Employees Are Quitting Instead of Giving Up Work From Home – Bloomberg

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Companies Are Discriminating Against Remote Workers: Time-Zone Prejudice

People are being asked to work longer hours and pick up other teams' slack, all because of their time zone. Tyler Le/Insider 

When interviewing for a job at a creative agency based on the West Coast, Jane was assured she could work East Coast hours. But almost immediately after she started the job, the expectations shifted. Jane, whose name has been changed since she still works in the same industry and fears being blacklisted for negative comments, said coworkers expected her to respond to Slack messages in the morning and late at night and she was invited to meetings well after her working hours ended, she told me. “I was expected to be responsive 24/7,” she said.

In the age of remote work, many people have left coastal hubs for more affordable cities across America. This means many more workers are in different time zones from their coworkers, bosses, and companies. And some employees have felt they have been exploited because of their differing time zones, being expected to take on extra work.

Other employees I spoke with said it felt as if working hours had no meaning in the remote world and that they were “on call” more than before, often because of their time-zone difference. While working remotely offers benefits that often weren’t available in a pre-pandemic world, such as living in less busy or less expensive cities, working flexible hours, or getting to wear sweatpants instead of business slacks, the issue of time zones is already causing confusion, miscommunication, and even prejudice against employees working on a different clock.

Unintentional bias

Globally, by one estimate, 16% of companies are now fully remote. And a Gallup survey from late 2021 found that 45% of the US workforce was remote at least some of the time and that most planned to stay that way. A survey from 2022 found that 56% of full-time jobs are “remote capable.” While many jobs have requirements on which states or countries employees can work from, some do not.

Employees and freelancers who are able to have spread out across the US and the globe — creating large time differences between them and the people they work with. But while the coronavirus pandemic created a surge in remote work, it isn’t a pandemic novelty for companies to have a global reach. Businesses have been navigating time zones as long as “telecommuting” has been in the lexicon. While remote is all the rage now, Gallup figures indicate 39% of Americans worked remotely in some capacity in 2012, too.

But the shift in which companies are now offering remote work options provides a clue to why time-zone bias is becoming worse. Previously, most of the businesses that hired international and across states were bigger companies with bigger infrastructure. They are more likely to have software that can handle scheduling, videoconferencing, and accommodating larger groups of people in different time zones.

Smaller companies may not be able to afford scheduling software or dedicated staff members to manage scheduling, leaving the onus of navigating time zones to managers and employees. With a surge in how many people are working remotely and from where, more people than before are navigating large time differences. As with any shift, there is a learning curve.

Some employees I spoke with felt that their companies were just careless and didn’t realize or remember differences in time zones. After a US-based company he worked for was purchased by a company based in Europe, R. Karl Hebenstreit noticed that “all of our team meetings were scheduled around European time zones and holidays, while the US employees and the Asia-based employees were afterthoughts.”

Katrina, whose last name has been withheld so she wouldn’t get in trouble for speaking about her job, is a customer-service associate for a nationwide telecommunications company. She often didn’t have a supervisor at the end of the day because of the time-zone difference. In one case, she said, she was “admonished” for not handling a situation with a customer the same way the supervisor, who wasn’t reachable, would have.

For Hebenstreit, the bias toward a European schedule caused more work to fall on his shoulders. “Meetings were scheduled on and without regard to US holidays (even though we have automatic calendars that inform us of these details),” he told me. “And due to Europe’s more generous vacation, part-time schedule, and holiday schedules, the US employees were expected to pick up the slack for their European counterparts by taking on their clients as well.”

John, who worked for a company in Texas and lives on the West Coast, also had to pick up other teams’ slack because of his time zone. (His name has been changed to avoid retaliation since he still works in the same industry.) Because he was the last to log on for the day, “end-of-day deliverables like coverage reports, rapid commentary, etc. often got handed over to me,” John told me.

Managers are often not trying to exploit; they’re simply not able to remember everyone’s time zones when managing a large team. But often, that unintentional bias can lead to full-on prejudice….Read more….

By:

Source: Companies Are Discriminating Against Remote Workers: Time-Zone Prejudice

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Jenn Todryk Discusses How Community Is Key To Her Professional Success

Texas-born Jennifer (Jenn) Todryk is a self-made entrepreneur and author. She is also a working mother to three children under 10: Von, age 9, Berkley, age 7, and Vivi, age 3. The millennial mom graduated from Tarleton State University with a degree in fashion merchandising, but it was her blogging that led her to professional success in 2015.

Jenn’s personal brand “The Rambling Readhead” is rooted in authenticity, empathy, and transparency; it has seen exponential growth on Instagram and TikTok since she became the host and home renovation expert on HGTV’s No Demo Reno in 2021.​ More recently, Tordyk also launched her first podcast “You, Me, & Mike” with husband and business partner, U.S. veteran Mike Todryk.

Below Todryk discusses how her business began, the importance of home, and why relationships have always been key to her professional success:

Christine Michel Carter: How has social media helped your businesses?

Jenn Todryk: I started posting home decor and home renovation tips and tricks full-time in 2019 and gained an audience of over 1 million followers on Instagram within two years. Deciding to treat social media as a job meant posting twice a day, making video tutorials, and never taking a “sick day,” but that wasn’t a sacrifice since I genuinely love interacting with my community daily.

I feel very fortunate in this space; God has blessed me with such a wonderful group of people, and I will never take it for granted. I truly feel like this is my calling. I don’t know how all these amazing women found me, but I’m here until nobody wants to listen to me anymore!

Carter: Take me back to the “not so pretty” side of entrepreneurship. What did that look like for you in 2019?

Todryk: I started home renovating in my and my husband’s previous house. We navigated the entire process solo, learned many lessons, and shed blood, sweat, and tears. During the process I thought, if I could get people excited about their homes by showing mine, then I would be happy. Plus I’m a huge homebody. I feel like everyone deserves to love where they live, and it’s my mission to get them excited about where they do live.

Todryk: I am the only person who has access to my social media accounts and the only person interacting with my audience. I wanted to share my home design passion with the internet; I don’t want this to feel like a job with lots of employees or a large team of people. There is stress that comes with that, and I don’t have time to be stressed right now! I don’t wish to be a social media machine; I just want to love what I do every day and be a source of humor and joy in the process.

Carter: What does flexible work look like to you? What are some accommodations you’ve had to make as a working mom that your audience may not necessarily see?

Todryk: When filming, my work demands are higher since I must be on site to film. However, I decided to only film four days a week during season two of No Demo Reno. My entire life is not about filming a TV show; filming a TV show is just a small part of my life that existed before the show. I believe in setting firm boundaries and sticking to them. If I say I have to be home by 4:30, then I will be home by 4:30. Sticking to your boundaries is CRUCIAL to maintaining a healthy work/life balance.

Carter: What about childcare and “heads down” work time?

Todryk: I have childcare a few days a week, so I can take calls, have Zoom meetings, and knock out a few hours of focused work. I also have an assistant who has been with me for three years who helps with the upkeep of my blog (and feeds my toddler secret snacks and lets my dog out to pee very often). I feel super lucky that I was able to make a business that I can run primarily from my house.

Carter: What other projects lately are keeping you inspired?

Todryk: I love creating content and being the “weird girl” on Instagram and TV. In addition to the TV show, my coffee shop Armor Coffee, my website, and connecting with people on social media, my husband and I recently bought a brewery that will become Armor Brewery in Allen, Texas.

Demolition starts in a couple of weeks, and a large renovation is happening to get the brewery to our vision for our community. We always have stuff brewin’ (pun intended) and will more than likely discuss progress on our weekly podcast each Thursday.

Carter: Why did you factor the Texas community into the vision for the brewery?

Todryk: As a business owner myself, I love supporting businesses. The businesses that I partner with are great companies. I love getting to know the people behind companies and their stories and helping them grow. This job is super relationship-oriented, and I LOVE that! I love getting to know the people within my community, whether it’s a conversation through DMs or meeting them in person at Armor Coffee… or even Target!

Featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post, Christine Michel Carter helps women navigate the significant impact of motherhood on their

Source: HGTV’s Jenn Todryk Discusses How Community Is Key To Her Professional Success

Critics by Jeffrey Bussgang  and Jono Bacon

We’ve seen a precipitous decline in participation in civic organizations in recent years; membership numbers are down for religious groups, labor organizations and non-profits. A cynic could interpret these trends as a sign that we have all become digital hermits, with our noses buried in our highly personalized screens. The reality is that powerful communities are not just alive and well but also booming. They just look different than they did 50—even 20—years ago. They are organized around businesses and brands and providing profound opportunities for companies around the world.

Take Salesforce for example. While you might think its $140 billion valuation is due purely to its innovation of software delivered on demand through the cloud, it has also created a community of nearly 2 million members who support each other, organize events, produce content, and are a critical part of its global operations. This community is an international network of minds, talent, and time, all supporting the success of Salesforce. The company’s annual “Dreamforce” conference, which attracts nearly 200,000 acolytes to San Francisco each year, represents a mecca for its ecosystem to convene, build relationships, and advance its corporate agenda.

Other examples include Harley Davidson, which has created more than 1,400 local chapters around the world for enthusiasts to get together in person and discuss their bikes; Fitbit, which has a community of more than 25 million members, who share and refine their exercise regimes; and HITRECORD, which has brought more than 750,000 artists, writers, and filmmakers together to collaborate on productions, many of which have shown at Sundance. The list goes on.

While communities generate tangible value for businesses — such as content, events, online advocacy and marketing, technology production, customer support, and education — it is the intangible value that members derive from the experience that makes these environments truly “sticky.” Human beings are fundamentally social animals. Behavioral economics and psychological research have taught us that we fundamentally crave a sense of connectedness, belonging, mission, and meaning, particularly when performing our work.

Theresa Amabile’s The Progress Principle and Daniel Pink’s Drive both demonstrated that making progress towards a shared mission is the most motivating force a professional can feel. Communities deliver these benefits, creating a sense of shared accountability and a set of values while preserving individual autonomy.

A Superior Business Model

If a company can transition from simply delivering a product to building a community, it can unlock extraordinary competitive advantages and both create and support a superior business model. Specifically:

  • Enthusiastic members help acquire new members, resulting in lower customer acquisition costs and a tight viral loop.
  • Members are loath to abandon the community, resulting in increased retention and therefore improved lifetime value.
  • Members support one another, resulting in high gross margins due to a lower cost of service.

The result of this are very real network effects: as engagement grows, the community gets smarter, faster to respond, more globally available, and generates more value.

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How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”

Summary.    Of all the interview questions job applicants prepare for, the most obvious ones sometimes get the least attention. Yes, you came ready to share your biggest flaw, your greatest strength, a moment when you shined, and a concept you learned, but what do you do…

Sometimes the toughest job interview questions are also the simplest and most direct. One you should always expect to hear and definitely prepare for:

“Why do you want to work here?”

Like a similarly problematic interview question — “Tell me about yourself” — “Why do you want to work here?” requires you to focus on a specific answer without any clues, contexts, or prompting from the interviewer. It’s a blank space — but that doesn’t mean you can wing it and fill it with just anything.

How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”

Drawing from my 16 years of experience as a communications coach as well as someone who’s sat on both sides of the interview table many times, I recommend three basic approaches:

  1. Express your personal passion for the employer’s product/service/mission.
  2. Explain why you would enjoy the responsibilities of the role.
  3. Describe how you can see yourself succeeding in the role, given your skills and experience.

You can use any combination of these three approaches so long as you keep your answer concise. Here’s how to tackle each approach effectively along with sample answers to use as a guide.

1. Express your personal passion for the employer’s product/service/mission.

Employers want to know you’re passionate about what they do, whether it takes the shape of a product, a service, a mission, or a brand. You can also connect your passion to the company’s core values, which can often be found on their website. Showing you’re passionate about the position is particularly important if you’re applying for a role at a nonprofit where the mission matches your personal values.

But how do you convey this enthusiasm? CEO consultant Sabina Nawaz offers useful tips in her HBR piece, “How to Show You’re Passionate in an Interview.” As she writes, “When you’re passionate about something, it tends to spill over into other aspects of your life.” Identify those examples in your own life and share them during your interview. Expressing enthusiasm is not about “display[ing] the kind of full-throated, table-thumping behaviors companies tend to equate with passion,” Sabina explains. It’s about conveying “what matters most to you.”

And remember to be clear about why you are passionate, not just that you are passionate. Simon Sinek has schooled us all on the importance of “why,” and it’s no less important in a job interview than it is in a sales call or CEO keynote.

Sample Answers

Here are examples of responses that effectively connect passion to mission.

  • “For most of my adult life, I’ve strongly supported X because I believe that Y…”
  • “X is very important to me in both my professional and personal life because I strongly believe that…”
  • “I’m very passionate about X and would be thrilled to work for an organization that subscribes to the same core values…”

2. Explain why you would enjoy the responsibilities of the role.

It’s no secret that we work harder, better, and longer when we enjoy the work, and what employer wouldn’t want that dedication from their staff? But it’s your responsibility to make that connection between job and joy clear. That connection can be as simple as “X is something I enjoy,” but expressing how or why you enjoy it makes that point even more valuable and memorable.

Sample Answers

Here are examples of responses that connect job to joy.

  • “I always enjoy helping other people learn — from my tutoring work in school to the training experiences I had at my last job — which is why I feel so fulfilled working in L&D.”
  • “I’ve always loved to write and edit — from my days at the college newspaper to the web content I worked on as an intern — so I’m excited to see that writing is a big part of this job.”
  • “Analyzing data has always been fun for me — the challenge of using numbers to tell a story and convey an idea — and I look forward to the data visualization work we’ll be doing on this team.”

3. Describe how you can see yourself succeeding in the role, given your skills and experience.

While the interviewer is hiring you for who you are and what you can do now, they’re also interested in what you can achieve in the future. After all, they’re not just hiring you; they’re investing in you.

Express confidence about your ability to succeed and grow in the role. Use phrases like “Given my experience in X, I can see myself succeeding…,” “I look forward to using my skills to…,” and “I think I will contribute by….” The key is to describe how your previous experience has prepared you to hit the ground running.

Sample Answers

Here are examples of responses that paint a peek at what may be.

  • “I can see myself succeeding in this position because I’ve done similar work in the past and know what it takes to engage these particular consumers.”
  • “I’ve found I work best in a collaborative environment, so I look forward to working with several departments to align on and achieve our goals.”
  • “After learning more about this job, I’m sure I can help you find ways to manage projects more efficiently and effectively.”

Combining the Three Approaches: Sample Answer 

Here’s a sample answer using a hypothetical marketing position for a health care company where writing, creativity, and collaboration are key priorities:

I want to work here because, with physicians in my family, I’m passionate about helping people address their health challenges and make smart decisions about their bodies and their lives. I also love copywriting and diving into editorial strategy — especially in social media — and enjoy brainstorming with colleagues to come up with the best creative ideas. When I think about the needs of this role and the integrity of the corporate mission, I feel incredibly inspired and can see myself contributing in a big way.

Key Tip: Be Specific

As you develop your answer, understand that the more specific you are, the more powerfully your answer will resonate. Conversely, the vaguer you are, the more generic — or even canned — the response will seem.

In the example above, the writer alludes to health care professionals in their family, focuses on copywriting and editorial strategy — not just writing — and mentions brainstorming, a more specific form of collaboration. These are all examples of specificity that make the answer seem more personal and unique.

What Not to Say

It’s obvious how you shouldn’t answer the “Why do you want this job” question, but it bears repeating. Don’t say you want the job because:

  • You like the salary
  • You like the perks or benefits
  • You like the title
  • You want to work remotely or in a particular location
  • You couldn’t get another job you really wanted

Before your next interview, practice your response to “Why do you want to work here?” out loud, not just in your head. And keep in mind that the best answer is less about why you want them and more about why they should want you. If you convey passion, enthusiasm, and optimism with specificity, you’ll connect to the interviewer’s wish list in a way that will leave them thinking, “This is why we want you to work here.”

By: Joel Schwartzberg

Source: How to Answer “Why Do You Want to Work Here?”

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How Finland is Eradicating Its Homelessness Problem

There are more than a million empty homes in Canada and on any given night at least 35,000 Canadians are homeless. They pack into overflowing, often dangerous, shelters or they hunker down outside, hoping the elements will be kinder to them than the conditions indoor.

In the 1980s, a Canadian psychologist working in New York had an idea: maybe the best way to solve the problem of homelessness was to give people homes. Sam Tsemberis was one of the earliest proponents of a model known as Housing First. The idea was viewed as outlandish and unworkable.

Skeptics argued that complex issues like addiction and mental health had to be addressed first before someone was a suitable candidate for long-term housing. How would the cost be justified to hardworking taxpayers?

But the idea has caught on. Housing First projects have appeared in municipalities across Asia, Europe and North America, including Medicine Hat, Alta. Now, Finland has become the first country to adopt a national housing first approach to homelessness.

Juha Kaakinen, CEO of Finland’s largest housing nonprofit, the Y-Foundation, has been working in the area of homelessness and social welfare since the 1980s. He was one of the architects of Housing First — Finland’s national plan. He spoke to The Sunday Edition‘s Michael Enright about how Finland eradicated homelessness. Here are some highlights from their conversation interview.

A home without preconditions

You can call it a principle, a service model or a philosophy; the main thing is treating homeless people like everybody else — people who have the same rights and see housing as a human right. So the housing first principle means that you give a homeless person a home, a flat, or a  rental flat with a contract, without preconditions. You are not required to solve your problems or get sober, for example, to get a permanent home. And then, when you have this home, you can get support to solve your issues. This is a simple basic principle of housing first.

Finland succeeds where the rest of Europe did not

A lot of progress has been made. We now have the lowest number of homeless. Our present government has decided that the rest of the homeless should be halved within the next four years and completely end by 2027.

We have had a constant policy of providing affordable, social housing. The state finances this. And in each new housing area, especially in the big cities, at least 25 per cent of housing must be affordable, social housing. This has kept the supply to a reasonable level. This has been probably the main reason why we don’t have the kind of housing crisis that most European countries have at the moment.

How Housing First works

For example, in Helsinki, there is a service centre for homeless people. You can always go in, no matter your condition. It’s probably the most similar to the shelters in other countries. But it’s the only one, with 52 beds. You discuss your situation with a social worker and they try to arrange housing for you. They make an assessment, find out what your needs are.

Affordable social housing stock is another option. For over 30 years, the Y-Foundation has been buying flats from the private market. We use these flats specifically as rental flats for homeless people.

Maybe the most important structural change in Finland is that we’ve renovated our temporary accommodations in shelters and hostels into supported housing. For example, the last big shelter in Helsinki, run by the Salvation Army, had 250 beds. It was completely renovated in 2012. Now they have 81 independent, modern, apartments in that same building. They also have on-site staff for support. So this structural change has probably been the crucial thing that has led to this trend of decreasing homelessness.

The common thing for all homeless people is that they don’t have a home. Everybody has their own story, their own history. They have their own resources. They may also have their own problems. For that reason, you have to make a very tailor-made plan for people, to provide adequate support.

For example, if you have drug abuse problems, simply providing housing doesn’t solve that kind of issue. You may need rehabilitation, detoxification, etc. These other elements are important. But to get these things done successfully, you must provide permanent housing. That way you can be sure that you are not kicked out the next morning and you can plan your life ahead.

Why the taxpayer argument doesn’t hold up

Keeping people homeless, instead of providing homes for them, is always more expensive for the society. In Finland we have some scientific evaluations of the cost of this program. When a homeless person gets a permanent home, even with support, the cost savings for the society are at least 15,000 Euros per one person per one year. And the cost savings come from different use of different services.

In this study, they looked at the services that homeless people used when they were without a home. They calculated every possible thing: emergency healthcare, police, justice system, etc. They then compared that cost to when people get proper housing. And this was the result. I’m quite sure this kind of cost analysis can also be found for Canada.

Political understanding is crucial

What has been crucial in Finland is that there has been a political understanding and political consensus: this is a national problem that we should solve together. Since 2008, we have had several governments with several different political coalitions. All these governments have decided to continue to work to end homelessness. This kind of political will — that’s the starting point. It doesn’t solve everything but it helps.

I think that it demands politicians who have an understanding of human dignity. It doesn’t require more. In Finland we have a very wide partnership. It has been a collaboration between the state, big cities and big NGOs working together towards the same goal.

Changing public attitude

There are several ways you can affect public attitudes. Facts and research are good starting points. But it’s always important to tell people stories of those whose lives have changed since they got housing. These things have an emotional impact on the general public. If there are willing former homeless people, who would like to tell their stories, this kind of human interest element is very powerful. But, of course there are very clear facts behind how it should be done and why we should speak about housing as human rights issue.

By: Tahiat Mahboob

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