Blogit / Kolumnit
Column: Coordinating services and premises
Tiistai 2.2.2021 klo 13:48 - Mikko Saarinen,Maria Vuorensola,Hannu Mäkikangas,Pauliina Pekonen
This year, 2021, will see the start of implementation of some significant changes in cen-tral government administration. These changes form part of the Public Governance Strategy published in December 2020. The aim, in our increasingly diverse society, is to ensure equal, people-centred public services that are economically sustainable.
Reshaping of regionalisation creates framework for changes
A regionalisation reform strategy was published in spring 2020. Based on this strategy and the Government Programme, the process of revising the legislation on regionalisation has begun. This reshaping is driven by the transformation of the operating environment as a result of the growth of e-services, the ongoing demographic changes and urbanisation, the significant decrease in the use of in-person customer services, and the increase in location-independent work. Under the revised regionalisation arrangements, central government's presence in the regions would be largely based on the need to organise services and official tasks. A central government presence would also be needed to reinforce regional vitality, safety and security, and to boost the competitiveness of central government as an employer.
The reformed legislation and the government-wide plan based on it would direct the locations of central government functions in the country and oversee service availability in all parts of Finland. Studies on regionalisation of particular units and activities will no longer be drawn up.
Network of central government services and premises will be reshaped and customer service standardised
The reshaping of the network of services and premises will enable standardisation of public services, and by having joint customer service points, the future provision of in-person services would be guaranteed. Combining the in-person services of central government, the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) and the current service points, it will be possible to create a more comprehensive service offering for customers, with a more dense and cost-effective service network. By focusing on national online solutions and operating a national interpreting service, as well as a digital support service, it will be possible to reach and serve customers more effectively and equitably, irrespective of whether they live in a city or a sparsely populated rural area. The aim of the legislative reform is that by 2030 the main central government authorities providing customer services will have moved to joint facilities.
Digital public services are already the primary service channel and will continue to be so in the future. The joint customer service points for public services will complement the channels for digital public services. The digital support service will help customers at the physical customer service points to become future digital service users.
COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the transition to multi-location working
In government work, remote working and digitalisation have taken a huge leap forward due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Based on data gathered from var-ious sources, about half of the more than 70,000 central government employees are currently working from home. Although it is difficult to predict what the work situation will be in the autumn or in 2022, it seems beyond doubt that we will never re-turn from extensive remote working to the pre-pandemic situation. Multi-location working provides good opportunities in terms of the reform process. As digital services can be provided independently of time or place, and allow customer contact and other matters to be dealt with online, they provide alternatives to central government’s regional presence and service structure.
For customers this can mean better services and more flexible times for using them, and for employees it can bring opportunities to organise work and leisure in a more suitable way for personal circumstances. A leap forward has been made in the readiness to use the digital operating environment, and the demand for multi-location working is now extremely high.
Central government premises strategy renewed as operating environment changes
The current strategy for central government premises is based on the principle that they support cost-effective operations. The transformation of work, however, naturally means that premises and their uses should be reviewed. The themes being studied in the review of the strategy for central government premises include: shared use of facilities; work performed in offices of the future; office space requirements in the future; safety and security of premises; and carbon neutrality of premises. There are also many central government premises that are tied to specific uses. These include museums, prisons, barracks, police premises, court buildings and laboratories.
In these premises, too, planning is affected by changes in the way activities are carried out in them and by relevant evidence and knowledge. The transformation will be considerable in terms of the working environment and the basic structures of working life: physical premises and the online work environment will change; new demands will be placed on leadership and management; and there will be an increase in the responsibilities of expert work and in the extent to which it is self-directed.
Mikko Saarinen, Ministerial Adviser