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A day in the life of the office nomad

A day in the life of the office nomad

| 24.02.2010 | Text: Carl-Gustav Lindén, Photo: Cata Portin

Janne Saarikko (40) has changed jobs again - or rather his place of work. He's now at Arc Technology, an IT business in Helsinki. He moved here with two blue IKEA boxes; one containing a computer and some papers, the other with his espresso machine, cups and saucers plus coffee beans.

Janne Saarikko is an office nomad, a modern day wandering self employed consultant looking for a work space offering a social setting. In return he can offer great insight into how organisations work. And he makes coffee worthy a 'barista', ground from locally sourced coffee beans. Giving quick courses in how to prepare good coffee is an important part of his concept. Everybody knows how day-old coffee tastes. The discussions around the espresso machine open up many new perspectives. 

Arc Technology boss Kimmo Koivu knew Janne Saarikko before, and when he read an article about Finland's - and possibly the world's - only office nomad, he messaged him via LinkedIn: "Come here".

Photo: Cata Portin

The company technicians use computers for customer contact and could do with meeting someone other than their regular colleagues. 

"This has been a breath of fresh air," says Kimmo Koivu. 

Underpants office 

It all began a year ago when Janne Saarikko set up his new company Ekana Innovation. He was far from tempted by the prospect of working from home in an 'underpants office', nor by hiring an office space where he'd be sitting alone. So he asked around various work places to see whether he could come and work there - with no pay and no obligations other than promising to keep company secrets. In return other workers got a person of great experience to talk to about anything at all, who was neither a consultant trying to streamline their business nor a spy for their boss. 

"This helps the work place dynamics, people find it easier to talk to me."

Janne Saarikko had been working for many different companies, not only in Finland but also in Denmark and Sweden. His project soon took off.

"When I started it was for my own sake. Now I've got 15 companies queueing up and asking me to come and stay with them as a nomad. Little by little people are beginning to ask whether they too could become nomads.”

The interest among heads of personnel has also been so great that he is considering expanding and developing the concept as a business idea, even an international one. He gets requests from all over the world.

Carry on working 

Saarikko says he is obsessed with observing and figuring out how things can be done in better. There's been a debate lately in Finland about how supervisors are in a key position to convince people to work longer. Janne Saarikko has his own ideas on this subject after getting up close with a dozen different expert organisations. He soon identifies the work places that function well.

”I get to observe organisations in their daily work - something a personnel consultant who only spends a week never sees, because everybody knows the person is there, observing."

In Finland you will find a leadership culture where the boss is the 'patron' whose word is law. But that rarely makes for a good format. The Swedish culture of talking everything over represents the opposite. Saarikko recommends something in between - a Danish model.

"Danes are strong leaders, you know who is boss, but discussions aren't curtailed even though the final decision sits with the boss. In Denmark you get the best from both Finnish and Swedish leadership cultures. The Danes get things moving."


At the end of the month many want some sort of evaluation. Without breaching anyone's confidence, Janne Saarikko tries to carefully suggest improvements based on his own observations. That's when he gets to use his own area of expertise - to develop what makes a company's products or services unique.

”All successful businesses are superior in some area - they might be best, cheapest or excel in quality compared to price."

Having spent twenty years building brands perhaps it isn't so surprising that Janne Saarikko spends most of his time figuring out how to improve things - the work environment for instance.

So is this a new way of organising work? Without anybody paying anything? If money ruled, this project would be dead. But you soon start to see obvious benefits. Janne Saarikko gets a free work space and valuable new contacts while developing his own knowledge capital. The coffee roasting company that sponsors his coffee get new customers who've been inspired by the coffee breaks around the espresso machine. Employees get a chance to exchange thoughts and to test new ideas. Bosses get a reputation for being visionary. Everyone's a winner, and it costs nothing.


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