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Successful teamwork on-site and online

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many organisations to adapt to new ways of working. Mr Mikko Sammasmaa, Sammet’s Marketing Manager and Board Member shares how Sammet is able to deliver on its promise to customers while prioritising safety. Sammet employees in Finland and China also share their experiences of working during this time.

Sammet is synonymous with quality and strong partnerships. Nothing, not even a pandemic, has had the power to shake their enduring commitment to their customers, partners and employees. Instructions and recommendations from the authorities concerning safety and physical distancing are applied meticulously. For instance, as at the beginning of May, 2020, most staff in Finland are working from home, appointments take place virtually and all physical events have been cancelled. In contrast, China is almost back to business as usual with unnecessary appointments still cancelled. “With the co-operation of our teams and partners, all our sites are operating well. We take the responsibility of ensuring our customers, partners and employees remain safe at all times, very seriously”, says Sammasmaa.

Marketing Manager Mr. Mikko Sammasmaa. Photo: Tommi Turunen

 

Open communication

As many face-to-face interactions have moved online, Sammet is in a great position because teamwork and utilising various forms of online communication is already integral to the Sammet way of working. The initiative to move many meetings online, was prompted by Sammet’s commitment to environmental sustainability. “Being so dispersed across the globe and mindful of environmental matters, we already use online apps and video conferencing technology to communicate with our colleagues in Finland, China and Europe”, Sammasmaa says. “We are now communicating more regularly to provide personal support during this time”, he adds.

To update and keep in constant contact with the wider community, Sammet uses email, social media and conference calls. “To keep in touch with our partners and suppliers, we share updates on LinkedIn and organise online conversations”, states Sammasmaa. He also reveals that in addition to their Chinese website, Sammet has recently launched its Japanese website to support and better serve their Japanese customers and partners. They are also working to do the same for their Korean customers and partners, and plans are in motion to launch websites in other languages, too.

 

Bonding over (virtual) coffee

At Sammet’s headquarters in Jyväskyla, Finland, the quintessential Finnish love of coffee always helps the team bond over a refreshing brew. But to conform with coronavirus guidelines, physical coffee breaks have turned virtual. “It is an old Sammet tradition for our people to gather and enjoy a coffee twice a day. We talk about any topic, other than work”, states Sammasmaa. “We are keen to keep our Sammet tradition alive especially now that our team requires some extra support during these difficult times”, he explains.

Teams in Finland and China, with the varying demands they face, are dealing with the coronavirus situation in their own way.

 

The Finnish experience

Some of the team at Sammet’s head office in Jyväskylä, Finland share their experiences:

Joona Kakkonen, Jyrki Kuitunen, Sari Asikainen

From left to right: Sales Engineer Mr Joona Kakkonen, Product Group Manager Mr Jyrki Kuitunen and Supply Assistant Ms Sari Asikainen from Sammet's Head office in Jyväskylä, Finland now working from home.

 

How has the coronavirus changed your way of working?

Kakkonen: My work is very computer-based so I am able to work effectively from home. In this sense, my work has not changed very much, except where I used to go to the office to meet with people, now I only attend if it is absolutely necessary.

Kuitunen: Coronavirus has dramatically changed my way of working. I communicate with my team and colleagues online. Technology has been very useful in allowing me to continue working effectively. If the pandemic had happened 10 years ago it would have been more difficult.

Asikainen: I have been working from my home office for over five weeks but I must visit the office once a week to take care of specific tasks which require my physical presence. My five year old son and my husband are also currently at home, which means we can spend extra time together.

 

How are you staying fit and healthy at this time?

Kakkonen: Our dog ensures we go walking a few times a day. I also try to do some exercises at home because we are not able to go to the gym.

Kuitunen: I like to go out to the woods and enjoy some fresh air. In Finland there are plenty of good trails in the woods where you can go mountain biking or walking. Mountain biking is my way of maintaining physical and mental health. I think it is essential for people to do some physical exercise and not just sit inside.

Asikainen: During the time in isolation, all our hobbies, such as volleyball, ice hockey and gym have stopped. Instead, we have developed a family home workout program to stay in shape. We also walk in the forest and bake.

 

What piece of advice would you give about working safely and effectively in this situation?

Kakkonen: Try to arrange the best possible home office environment for yourself, so you have comfortable place to work. Try to stick to a normal work routine even if you are working from home.

Kuitunen: Avoid crowded places and try to minimise physical contact with others. Remember to wash your hands. But also remember to get fresh air regularly and do some exercise – this way your mind and body will let you work more effectively

Asikainen: Avoid unnecessary social contact, stay at home with your family and in your free time do what you can to stay positive.

 

The Chinese experience

Sammet employees at their state-of-the-art factory in Shanghai, China are busy at work and keeping up with production demand. This activity is of course taking place in full compliance with guidelines issued by the Chinese and European authorities. Some of the team share their experiences of working under current conditions:

Savolainen, Huang, Pan

From left to right: General Manager Mr Arto Savolainen, Warehouse and Logistics manager Ms Anna Huang and Production Manager Mr Max Pan from Sammet Shanghai.

 

How has the coronavirus changed your way of working?

Savolainen: Sammet Shanghai was closed shortly after Chinese New Year, in January. In mid-February, we were one of the first companies to receive permission to re-open in the industrial park but only after our facilities were inspected thoroughly by the local government’s health and safety department. No visitors were allowed to visit for several weeks. We were also unable to undertake any unnecessary travel. Personally, I was at home in quarantine for 14 days in the second half of February.

Now, business is almost back to normal, although strict rules apply. Some travel restrictions also remain in place. All our facilities are sterilised twice daily, hand wash and sanitisers are available throughout the facility and the temperature of employees are measured twice a day. We have provided face masks to all employees as they have became mandatory. Before any travel, the coronavirus situation at the destination needs to be checked and assessed. All visitors need to show a health certificate before they can enter the facility. At Sammet, our practices before the shutdown have prepared us well. As a result, our work was not affected too much, although we had to co-ordinate and be flexible with our supply chain partners to work through some minor delays.

Huang: We now rely more on online communication for meetings and training sessions. The worst Covid-19 situation is over in China and especially Shanghai. We are taking all necessary precautions to ensure business runs normally. We are still using face masks. The temperature of all employees and visitors is monitored every morning at the gate of our industrial park. Both Sammet and the government have taken action to protect us and we are all strictly following instructions.

Pan: We took a lot of action immediately when the coronavirus first broke out in China. Sammet purchased a lot of face masks, some which are from Finland. Every day, each employee is given two masks. Everyone’s temperature is taken and reported daily. Before we re-opened the factory, we did a deep sterilisation and now we sterilise daily. Any employees who travel outside of Shanghai, are always quarantined for 14 days before they can come back to work. We were lucky that during the facility shutdown from Chinese New Year to February, our deliveries were not impacted too much. Now we are totally running back on track. Our employees are healthy and we are still wearing masks. Today, there is almost no impact to our daily operations.

 

How are you staying fit and healthy at this time?

Savolainen: During quarantine, I was jogging outdoors because during February we had a strict lockdown. Gyms opened in March which helped with exercising. In daily life, we still wear face masks when there is potential contact with people, including at the shops. We still avoid places with lots of people. Fortunately, everyone is following government instructions and this has been key for the successful battle against the coronavirus and helping keep everyone safe. I want to send a big thank you to our employees, customers, suppliers and the public for all their efforts.

Huang: I avoid going to crowded areas, wear face masks and wash my hands more often.

Pan: I exercise at home. I like simple gym exercises such as the skipping rope. Also, I think staying consistent with good habits is important.

 

What piece of advice would you give about working safely and effectively in this situation?

Savolainen: Avoid places where there are many people, wear face masks, use video meetings, keep up your fitness and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Avoid unnecessary visitors and travel.

Huang: Use more online communication tools. Protect yourself and others. Wear a face mask.

Pan: Keep wearing face masks and watch out for others. Ensure employees and visitors are not infected before they come to your factory or office. Also, keep a positive and happy mindset. Believe this Big-C will be gone soon. It is just a matter of time.