FBCC Member Series: The Finnish Institute

This interview is part of the FBCC Member Series, where we introduce our member companies to the network. This time we interviewed Emilie Gardberg, the Director at our Corporate Member, the Finnish Institute in London.

The Finnish Institute is an expert in Finnish culture and society and there are 17 institutes in the institute network around the world. Their mission is to facilitate exchange between Finnish, British and Irish artists and researchers.

The organisational structure of the Finnish Institute is flat and the goal is to operate the Institute the same way it would be operated in Finland. Compared to Finland, the UK work culture is slightly more hierarchical with a greater emphasis on titles and formality. “We have a very flat hierarchy and a very open working culture starting from how we structure ourselves in the office. Our office is an open office, and we have easy access to everyone. We also highlight things such as diversity and inclusiveness. We try to make our work and our mission accessible to everyone.”

Despite the current pandemic, the Institute is quite busy at the moment. “The Institute is turning 30 next year and we have lots of different programmes and tours planned. Right now, we are trying to figure out if future events can be actual physical events or not.”During the autumn the Finnish Institute has organised a biweekly discussion series called “Present” where they bring professionals together from different fields. “One week we might target festivals, and the next week the emphasis might be on theatres or orchestra work. This is a way of keeping our relationships warm during a time where we really cannot see each other.”

Daily life at the Institute has changed since everyone is working from home. “It is a lot of remote working and sometimes it is difficult to have access to everyday things when we are not physically at the office. The good thing is that everyone, all around the world, is in the same situation so it feels like everyone’s closer to some people in a way because of the technology. It is easy to get access to people and have online conversations. Besides, you do not lose time traveling, which is sometimes positive.” Ms Gardberg says it is also nice to see people walking and cycling around. She hopes this is something that will also continue after the pandemic. “I am still longing for the time when it’s possible to be in the office, work together, have shows and exhibitions, and be around other people.”

Gardberg’s number one tip for working from home is to have casual connections with other colleagues, as you would in the office. “I feel like an informal connection is important. In addition to normal meetings, we try to set informal meetings on our agenda. This means having coffee breaks together and talking about other things than work. Because our interns rotate a lot, it is important to maintain a casual atmosphere. Otherwise, it would be very hard to adapt to the working environment.”

For the Finnish Institute, it is very important to engage with companies that are either Finnish or have an interest in Finland. “We work quite a lot with companies that want to support culture or research and have some things that fit together with our work. Being part of the FBCC is all about the network and connections. In addition, I find it nice to have Finnish colleagues here in London.”