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Igor ja Elmira Landgren

Forest trails close by, sports-related hobbies, and pottering in your own yard provide an excellent counterbalance for an expert job. When they have more time, the Landgrens like to go hiking. “You can do nature activities in Raahe and the neighboring areas, and there is more to do within a very reasonable drive,” Igor says. Photos by Toni Pallari

Peaceful everyday life beckons the employees of the Hanhikivi 1 project

Nature close by and good opportunities to exercise and work from home are the trump cards when searching for employees for the Hanhikivi 1 construction site and the surrounding areas.

Igor Landgren joins the video meeting from his study in his detached house in Raahe. Soon after, his wife Elmira Landgren also joints the Teams meeting from her office at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site. It is quickly established that the couple who moved to Raahe from St. Petersburg, a metropolis with more than five million people, have settled down well. Igor plans a roof renovation for next summer, and Elmira wants to do some gardening.

“In addition to an interesting job, you need a good life. There is nature here, as well as extremely versatile exercising opportunities, in particular,” Igor says.

The Landgrens’ journey to Raahe started in 2017 when the plant supplier RAOS Project was searching for a site supervisor for the Hanhikivi 1 construction site. Igor's current job includes, among other duties, of ensuring that RAOS Project’s subcontractors comply with the quality management systems and Finnish legislation.

Meanwhile, Elmira is in charge of ensuring that the plant supplier’s work plans are up to date and their processing progresses smoothly. When moving to Raahe, Elmira did not have a job waiting for her, and she was concerned that she would not find a job or any friends from the region.

“Now I have several friends and I can speak some Finnish. The city of Raahe was very helpful both in learning the language and in finding a job,” Elmira praises the authorities.

The archipelago and nature are always close in Raahe.
When considering the move, Igor and Elmira Landgren searched for information online. They also listened to the experiences of one of Igor’s colleagues, who was already working in the Hanhikivi 1 project.
Returning to Kalajoki offered a good chance to start again Jussi Vierimaa's old hobby: fishing. "Now I have a direct access to the good fishing spots close to my home."  

Work at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site brought a man back home

Next, we switch our connection to Kalajoki and see a new smiling face on the screen. Jussi Vierimaa, RAOS Project’s acting Environmental Manager, also likes to praise his place of residence. Vierimaa was born in Kokkola and started work at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site in 2019.

Even though he was familiar with Kalajoki and its surrounding areas from before, the returnee was pleasantly surprised at how short the distances are.

“I can get to the sandbank by bike, I can drive to work in half an hour, and Ylivieska train station is close by, for example,” he says.

The plant supplier RAOS Project currently employs more than 450 people. Around 50 of them currently work at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site.

Vierimaa is also of the opinion that the best features of the town are close by: he lives in downtown Kalajoki, but there is a running track in the forest only a couple of hundred meters away and the river, where he likes to fish, is as close.

Safety training for new employees at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site is an important part of Vierimaa’s job description.

“Each external training course is different. I also get a good idea of all upcoming new features of the construction site and our new colleagues.”

Jussi Vierimaa chose a home that is in between his workplace and his relatives’ homes in Kokkola. “Now I can quickly get to work at Pyhäjoki, I have versatile services close by, and it’s not a long drive to Kokkola to visit my relatives, either.”
According to Jussi Vierimaa, the best features of the town are close by in Kalajoki.

Working from home could increase the vitality of rural areas

The figures for the Hanhikivi 1 project indicate that he will get plenty of new colleagues in the next few years. Around 20,000 people in total will be working at the construction site during the construction period, of whom 4,500–5,500 simultaneously at the most intense stage.

Some of the employees will move to North Ostrobothnia permanently and some temporarily, while others will commute to the construction site from other parts of Finland.

Many of the experts working in the Hanhikivi 1 project are already dividing their time between a second home in the Pyhäjoki area and their actual home in the Helsinki metropolitan region, for example. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the opportunity to work remotely.

In an ongoing research project, the University of Oulu Kerttu Saalasti Institute is studying whether living at several locations, entrepreneurship, and remote work could increase the vitality of rural municipalities. The plan is to provide the local municipalities with more means to support this phenomenon as the study proceeds.

Professor Helka-Liisa Hentilä from the Oulu School of Architecture says that there is still very little information on working from a second home or summer cottage.

“It is a known fact that people work at their holiday homes or second homes in rural areas, but nobody knows how common this is,” Hentilä explains by phone.

She is also working from home herself.

According to Hentilä, digitization had already enabled remote work before, but the coronavirus brought the matter to the foreground in a whole new way.

“It is possible that the study will show rural areas to be more vital than expected,” she says.

Professori Helka-Liisa Hentilä Oulun yliopiston arkkitehtuurin osastolta
Professor Helka-Liisa Hentilä from the Oulu School of Architecture says that better remote working opportunities may increase the vitality of rural areas. She has worked remotely since the spring of 2020. Before that she used to work remotely at home once a week to focus on writing.