“Would you be my work-Valentine?” The importance of a friend in the field.

Expert work is often lonely – you read reports or scientific papers and write some of your own. Every now and then you get to attend a meeting, sometimes even face-to-face and not only through the Skype.

In the field it’s different. We work as a team, and very often as pairs. You have your dive buddy and the third person in the boat is your dive assistant. You and your partner-for-the-day go together, you do the wading point and your partner writes the information down. You drive the boat and your colleague takes the drop videos.

Two person smiling in immersion suits with water binoculars.
Two persons wading team in Tornio. Photo by Petra Saari, Metsähallitus.

For the Valentine’s Day blog, we asked some colleagues and former field team members, what does it mean to you to have colleagues, co-workers, a partner for a field day, a dive buddy, a friend at work? I once wrote a blog (in Finnish) about how intimate it sometimes feels to dive with a dive buddy. You communicate mostly by looking into your dive buddy’s eyes and by touching the buddy if they don’t notice you otherwise, and you help each other to dress all dive gear and so on. Even if you never met the person before, you’ll soon form a strong bond with them, at least for the dive. Same thing with your team members – they might be just colleagues, but they might easily become friends, and at least you often depend on them I the field. When one of my former colleagues left work to have a baby, she wrote a blog (in Finnish) named “My marine family”.

A person gives Marianne candy for a colleague.
A candy in a day keeps you going! Photo by Petra Saari, Metsähallitus.

 Here are some of the answers we got from our and Länsstyrelsen team members:

”My colleagues are the people who have the same goals as mine. They help to find solutions and I try to do the same for them.” Rahmona, France, intern, volunteer worker

Two persons pushes a boat forward with oars in swallow water.
Working together to get through the shallow area! Photo by Länsstyrelsen Norrbotten.

“Many of my team members have first turned into my dive buddies at work or my field partners for the day and then from my co-workers and colleagues into my friends.” Essi, marine biologist, project coordinator

Two fully equipped divers on water.
Happy dive buddies. Photo by Noora Kantola, Metsähallitus.

“As a foreigner, my colleagues and field partners in SEAmBOTH were very important to me. Not only were they very patient when teaching me the job tasks, as well as the Finnish language, they helped me feel comfortable and at ease on sometimes long and stressful days. The members of the team made the work fun and memorable. One of the most memorable summers I have ever had!” Ashley, USA/Finland, nature surveyor, volunteer

A new employee takes notes from a drop video, while others give instructions.
Teaching the new employees on how to take drop videos. Photo by Sjef Heijnen, Metsähallitus.

“Your colleagues are there, with and for you, at any time. They are there offering a helping hand for many practical problems. They help you to push the boat forward when it’s too shallow to use the engine. They help you unzip your drysuit when you can’t reach the zipper. When too much vegetation is stuck on the propeller, they don’t hesitate to jump in and remove it, and if you’re legs are tired after snorkeling, they offer a ride. But most of all, they share the sun and the rain with you and everything in between. They offer support in hard times, making a rainy day happy with their positive attitude, and share a big laugh whenever they can.” Linnea, marine biologist

“First of all, colleagues mean safety to me, since when working at the field, especially underwater, it’s always better to have your partner(s) there if something happens. Secondly, and maybe as importantly, colleagues make the sometimes long hours way more fun!” Eveliina, intern

“Colleague gives you support, both mental and often physical when working in the field. Team spirit and humor makes work fun and invigorating. Your colleague is often teaching you in a way, and expands your point of views & perspectives,” Noora, intern

“During the field season the team members are together 24 hours a day 4-5 days in a week. Every summer new members whom you have never met join the team and you start to build the connection since the first day. Sooner than you realize, this group of people becomes your second family. You sleep in the same cabin with them, you go to sauna together, you eat together, you work together, you share your thoughts with them, you laugh together, you get frustrated together when something doesn’t go as planned. For the three to four months that you work in the field, you spend more time with your colleagues than you do with your family or friends. And lastly, we even want sometimes to spend free time together and do something fun after the hard work! No wonder that every summer our team has become super important to me and I still consider most of my field colleagues as my friends.” –Suvi, Metsähallitus SEAmBOTH field team leader

Written by Essi Keskinen, Metsähallitus

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