Swedish workplace culture is based on a balance of team-playing and individual responsibility. As in much of Swedish society, strict hierarchy is largely absent, with everyone’s role in the group seen as important. Managers often invite feedback from employees. Consensus is central to decision-making, and you may find yourself booked into more meetings than you’re used to. Swedes like to discuss scenarios from many angles and come to a group-wide agreement before taking a new course of action.
This type of structure is based on everyone showing mutual respect and taking responsibility for their tasks. This includes always being on time.
Flexible hours and working from home
Many Swedish offices use a system of flexible work-hours, meaning that you can come and go earlier or later on any given day depending on your own needs – you might leave a bit early one day and then work longer the next.
Similarly, many companies allow employees to work from home in varying degrees. You might be allowed to work from home a set amount of time per week, or whenever you need to focus on a big project. Naturally, this is dependent on you having a job where you can work remotely.
Rules on flexible work-hours and working from home are set by individual employers. When you start a new job, you should receive information on your expected working hours and if work from home is allowed.
At Swedish workplaces, it is considered important to have a balance between your work and personal life. At an office, you’ll probably notice your colleagues starting to disappear a bit before four in the afternoon to collect their children from day care, with Friday afternoons seeing the office even more deserted as many head off for weekend adventures. Hourly workers may swap shifts to accommodate personal commitments. It is considered reasonable for you to enjoy your five to seven weeks of paid holiday completely disconnected from work, many workers don’t even take their work phones with them.
This is driven by the Swedish philosophy that happy, healthy employees are the most productive and efficient – the idea that you’ll do a better job and feel more motivated if you are valued as a person.
Coffee breaks – fika
An important part of every day at work is the coffee break, called fika in Swedish. The fika break is an opportunity for employees and managers to meet on common ground and talk informally about their work and private lives, often twice a day. In some workplaces colleagues will take turns offering home-baked snacks at fika time.
What to wear?
Swedes like to wear business casual, jeans and trainers are common workplace attire at Swedish offices. In some fields, like banking and law, employees may dress more formally. As anywhere, make sure to be well put-together for your job interview and first day of work, after which you can adjust accordingly.
Some fields may require specific uniforms – e.g., healthcare personnel or workers in some manual trades. If you are required to wear clothes meeting certain specifications, you will be informed of this by your employer and possibly provided with the correct clothing.