Swedish business culture – what does it mean to be an employee in Sweden?

The work environment in Sweden is very informal. And that’s one of the things that also drew me to Sweden! Not only the business casual clothing – I also had that at my previous company – but the environment itself: informal meetings, employee engagement activities, flexible working time…

Swedes believe that everyone is entitled to its opinion, and the managers like to engage everyone in a decision taking process. Unlike Southern Europe, where you have a strict daily schedule to follow, and your manager spends the whole day/week on your back, in Sweden you are expected to be responsible and deliver results on time, thus, since you are no longer a kid, you don’t need anyone to boss you around! Plus, I’ve never seen a manager yelling here…

No one is going to be shocked if you arrive work later or if you leave earlier, as long as you can both suit your personal needs, and manage the workload. Fridays after 2 pm is no longer a working day! The work-life balance is of utmost importance to all Swedes, whether it means picking kids from daycare, going to an ice hockey match or having your car fixed.

I had a strict environment in Portugal, where meetings could run for hours, without reaching any conclusions, overlapping lunches and exceeding daily schedules. Someone had to go home to take care of a sick kid? Too bad… In Sweden, it is not so uncommon that someone eats at a meeting (and no one seems to get disturbed), but I’ve never seen (nor do I think I will) meetings scheduled for after working hours! I think Swedes wouldn’t stand a day in an environment like this. After all they’ve accomplished, would be like going back to the Middle Ages…

Some companies provide team building activities with the purpose of better know the different “team elements”. It is not unusual that these activities take place in a far away location from the office, so that people can disconnect from the job, sometimes even spend the night there! All this is included in the belief that a happy employee will be a better professional! And you know what? It works!

Going on vacation is mandatory and you can easily take 5-7 weeks in a row. Things are planned ahead and everyone will go on holiday when they wish to!

In working matters (and not only!), Sweden is several steps ahead most countries in Europe, and this is due to Sweden’s long tradition of Trade Unions. In fact, you are encouraged by your employer to join one, whereas in Portugal, I was almost threatened, when I thought of joining one!

Look at Sweden and look at Portugal. Draw your own conclusions 😉


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