Scandi offices: What British firms can learn from their Nordic counterparts

Scandinavian businesses typically prioritise collaboration over clear lines of command

Swedish companies are well-known as excellent places to work. This is partly a result of a unique Scandinavian business culture, characterised by collaboration, respect and personal responsibility.

There is much that UK firms can learn from Swedish business customs. Here are a few examples that could help improve team spirit and make for happier employees.

FLAT ORGANISATIONS

In the UK, many employees have a direct relationship with their line manager and their subordinates, but do not have regular contact with members of their wider team or the leaders of their organisation.

Swedish companies tend to be less hierarchical and have a flatter structure than UK firms, and all employees have the opportunity to have a more regular dialogue with senior members of their team. Employees may take questions or comments direct to the boss and their opinions are generally valued, regardless of their level. The result is that all members of an organisation are treated as an important part of a broader team, working towards the same goal.

LUNCHTIME EXERCISE

Most UK workers, particularly in high-pressured jobs, will eat at their desks or spend their lunch break sitting down.

In Sweden, there is a strong culture of using your lunch break to exercise. A good example is the new craze for lunchtime clubs where office workers can dance. More typically, however, workers will be able to go for a run. Not only does this help break up the day, but the endorphins released mean that employees come back more refreshed and positive about the afternoon than they would have been if they had spent the time in the office.

STAND AND DELIVER

The vast majority of British office workers spend their working hours sitting at desks and hold meetings sitting down.

But research has shown that spending too much time seated can increase the risk of developing serious health conditions, and that employees who spend time standing while at work tend to be more positive and productive. In Sweden, it is becoming increasingly common for employees to work at “sit-stand” work stations, enabling them to spend part of their day sitting at their desks and part of it standing up.

At Lifesum, we encourage all of our employees to strike a balance between the amount of time they spend standing and sitting while working and in meetings, both for the proven health benefits and to add some variety to their working environment.

PARENTAL LEAVE

In the UK, new fathers are entitled to two weeks’ paid paternity leave, with mothers benefiting from nine months’ paid leave (although, with the advent of shared parental leave, parents may split this allocation between them). In Sweden, however, leave is far more generous.

Fathers in Sweden receive 10 paid days away from work in connection with their child’s birth. Then, Swedish parents are entitled to a total of 480 days of leave, paid at up to 80 per cent of their salary (capped for higher earners) following the birth or adoption of a child.

Each parent is entitled to take at least 60 days of this allowance, and the rest can be split as parents wish. This ensures that all new fathers have the opportunity to spend at least two months of their child’s early life at home with them without impacting upon the amount of maternity leave a new mother may take.

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