Five things you should never say to your Swedish boss

Have a job in Skellefteå or planning a move? Paul Connolly shares his top tips for the conversations you should steer clear of as you adapt to Sweden’s unique work culture

1. ”NO THANKS, I CAN’T STAND COFFEE”

The Swedes take their coffee very seriously. Per capita, after the Finns, the Swedes are the second-largest consumers of coffee on the planet.

They may not be a religious people but don’t take the name of Java in vain. If you don’t like it, well, you’re going to have to lump it because the sacred ceremony of ’fika’ (coffee and cake – dieters you must also abandon all hope) is celebrated at least twice a day. And you don’t want your new Swedish boss to think you’re not a team-player, do you? Tea drinker? Nope, it doesn’t count.

2. ”WHERE’S EVERYONE GONE? IT’S ONLY 5PM”

It’s time to disentangle yourself from all your previous working practices. Take lunch. Have coffee breaks (see above). Go home on time. Many parents in the office will likely have already gone to pick up their kids from school at 3.30pm, so there might only be a skeleton crew left by 4.30pm. Don’t be a hero – don’t think that your boss will be impressed by the fact you’re prepared to put an extra hour in. They won’t. They’ll just think you’re a saddo with no friends.

3. ”IS MATTIAS STILL ON PATERNITY LEAVE?”

Mattias (or Tomas or Tobias, you get the picture) is almost certainly availing himself of the generous 16-month parental leave which can be shared out between mothers and fathers, with three months of that set aside specifically for each parent.

It’s not an uncommon sight in Skellefteå to see a clutch of men pushing buggies round the city centre before stopping off for an afternoon latte. Mattias might be your favourite colleague but you’ll just have to chill out. You may not see him for quite a while yet.

4. ”A DESK WHERE YOU STAND UP? WHAT’S THE POINT OF THAT?”

Standing desks have become commonplace in Sweden. There are few offices that don’t have the option to at least share access to a standing desk. Their health benefits are obvious even if the choice may seem to be to sit at a desk and die early or stand at a desk and look stupid. That huge leather office chair you used to lust after, the one with the inbuilt drinks cabinet, that’s a no-no. Stand up for your new Swedish boss.

Get used to the phrase ’work-life balance’. You’ll hear it a lot in Sweden. Swedes may not all be quite ready to graduate to six-hour working days, but the number of hours they work each week are among the lowest in Europe. Most people simply do not work that late, although more are starting to reply to work e-mails out-of-hours on their smartphones.

5. ”I DON’T NEED ANY HELP WITH THE REPORT – I’LL JUST STAY UNTIL 10PM TO FINISH IT OFF”

The Swedish workforce is all about cooperation too. There’s no great scope to be a maverick – if you try to do it all yourself, you’ll simply be frozen out. If there is a pressing deadline, everyone will be expected to work extra hours and muck in. All for one and all that. There’s simply no need to try to be workaholic – it just won’t get you anywhere.

And, if you thought that all this down-time, parental and sick leave, short hours and general civility would leave Sweden in the economic doldrums then you’d be mistaken – despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Sweden’s economy grew faster than expected in the final quarter of last year.

Sweden’s gross domestic product grew by 1.4 percent in the three months to December 2021, following a two percent expansion in the previous period, and beating the market forecast of one percent. Proof, if any were needed, that good people and good businesses do prosper.

Now, time for that coffee break…


This article previously appeared on TheLocal.se.

 

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