Sweden Work Culture

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Swedish Work Culture

To succeed in business in Sweden, it is vital for both employers and employees to have a strong understanding of the business culture.

As a global PEO (Professional Employment Organization) it is our goal to be familiar and updated with the business culture in the country we work with and in. By sharing our knowledge about Swedish work culture, we want to support your global expansion plans. Therefore, we will address all the aspects of the work culture in Sweden to start your expansion well-informed.

Sweden rates among the world’s most prosperous nations with a standard of living that takes it to the top of the lifestyle ladder. Sweden matches high quality of life with stunning landscapes of lakes, forests, and islands – the capital Stockholm is built around 14 lakes with the city connected by 57 bridges.

The economy is also a major attraction for international companies and has steadily grown since the fiscal reforms of the 1990s. Sweden’s nominal Gross Domestic Product in 2020 was 541 billion US dollars, predicted to reach 550 billion by the end of 2021 and break 570 billion by the end of 2022.  Sweden ranked 24th in the world in 2020 but 12th for GDP per capita.

Swedes take pride in their approach to equality, which also exists in the workplace. Management hierarchy tends to be fairly flat and mirrors a liberal and open-mined attitude to international trade. Sharing ideas is encouraged – even if it is the boss who generally makes the final decision.

The services sector, primarily financial and business, account for around 80% of employees in Sweden. The Public Employment Agency and Migration Agency highlight sectors with skills shortages, such as architecture, civil engineering, construction, interpreters, lawyers, and medical secretaries.

Job-seeking foreigners eyeing a move to Sweden will be entering a competitive employment market where the deep pool of human resources boasts a well-educated and highly skilled workforce. A large percentage of employment is temporary – so individuals hoping to make the transition to full-time must be prepared.

Now it is time to get down to business. So here are a few tips on taking the right steps and avoiding the pitfalls!

  • Language: English will quickly become the lingo for business meetings but, as always, a few Swedish phrases will go down well
  • Punctuality: Swedes get to work on time, leave on time … and expect business visitors to be on time for meetings
  • Attitudes: Avoid ‘going over the top’ with too many superlatives or displaying rank or status as Swedes are rarely impressed. Among colleagues, Swedes care about mutual wellbeing and look out for each other … but outside the office rarely mix their colleagues with personal friends
  • Business Meetings: Swedish companies tend to have a flat managerial hierarchy and views are shared and valued. But be precise with presentations – facts, charts and detail count
  • Negotiations: These will be thorough and detailed. Verbal agreements are legally binding in Sweden, so be careful what you shake hands on as it will be considered a deal. The contract simply confirms that
  • Greetings: Shake hands firmly at first meeting, use title and full name … but neither may be necessary at subsequent meetings as first names will quickly come into play. Don’t crowd as Swedes like some personal space and they don’t give much away by gestures or body language
  • Dress Code: Smart casual in the office for both sexes

Sweden’s Minimum Wage

National minimum wages do not apply in Sweden, where salaries are agreed either contractually or by Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs). By mid-2021 the average maximum hourly rate was SEK 183 (€17.87, US$20.22) with an average hourly minimum of SEK 134 (€13.08, US$14.81). Average monthly earnings per sector in 2020 included:

  • Finance and Insurance:                SEK 53,200 (€5,194, US$5,878)
  • Professional and Scientific:          SEK 44,100 (€4,305, US$4,872)
  • Manufacturing:                             SEK 37,900 (€3,700, US$4,187)
  • Educational Establishments:       SEK 33,700 (€3,920, US$3,723)
  • Hotels and Restaurants :             SEK 26,200 (€2,557, US$2,894)

Probation Periods in Sweden

Employment contracts typically include the first six months as a trial period. During this period, either party can terminate without reason and giving two weeks’ notice.

Working Hours in Sweden

The Working Hours Act, in conjunction with European Union directives, stipulates full time employees must not work more than 40 hours in a standard week up to a maximum of 48 including overtime, on-call time and any additional hours.

Workers are entitled to 36 hours of continual rest in seven days. Daily rest of 11 hours includes the hours between midnight and 5am, effectively banning night work, unless allowed by collective agreements and approved by the Swedish Work Environment Authority. Employees should not work more than five hours without a break and are entitled to leave the workplace for lunch breaks. Employers must keep records of employees’ working hours.

Overtime in Sweden

The Working Hours Act does not provide any statutory rights concerning overtime, which are governed by collective agreements according to the relevant business and sector. Overtime cannot exceed 50 hours in a month or 200 annually, which includes time spent on call. Outside of collective agreements, overtime pay is a contractual matter but can range between an extra 50% and 100% of hourly pay for extra hours worked. Some employers offer extra vacation days in lieu of remuneration. Such arrangements must comply with the Employment Protection Act.