At Akepa, we embrace the alternative style, the remote route, and partner with people from all over. Here’s Akepa’s Michaela Farnham giving her perspective on remote working from Sweden. It’s the second in a series of posts from our team on remote work in different parts of the world.
Known for its cold weather, avid coffee drinkers and keen recyclers, Sweden is perhaps one of the best places for remote work. With upwards of 60% of companies offering remote work before the pandemic, this working style that many have learned to love is no new thing for Sweden.
Work-life balance has always been top priority in many Scandinavian countries like Sweden. With maternity leave of over a year being the norm for both mothers and fathers, this is just the beginning of the many benefits that Swedes experience. But alas, no place is perfect, and much like our colleague Celesté in South Africa, even with all the pros there are still a few cons of remote working in Sweden.
So, here are some of the good things and bad things about remote work in Sweden, to add to the typical pros and cons of remote work in general.
Con: Very very tiny apartments
If we are being honest, we should address the elephant in the room: most Swedes who work from home, just don’t have enough space to get work done. With an average living space of 33 sqm in cities like Stockholm, many face the issue of either working from the couch, kitchen table, or bed. Studio apartments are a popular type of flat but they offer little division between work and home, which of course impacts the everso important work-life balance I was talking about before.
Your home should be a refuge from the daily stresses of work, but when you are answering emails at 6 and cooking dinner at 6:15 in the same room, it can be difficult to switch off.
Pro (& perhaps Con): Fika Culture
Maybe you are thinking, okay, so the apartments are small, but what about going to work from a lovely cafe furnished in the Scandinavian style? Well, the issue here is that during the pandemic, many people had this exact same idea. With the Swedish ‘Fika’ (i.e., coffee and sweets) being a staple of many people’s days, this means that cafes are always bustling, busy and noisy. Fika culture in Sweden is a part of our state of mind, a concept that encourages people to take a break, catch up with friends and colleagues, and is something that is commonplace in all workplaces here. Even before the pandemic.
That said, if the noise, smell of fresh baked goods and coffee are not too distracting, then there are a bunch of study and work-friendly cafes around. In Stockholm, for example, these are some of my favourite haunts.
Pro: Rise of coworking spaces
To save those of us with no office, small apartments and aversion to cafes, there has been a meteoric rise in coworking spaces in Sweden, especially in cities like Stockholm. The ‘hybrid’ office is trending right now in Sweden, with companies like WeWork, Helio, and Convendum all cashing in on the way the pandemic has transformed work. Then, to add to the big players, there are also lots of smaller more boutique-style coworking spaces like Knackeriet. So there are plenty of options.
With all the essentials like all day coffee, friendly coworkers, meeting rooms, superfast wifi and evens snacks or beer, these coworking spaces can be the perfect place to go and focus for the day.
Con: Affordability of coworking spaces
The number of coworking spaces is set to double worldwide by 2024, to meet the global demand for flexible work solutions. But let’s not forget, all things great come at a cost, and although not ludicrously expensive, coworking spaces can still be out of budget for many. Decent coworking spaces typically cost 30€ a day in Sweden, or upwards of 400€ per month just for a hot desk. Yes, Sweden can be pricey.
Pro: The concept of Lagom
There is a popular word in Sweden that sums up much of what it is like to work here, and that is, Lagom. Lagom basically means ‘not too much, not too little’, or ‘just right’. This concept shapes much of how Swedes think and how they prioritise work-life balance. In many ways, driving the momentum of remote work forward.
Why work at the office every day when you can work from home, perhaps enjoying a more quiet space, or being able to take a walk in your neighbourhood. All of these are perhaps simple yet underrated things that surround remote work in Sweden.
Sure, this type of ‘balanced life’ could be done anywhere, but in Sweden this is a part of the social norm, making it both accepted and widely adopted as what ‘everyday work life’ should be.