What Coworking Operators Can Learn From The Scandinavian Workplace

The Scandinavian workplace, with its beautiful designs and its focus on culture can teach coworking operators a thing or two about creating a workplace experience.

Written by Kayleigh Alexandra

Businesses based in Denmark, Norway and Sweden place teamwork at the heart of their corporate culture, often operating from a flat management structure and encouraging independence and autonomy. Characterized by minimalist, open plan spaces and an emphasis on light and nature, there is much the Scandinavian workplace can teach us about good workplace culture.

Let’s consider the following examples:


IKEA states that its mission is to “provide a better everyday life for people”. As it turns out, its customer mission matches its employee mission. On its website, the company explains that “the IKEA culture is hard to describe, however it is easy to embrace. It is a culture of enthusiasm, togetherness and willpower”. The perks and benefits of working at IKEA are manifold, including:

  • Free monthly massages
  • A 15% company discount
  • Support for family commitments
  • Free recreational areas
  • Flexi-time to manage work/life balance
  • Swedish parental leave
  • A friendly, open atmosphere

Extended parental leave is a core tradition of Scandinavian workplaces; dads in Sweden receive a total of 18 weeks paternity leave, which is the best in the world. American streaming company Netflix has also caught on, offering a full year of paid maternity and paternity leave.

What’s more, IKEA has its very own company town based in Almhult. 16,000 people of varied nationalities live in this town, most of whom are employed by IKEA. It’s also home to its design center, test lab, and the IKEA hotel.

Having a unified workspace (a veritable IKEA village) is a testament to the power of how a shared vision can be reflected in a shared physical space. Both leafy and edgy, IKEA’s head offices bring together the different elements of IKEA’s culture perfectly.


Widely hailed as an exceptional company to work for, Nokia is known for having impressive flexibility when it comes to working hours. The company is filled with dynamic, technical-minded people who are always seeking new learning opportunities. Based in Finland, they offer competitive salaries, internal courses, the freedom to make independent decisions, and a range of employee benefits, such as:

  • Provisions to look for internal jobs
  • No dress code
  • Free gym membership
  • A brand new Nokia phone every two years, plus bills

Great things can be achieved when employees are given full trust. Nokia forms teams that are motivated and collaborative, because they have the freedom to be creative without the burden of micro-management.

Increasingly, this ethos is being embraced in other areas of the world. Canadian ecommerce SaaS company Shopify has an ‘autonomy rules’ policy, meaning people have the creative freedom to follow their own path.

Nokia’s offices reflect this same culture and ethos. Open-plan, airy, spacious, and with gorgeous views — the old Nokia offices looked out onto the Finnish archipelago. Even in a techy environment, it’s important to appreciate the balance between nature and city. It’s something the Finns are famous for, and green spaces are proven to improve productivity and levels of happiness at work.


A Swedish telecommunications multinational, Ericsson is super focused on its people and their relationship to the company. One of the positive points made by an Ericsson employee is that, while it’s a large global company, it still feels small and intimate. Its team is made up of smart, interesting people who are driven to solve global challenges – and its flexible working hours, healthcare benefits and team spirit is what keeps them there.

What does Ericsson offer? The perks include (but are not limited to):

  • Free hot food for every meal (just like Google)
  • Travel opportunities
  • Free parking
  • Lots of paid holiday
  • Swedish parental leave
  • Paid phone bills
  • Free gym membership

An industry leader with good benefits, a commitment to inclusiveness and a positive work-life balance; it’s easy to see why people love working for Ericsson.

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    Their offices are cool and contemporary, the epitome of Scandi chic. It’s all about collaborative spaces and opening up the conversation — and space can be a great way to encourage interdepartmental projects.


    Employees describe Swedish car manufacturer Volvo as a varied and interesting place to work, with different challenges to tackle every day – and enough support to tackle them effectively. What’s more, one of the benefits of working for a car company is that employees get their own car, in addition to generous bonuses.

    A productive and busy workplace, Volvo promotes work/life balance by offering its employees flexi-working options. In typical Swedish fashion, its website states: ‘we believe in a work climate characterized by respect for the individual’. Volvo is also committed to diversity and inclusion, and has networks for female and international employees, as well as those who are gay, lesbian, bi- or transgender (Volvo EAGLE).

    All things considered, Volvo has all the trappings of a typical Scandinavian workplace that puts emphasis on collaboration, independence and flexible time management.


    H&M is one of the world’s largest fashion retailers, founded in Sweden. A fast-paced and diverse working environment is what employees can expect from working at H&M, and in true Janteloven style, they offer respect to each individual. H&M has an open door policy that means every employee has the right to discuss work-related issues directly with management.

    So what else does H&M have to offer?

    • Competitive wages
    • The right to collective bargaining
    • A 25% store discount
    • No uniform
    • Plenty of training
    • Opportunities for advancement
    • Respect for individuality

    Employees describe working at H&M as the perfect student job, where the staff get along, the hours are flexible, and everyone is free to be themselves.

    Even in a busy and hectic retail setting, setting aside some time and space for taking care of staff is a worthwhile investment. Workspace and work culture have a big impact on employee churn, so it’s important to ensure that managers and leaders continue to invest in their staff.

    Clearly, Scandinavia is leading the charge when it comes to establishing a satisfying workplace and work-life balance. The Scandi workspace is all about balance and cooperation — key factors of the coworking movement. The Scandinavian workplace is very ‘co’ and it can teach coworking operators is that an inviting workplace, with the right amenities and perks can enhance the work experience, helping individuals achieve an optimal level of wellness, while nurturing a strong sense of community and belonging; all of this without compromising on carefully crafted design.

    Related reading: Swedish serviced office market shows a marked rise in occupancy rates, rental values and contract lengths.

    About Kayleigh Alexandra

    Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to spreading the word about startups and small businesses of all shapes and sizes. Visit the blog for the latest micro biz news and inspiring entrepreneurial stories. Follow us on Twitter @getmicrostarted.

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