Taking the Edge Off Startup Stress, Scandinavian Style.

Scandinavian happiness at work.

Chris Sugrue
March 20, 2015 - 3 min. read

As a rapidly growing startup, Falcon Social is all about pace, pace, pace. Every department has its deadlines and few Falconeers live nine-to-five work lives. But enter our offices and you won’t be struck by that miasma of stress that hangs over some workplaces. In my time as a former journalist, agency creative and a fly-on-the wall temp in central London, I’ve had a taste of what stressed and even plain scared offices look and feel like.

At Falcon Social people are calm but purposeful. Quick in thought and movement but not frantic. You may even have a hard time reconciling such a serene scene with our phenomenal growth numbers. But on closer investigation you would see the Scandinavian work model proving its worth once again; subtly and without bragging, of course.

How do you apply ‘happy’ to the workplace?

Denmark is 2014’s ‘happiest’ nation with the other Scandinavian countries all ranking in the top ten. Work conditions are cited as a top reason. But, lavish vacation and maternity leave allowances aside, what does that actually mean at the office floor level?

It starts with a desk that goes up. And down.

Every Falcon Social employee has an ergonomic desk. The kind that adjusts its height with the touch of a button. Doctors blame our seated, sedentary office lives for all kinds of ills. So the simple option of being able to type standing up when you want to can’t be overrated. A straight spine offsets a lot of stress and keeps employees heads held high.

Startup | Scandinavia I Falcon Social

Good food and company

A fully catered lunch is fairly standard in larger Scandinavian companies. Aside from beating brown-bagged soggy sandwiches and shop junk hands down, it brings employees together at lunchtime. You would have heard the saying that families that eat together stay together. That applies here too and is reflected in low employee turnovers.

Onsite socializing

The Friday bar is a hallowed tradition in Scandinavia’s more creative industries and startups have followed suit. This is no Mad Men scenario of stress-drinking, rather it represents encouragement to wind down to the weekend––often a couple of hours before knock-off time. Like the lunch arrangement it provides a welcome opposite to the hated idea of taking work home. The office once again becomes a place where people can bond as people rather than just as employees.

Work-life integration 

Ok, so that may sound a bit dire, and counter to the current backlash against people being ‘always on’. But what it actually represents is a step beyond the work-life ‘balance’ being fretted over elsewhere. It’s about the flexibility of allowing employees to divide the day between their work and private lives on their own terms.

Working from home is the most common example. Then you have the ‘B’ people who function best starting later and working into the evening. This policy also recognizes that parents sometimes need to leave early to pick up kids;  or simply the fact that we all need to step out of the office from time to time for everything from a haircut to a breather.  

Ultimately it’s an expression of trust. Faith that employees will get the job done without a punch-clock, nine-to-five dynamic to goad them on. 

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