The Real Truth: Expat’s Survival Guide To Finland: Part 3 – Work Life

Part 3: Work life

Finland Relocation Services, TIRA Member, Finland

We have already discussed Culture and the Finnish Way of Life and The People of Finland. In this section we explore some of the quirks of Finnish work life and office culture – the primary reason why you are in the Arctic land!

First things first. We all love food, so let’s talk about lunches during the workday. Majority of expats are surprised by the early lunch hours in Finland. Once the clock hand hits 11, employees are swarming out of the office for a meal. Generally, lunch takes less than an hour, and is not followed by any brakes. Alcoholic beverages are not a part of working lunches, but fear not, we love our ‘After Work’ culture. You will also find that coffee is a crucial park of the work day. We remain the country with the highest consumption of coffee per capita (12kg per year!!).

Many companies in the capital region have established English as their office language. However, Finnish remains a necessity for many jobs. Government employees must have working proficiency in both Finnish and Swedish. Trade unions are very common and have significant lobbying power in the Finnish work life. In fact, almost 75% of Finns belong to one!

Religion is not visible in the office, nor do religious practices belong to the office. Although different religions are accepted, and diversity is appreciated, workplaces are considered neutral environments for all people. However, Christian religious holidays are statutory holidays across the country. Religious customs affecting appearance, such as head scarves or turbans, are accepted as long as they do not interfere with work-related safety and hygiene requirements.

We touched upon gender equality in the previous section, but it is worth mentioning in relation to the work life. Women and men are seen as equal in the workplace, and managers can be either or. Discrimination by gender is not tolerated and is punishable by law. Parental allowances provided by the government are very generous and parental leaves can extend up to three years! In addition, all parents are entitled to child benefits, subsidized daycare and several other allowances. These include benefits such as pre-natal maternity grants and leaves, maternity packages, maternity leave and paternity leave and more. Many companies are flexible with exceptionally long unpaid parental leaves. The father is encouraged to use his paternity leave, and this does not carry a similar ‘unmanly’ stigma to it as it might do in other countries.

Many of the companies in Finland are relatively flat in organizational structure. Work culture is rather transactional, and long relationships are not required to conduct business. It is completely acceptable to address your superiors by their first name. In fact, you will probably be addressing everybody by their first name. It is typical for managers to ask the opinions of his or her employees in cases and planning. It is also common to have no individual offices, and instead have big open spaces or be seated by teams. You might even find executives with their desks amongst his/her employees!

Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand in the Finnish workplace. Superiors give tasks to employees and expect them to be able to manage their time and accomplish them with success. In the case that the employee needs help, coworkers or superiors can be turned to for advice. Team work is common, and everybody is expected to do his/her part.

Time management and punctuality is expected from everybody in the workplace. Tardiness and sloppiness is not tolerated. If a meeting starts at noon, you should arrive on time or preferably in advance. Although punctuality is key, work hours are often quite flexible. Many offices have flexible hours and employees respect this by ensuring that the agreed hours of work are completed in return for the freedom in scheduling.

There is no beating around the bush in Finland. You get straight to the point and do so with honesty. If you forget something, admit it. If you have a question, ask. If you have an opinion, speak it. Expect your boss and co-workers (and friends) to tell you what they think and not what you want to hear.
In the fourth section of The Real Truth, we dive in to children – babies, schools and growing up in Finland.

To ensure a smooth transition to your new job in Finland, let us help with your expatriate relocation; contact us.


More about Finland Relocation Services

Finland Relocation Services is a thoroughbred professional in international mobility. As the Finnish representative of TIRA (The International Relocation Association) and a full member of EuRA (European Relocation Association) we are continuously cooperating with the other members of our networks.

 It is through these strategic partnerships that large international corporations recognize FRS as the leading relocation services company in Finland and today we are proud to operate as the local representative of the world’s leading international relocation management companies.

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TIRA is an aligned network of quality mobility service providers. The network provides access to leading mobility experts from around the world that provide local solutions to global challenges. Network members exchange best practices and share this value with the industry through benchmarking exercises.

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