Finland is often mentioned as the best country for workers or one of the best countries in terms of work-life balance.
In general, Finnish workplace culture is characterized by transparency, equal rights, flat hierarchy, decentralized power, and informal attitude. Employees dislike control and prefer to work independently, while superiors are available to hear out any questions or comments.
Communication is informal, and people prefer not to show their status. People in Finland address each other in an informal way using first names regardless of their position. Shaking hands is the most common way of greeting people when you meet for the first time. After that, people usually greet only verbally.
Most Finns are straightforward: they speak out when it’s required, they usually say what they mean and speak straight to the point. Saying things the way they are, without excessive verbal politeness, or giving honest and frank comments is not considered impolite — it’s a way of saving time and avoiding verbosity. “Hi, could you check this part of the code?” — this is an example of how most conversations and emails are expected to start, without any pleasantries, compliments, or thanks.
Source: Karoliina Korhonen, Finnish Nightmares
Finnish workers are modest. Even if they develop a great software product, they’re unlikely to openly praise themselves in front of somebody.
Finns are also reliable, they trust each other and keep their promises. If they say they’re going to finish the project, they do it. Employees are expected to be independent and get the job done without the boss looking over their shoulder all the time. If you agree to do something, you’re expected to do it. So if someone asks you to complete a task you don’t have time for, it’s better to say no than agree to it and end up not doing it.
Conflicts in the Finnish workplace are rare. And even if there are conflicts, they are usually resolved by negotiation and compromise.
In Finland, people focus on working in order to live rather than living to work. Only around 4% of employees work very long hours — less than the OECD average of 11%. Full-time workers devote 63% of their day on average, or 15 hours, to personal care (eating, sleeping, etc.) and leisure (socializing with friends and family, hobbies, games, computer and television use, etc.), according to the OECD data.
A normal working day usually lasts 8 hours, which translates to 40 hours per week. You can also agree with your employer on different working hours, for example, if you need to manage childcare or be able to exercise outdoors while it’s still light.
In Finland, employees usually don’t work a lot of overtime. If your employer asks you to work additional hours, you have the right to refuse; otherwise, you must get compensation.
By law, the employer should pay a 50% bonus (“time-and-a-half”) for the first 2 hours of daily overtime, and a 100% bonus (“double time”) is payable for subsequent hours. A 50% bonus must also be paid for weekly overtime when working time exceeds 40 hours per week. Overtime may not exceed a total of 138 hours in any four-month period or 250 hours in a full year.
Punctuality and precision are the norms in Finland. Many workplaces have flexible hours, starting, for example, from 7:00 – 9:00 am. However, if a meeting is scheduled to start at 8:00 am, and you usually come at 9:00, you’re expected to be there at 8:00, and not a minute later. Being late is considered impolite and means wasting other people’s time.
Employees in Finland are entitled to a one-hour meal break in any work shift of more than 6 hours. You and your employer may also agree on a shorter break, e.g. 30 minutes. There also could be several breaks, e.g. a short coffee break in the morning, a lunch break in the middle of the day, and another coffee break in the afternoon. A contract of employment normally gives information about when breaks occur during a working day and how long they are.
As a rule, breaks during the workday include coffee breaks since Finns are the biggest consumers of coffee in the world (with the national average of 12 kg per capita). Coffee breaks in Finland are also the time to socialize with colleagues.
Some IT companies in Finland have their own canteens, while at others, employees bring their own food from home. At some workplaces, employees can buy affordable lunch vouchers that can be used at restaurants close to work.
All employees in Finland are entitled to paid public holidays.
Here’s the list of public holidays in Finland:
- New Year’s Day (January 1)
- Epiphany (January 6)
- Good Friday (March/April)*
- Easter (March/April)
- Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
- May Day or Vappu (May 1)
- Mother’s Day (in May)*
- Midsummer (at the end of June)
- All Saints’ Day (in November)*
- Father’s Day (in November)*
- Independence Day (December 6)
- Christmas Eve (December 24)
- Christmas (December 25)
* Optional holidays.
Employees in Finland are also entitled to annual leave or annual leave compensation. How many days you accrue per calendar month depends on the length of your employment.
You earn 2 vacation days per month if you work at least 14 days or 35 hours per month. This increases to 2.5 days of annual vacation days earned per month after one full year of employment.
For example, if you start a new job on May 1 and your employment lasts for 6 months, you earn 2 vacation days per month of work, which makes 12 annual holidays in total.
The vacation season is from May 2 to September 30, and the number of annual vacation days is calculated from April 1 of the current year to March 31 of the next year. Most Finns are usually off in July. And most offices are empty or half-empty during this month. Many people spend their vacations in summer cottages.
If you fall ill or have an accident, you have the right to stay home. Your employer must pay you salary during your sick leave.
If you’ve worked for more than a month before you fall ill, you will receive a full salary for at least the day you fell ill plus for 9 days after the day you fell ill. If you can’t return to work after these 10 days, you can apply for sickness allowance (“sairauspäiväraha”) from Kela (a Finnish social insurance institution), if you’re covered by the Finnish social security.
Your employer can ask you to provide a doctor’s certificate proving you’re ill.
Finland is a family-friendly country with a number of parental benefits offered to working parents. If you’re covered by Kela’s social security, you can be entitled to the following family leaves and allowances:
- Maternity leave: 105 days for a mother who gave birth to a child. Maternity allowance is paid for about 4 months during the maternity leave. You can choose between a maternity package and a €170 cash benefit.
- Paternity leave: 54 days for fathers to take care of a child who is under 2 years of age. You can take a maximum of 18 days of paternity leave at the same time as the mother of your child on maternity or parental leave. Paternity allowance is paid for about 9 weeks during the paternity leave.
- Parental leave: 158 days for the mother or father to look after the baby after the period of maternity leave. Both parents can’t take parental leave at the same time.
- Child care leave: after the parental leave period is over, the father or mother can take unpaid child care leave to look after their child until the child turns 3.
You must notify your employer of your family leave at least 2 months in advance.
In addition, an employee may take temporary care leave when their child under 10 years of age falls ill.
If you decide to terminate your employment contract or if your employer decides to dismiss you, the one who took the decision must give notice to the other. There is no need to give reasons for resigning.
The period of notice is specified in the employment contract. It depends on the period of your employment and may never exceed 6 months. The employee must continue to work during the period of notice and must get a regular wage for this work.
Notice periods when an employee resigns:
- 14 days if the employment has continued for no longer than 5 years
- 1 month if the employment has continued for longer than 5 years
Notice periods when the employer dismisses the employee:
- 14 days if the employment has continued for no longer than 1 year
- 1 month if the employment has continued for 1 to 4 years
- 2 months if the employment has continued for 4 to 8 years
- 4 months if the employment has continued for 8 to 12 years
- 6 months if the employment has continued for longer than 12 years