October 06, 2016

Work Like A Swede

collectively-unleashed-launch_-48I was on a panel event with Collectively last week (a brilliant online destination that connects and celebrates young creative people and big brands). It was hosted at The Hoxton Hotel. This particular panel discussion was about work life balance and in particular “working like a Swede”.

What does “working like a Swede” mean?

Basically people who live in Sweden work shorter working hours and seem happier and less stressed out! Last year employers in Sweden introduced a 6-hour work day (so finishing around 3.30pm) and it was reported that “meetings are kept to a minimum, and that other distractions during the day are eliminated –  and the aim is that staff will be more motivated to work more intensely while in the office. ”

Employees were interviewed after the change and they said stuff like: “I have more spare time to train or to be outdoors while it is still daylight, or to do work in my garden.” In short: quality of life was improved.

The session was kicked off by Pia Webb, the author of Improve Your Own Quality of Life: The Swedish WayHer book concentrates on how to inspect and make changes to your life, from relationships to work and career and it includes actionable diary-like exercises that can help you on the road to improving many areas of your life. Helen Russell also explained the research and stories behind her book The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country.

The session focused on the future of work: specifically, work & productivity and embracing a more nordic work ethic. We spoke about the myths and realities of being a ~digital nomad~ and how it’s possible to break free from The Man and start your own venture. And how it’s sometimes hard to switch off, especially when you’re working in a new way and constantly feel the need to prove yourself.


Last year I said hello to more of a work-life balance (kinda) with a four day week, I worked at a magazine and wrote my book on my one afternoon off. It took a temporary hit to my salary, but having that small amount of time to myself in the week basically changed my life.

Then this year was the year I said goodbye to a set salary, set goals, set desk space, set hierarchy and created my own rat race. I wrote more about this for my recent blog post called Why Flexible Working Makes Me 100% Happier.

Even though I am 100% happier, it’s scarily easy to never clock out, never really set up an Out of Office because you’re always “on” and you never really want to hand anything over. You are responsible for everything and anything you f*ck up is entirely your fault. Every penny you make and every penny you lose is down to you.

I’m 3/4 of the year in as an ~officially self-employed person~ (although I’ve been freelancing on the side and monetizing my blog for years) and boy have I learned a lot. I’m realising it really was the best decision I’ve ever made. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and preparation before I made the decision. But now I’ve done it, it feels very right.

I feel I have learned a lot so far (it’s amazing how quickly you learn when you’re shoved right in the deep end) and I feel I actually have a fair few learnings to share which I was able to talk about and share on the panel. Thanks for inviting me along, Collectively!

The other panelists were super interesting: Jonny Miller is a founder of Maptia and currently leading Escape the City Startup Tribes and Melanie Huke is a Wellbeing Manager at Google HQ. Yep, her job is to make sure Google employees are happy!

The podcast will be live on Collectively’s website soon to download.


Here are a few little nuggets from the night on how to improve your work/life balance:

  • Work smart, not hard. Manage your energy, not sheer hours worked.

  • Say yes to a lunch break.

  • Embrace “now”, don’t dwell on the past or too much on the future.

  • “Fulfilment” means something different for everyone, take some time to realise what you want & what keeps you motivated.

  • Be clever with the tools you use to manage your time. Experiment with phone and desktop apps.

  • Nothing is ever that “urgent” in the grand scheme of things (unless you’re Obama). It’s OK to not reply to that email straight away.


  • Take the holiday.

  • SLEEP.

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