In Sweden, employee wellbeing is already very much an accepted practice. Swedish companies are in fact spearheading the culture of wellbeing throughout Europe by implementing a range of traditional and innovative strategies, to create a happier and healthier workforce.

With so much innovation on offer, what can we learn from the Swedish culture when it comes to HR practices in the UK? Christopher Pedersen – managing director of Convini Food Solutions, a self service, convenience store provider for the workplace – details the top five wellbeing initiatives / benefits from the Swedish working culture and explains how and why HRs should be adopting more of these in Britain:

1. Sporting contributions is one of the most popular initiatives in Sweden. Instead of a token ‘fitness room’ in the office building, employees are more likely to receive an agreed sum or ‘wellness grant’ which they can then spend each year on sporting activities of their choice. Any money employees spend on fitness activities, is then reimbursed to them by the company.

The intention here is for employees to take more responsibility for their health and lifestyle, without the confines of a passive gym membership. Many companies in Sweden, such as Stena Line for example, take this a step further by offering their employees the opportunity to take part in a variety of races and physical events throughout the year funded by themselves, as well as this organisation’s looks to complement these activities with special offers and subsidies from partner healthcare providers. By offering this it encourages the employees to train / run together whilst improving the individuals overall wellbeing and therefore encouraging a healthy lifestyle for the long term.

2. Private healthcare and dentist care – The offer of subsidised, or in some cases free health and wellbeing treatments, – for instance massages, offering ergonomic advice and instructions and even complimentary relaxing body treatments such as Naprapathy (manipulative therapy) – is another popular workplace benefit offered in Sweden. By extending the wellbeing strategy to include complimentary benefits, and ‘stop smoking’ support, as well as the more traditional health insurance policies, Sweden is making great headway in boosting the health and wellness training of the workplace and educating on the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This is all with the aim of improving the wellbeing of employees and reducing absenteeism in the long-term.

3. Many Swedish employees enjoy a general medical examination, offered every year for employees aged over 50 years and every second / third year for employees under 50. It’s a practice that goes a long way in helping Sweden to become a country that has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

4. Flexible working hours – This ranges from allowing parents to start work earlier or leave earlier to pick up children from day care, to taking a relative to a medical appointment. This is essentially a ‘free’ initiative that can really boost morale within any organisation, however, though prevalent in Sweden, it has fallen out of favour by some British organisations – particularly private ones over the last few years – with many opting instead for more monetary-focused rewards.

A recent work-life balance survey of employees showed that the arrangements most popularly taken up by employees, are flexi-time and working from home, yet these are only offered at 34% and 30% of workplaces, respectively.[1] The same survey found that the benefits of flexible working not only encouraged staff to go ‘the extra mile’ but it also found a ‘robust link between job quality and worker wellbeing’. The extent of the business benefit and the employee value placed upon it will however, largely depend on the demographic of a workforce.

5. Free fruit / beverages or subsidised meals are commonplace in most workplaces in Sweden, no matter how big or small a company is. A free fruit basket is a widespread tactic used in the office environment, with some of Sweden’s biggest companies including Fortum, WSP Group, Egmont and Forma Publishing, all claiming it is the most popular employee benefit they offer.

These initiatives, like other occupational health services offered in Sweden, all aim to work both directly and indirectly in preventing future work-related problems and to help to improve working conditions both medically and socially, whilst offering a great benefit to its many employees across the country.

Recent years have seen a greater awareness of the value of wellbeing at work and this debate underlines the importance of health and wellness and its consequences for the working environment. While both Britain and Sweden have seen levels of absenteeism reduce in recent years – Sweden has seen it drop every year since the millennium. Latest figures released this month still shows that British workers take 130 million sick days each year[2], an astounding figure, and a clear indication that companies could be doing more to prevent this.

As the impact of the financial crisis is loosening its hold on British businesses, now is the time for them to prioritise wellbeing and reap the benefits it can bring, as proven by Swedish companies.

Christopher Pedersen is managing director of Convini Food Solutions, a fully-accessible, self service, convenience store concept for the workplace. For more information visit:


[1] HR Magazine, 2013

[2] Department for Work and Pensions, February 2014