The best perk at work. Made in Sweden!

Nordic people are happy people. Employees too. They enjoy some of the most generous perks at work. And they come not only from the state but from bosses themselves. There is one particular perk that lets you take 6 months off from your work to make your own business.


If all goes well, bye bye. If something goes wrong, you can be right back at your work. Everybody is happy with this flexibility. Bosses included. Wait! Shouldn’t they be reluctant to let their employees go? How come, they are happy to give this unpaid sabbatical to their best employees?
Prove your smarts!
For almost 20 years now, the Swedish law allows employees to ask and be granted this 6 month off period from their work, in order to start their own business. It is unpaid of course but after that, they can return to their work, if things do not go as planned with their own venture. Call it “risk-free entrepreneurship”. Or in Nordic terms “innovation boost”. And for good reason.


Stockholm has become Europe’s start-up capital and is second in the world (behind US Silicon Valley) in unicorns (billion-dollar tech companies) per capita. Famous Swedish unicorns include music streaming giant Spotify and Skype.

There are of course some rules for this amazing sabbatical: you need to be an employee at the company for at least 6 months and you can only take it once. Also, your employer can deny if you are planning to set up a business, directly competitive to theirs (fair enough!). Or if you are truly essential for the company’s operations.

More perks, more happy bosses?
This unpaid sabbatical is just one of many rights, given by law to Swedish employees. They can also take time off to take care of their kids (men and women alike) or study. They are all part of the Nordic social welfare model, that is funded by high taxation. Fair enough! This is part of the Nordic model of happiness, as all the generous benefits create a safety net for everyone. This reduces stress and uncertainty while boosting the sense of security and innovation.


Speaking of innovation, this is the main reason that bosses in Sweden don’t really mind letting their employees go and create their own businesses. Employees feel empowered to realise their dreams and are therefore happier. Swedish society appreciates anything that can contribute to the benefit of all, rather than the individual. It is totally fine to agree on doing something that can hurt your personal interests if it is for the greater good.


Maybe this is a result of the Law of Jante: all are equal and no one is better than others.  Or because of the “lagom” concept: balance in everything, including between the personal interest and the greater good.


As they say, happy employees equal happy customers!