It’s only been a few months since the first case of COVID-19 was reported here in Sweden, but for many, it feels like half a lifetime ago. Just like in most countries, Swedish businesses are asking their employees to work from home and remote working has quickly become the new norm.
At our company Mentimeter, which is a Stockholm-based scaleup making interactive presentation software, we’re well set up to run our business from home and the transition has been smooth. Our team is working just as hard from their kitchen tables as they would be in the office, and I’ve been impressed by the incredible morale and positivity every single employee has shown over these past few weeks, despite the unsettling new circumstances unfolding around us.
In fact, speaking to fellow business leaders around me, this seems to be the standard at many Swedish companies, and while proud of their teams, they actually don’t seem too surprised about how well they’re managing in this regard.
In Sweden, we have a long tradition of flat hierarchies and horizontal organizational structures, and in a way, you could imagine this would lend itself terribly to remote working. If there is no clear hierarchy and few levels of reporting then why would staff do anything at all when their colleagues are no longer looking, and they can just put their feet up to watch Netflix all day?
I’d argue that it works the opposite way, and that many startups could benefit from embracing new patterns of working to maintain staff morale and motivation in this new and uncertain landscape, brought about by the pandemic. Trust, collaboration and transparency are fundamental Swedish values which are deeply ingrained in our population, but also in the way we work. If combined with clear company values, I’m of the strong opinion that these three things can do wonders for the overall performance of your team and that they become even more important in times of crisis.
I’m not asking anyone to turn their organization completely on its head and give everyone matching titles at a time when many companies, and startups in particular, are facing big challenges and ever-changing priorities.
But I would like to share five tips, rooted in Swedish-style team setups, which can be instantly rolled out by any startup founder or CEO, and are certain to have a positive impact on your staff during this difficult time.