Toca Boca brings a Swedish sense of calm to the workplace.
“I grew up with American pop culture, and thought I knew what I was heading into when I moved to the States,” says Björn Jeffery, CEO of Swedish app developer Toca Boca, which designs digital toys to spark creativity. “But I did not know.” He launched his company in Stockholm, then moved to San Francisco to open a second office. After working 70-hour weeks in California, he felt himself quickly burning out. So he decided to change his company’s culture to make it more Swedish than American. Here’s how.
Fika for everyone: “It’s extremely Swedish,” he says of the traditional coffee-and-pastry break that the Toca Boca offices have adopted, gathering together every day at 1:30. “It started with industry in Sweden and is still mandated by the union -- so you cannot mess with Fika.” Stateside, he finds it boosts interdepartmental communication. “You get a sense of the office zeitgeist.”
Vacation: In addition to three weeks’ paid vacation, Toca Boca closes for two consecutive weeks each summer. “Americans take odd days off here and there,” he says. “We encourage employees not only to use all their vacation but to take it in a row -- you return more well-rested, motivated and efficient.”
Family leave: Toca Boca provides parental leave for both partners -- four months paid, and an option to take an additional eight months unpaid. “It’s very surreal to me that people can’t stay home for that amount of time without worrying about being fired.”
Quitting time: Jeffery tries to leave at 5 p.m. every day, and avoids offering too many Silicon Valley “perks.” “Free meals are great, but when the last one is served at 6:30, it tricks you into staying late,” he says. “Working till 10 p.m. does not mean you’re doing better work than someone who leaves at 5. It’s stupidly simple but, in this context, decidedly radical.”