Friday, August 22, 2008

Changes and work differences

We had some surprising news at work today. Our top editor and our city editor both announced to the staff they are leaving at the end of September.

Our newsroom only consists of 13 people, so two people leaving is a big deal. There are uncertain times ahead, but I guess in a few weeks we will find out what happens next.

It made me think of more differences in the workplace. In Sweden, you usually have to give three months' notice for anything - leaving a job, leaving an apartment, etc. Here, you give two weeks. Why is that?

Everything seems to be shorter. Maternity leave is 12 weeks - unpaid. In Sweden, you get 480 days - that's 16 months - for new moms (or dads). And for the first 390 days, you get paid 80 percent of your salary.

No wonder there aren't many nannies or stay-at-home moms in Sweden. You CAN have a child AND a career without losing your mind. After a year or so, most people are ready to go back to work.

Vacation time is two weeks in the United States - 10 work days - unless you've worked at a company for more than five years, when it can increase by five days. In Sweden - and most of Europe, for that matter - you get five weeks of paid vacation. Several of these can be taken consecutively.

One year, my dad had to work during some of his vacation time. His boss had to - by law - make it up to him. The following summer, my dad had 10 weeks off. He didn't work for almost three months - and he got paid for every single day.

Still, I just read a brief in Nordstjernan - a Swedish-American newspaper I used to work for - that Sweden has one of Europe's highest absentee rates at work. Swedish employees call in sick often, and they still get most of their pay.

In order to combat this, large Swedish companies are now offering gym memberships, masseuses and breakfast baskets in the office. Said one Swedish psychologist, "When you're happier, when you're more satisfied with your working conditions, then you perform at work."

I could sure use a massage after a long day in front of the computer...

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