What a Swedish Town Can Teach Us About Guiding Teams Through Stressful Situations

How would you react if you were told that your entire town had to relocate to an entirely new spot, two miles away? I’m talking buildings, homes, people, lives – boom, packing up and moving down the road. This is exactly what the residents of Kiruna, Sweden were told one day. Naturally, they were a little stressed.

Turns out, the land that Kiruna is on is unstable due to years of mining, which caused the bedrock of the city to start not being so steady (as a rock). The government set up a 20-year plan to relocate the city entirely. Talk about needing a stiff drink and a sauna session! Actually…

Being Swedish, saunas are a prominent part of the culture there, particularly to build community and trust, just like in Finland. To ease the tension headaches that were certainly arising at the news, the government commissioned two architects to build a huge egg-shaped sauna in town.

The “Solar Egg” has three main purposes:

  1. The egg shape represents a “rebirth” of the town.
  2. Residents can relax in a sauna to ease the stress of moving everything they have ever known.
  3. Folks can gather together in this hub to talk about the situation.

The above-linked Curiosity.com article called the Solar Egg a “functional social structure.” This unique idea does a great job of building a “culture of connection” within Kiruna.

It Has Heart

Literally, the wood-burning stove that makes the sauna’s heat is shaped like an actual heart. But also, the structure shows that the people in charge over in Kiruna see it through the eyes of their residents, and take striking action to make them happy and comfortable.

Pattern Interrupt

You can’t ignore a ridiculously huge golden egg in the middle of town. You just can’t. For those residents who might tend to isolate themselves due to the coming changes, this structure causes them to stop and interact with their community. This works whether they step inside and enjoy the sauna, or if they just talk about the project with their neighbors. Barring the fact that this is not a cheap project to put together, it’s the perfect blender event.

As the Curiosity article states,

The sauna provides a warm place for residents and officials to come together and discuss the situation, while boosting community spirit during a difficult time.”

When things get out of hand, having a culture of connection in place, and continuing to grow it, goes a long way in keeping everyone happy. Next time you have to share stressful situations with your team or community, give them positive ways to cope with it that bring them together.

You can…

  • Surprise them with pizza in the middle of a big project or overtime.
  • Create spaces around the office where they can take a break from the hustle.
  • Institute “office hours” or an open door policy.
  • Create a Slack channel or Google group as a virtual hub to talk about the situation.

We can’t all hire an architect to build giant golden eggs. But we can learn from the people of Kiruna a very important lesson: Moving an entire town is a fever you CAN sweat out. 

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