How do employees feel about workplace saunas?

At Finnish software development company Futurice, employees in the Helsinki office can celebrate the end of the week with an on-site steam, possibly with colleagues and in the nude.

“I think [installing the sauna] was mainly justified by being able to have student excursions from the local universities at our own premises,” Hanno Nevanlinna, director of culture at Futurice, tells Benefits Canada. “It was also a really good selling point to our current and future people. People here love the idea that they could go to the sauna easily, even though most of us don’t use it.”

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Software developer Fedor Nezhivoi, on the other hand, is a very frequent sauna user at the office. Since starting at the company at the beginning of September, he has visited it every Friday and some Tuesdays. In his native Russia, he notes, saunas are common but not at home or work.

“As far as I know, in Finland they have more saunas than cars in the whole country,” he says. “This ability of using a sauna when you want to use it and not just when you have . . . a holiday or whatever feels awesome to me.”

Nezhivoi primarily uses the sauna to relax at the end of the day but he says he’s looking forward to trying midday steams. “Sometimes, in the middle of the day, you feel a little bit empty,” he says. “You’ve done great work in the morning, so maybe it’s kind of a cool thing to do to get your energy back.”

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Coed visits can require covering up. “You ask people, ‘Do you want to go naked or is it uncomfortable to you and you want to use towels?’” says Nezhivoi. “Friday was exactly this case. [A female coworker] wanted to go to the sauna, so she just asked if it’s OK for you boys to use towels, and we were kind of, ‘OK, sure. If you want to, we can do it.’”

But if Nezhivoi is visiting the sauna alone or with male coworkers, he’ll go in the buff. “I do not [find it uncomfortable], because in the culture of my country, it’s the way you use the sauna. And for Finnish people, it should be the same thing,” he says.

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Getting naked with his superiors isn’t awkward because of Futurice’s flat hierarchy, Nezhivoi notes. “You can meet [the chief executive officer] in whatever place in the office, ask him whatever questions you want to and have some jokes and beers together.”

The only downside of the on-site sauna, he says, is it’s rare for colleagues to hang out outside the office on Friday nights. “We have beers, we have sauna, we have games, music, pool table, whatever,” says Nezhivoi. “[But] sometimes, you just need to change things around you. People do not do it a lot, since we have so much stuff in the office.”