The tech hub that offers work-life balance as well as digital innovation

Cities today don’t just compete on raw economics. They’re also in competition to show themselves as leaders in sustainability, digitalisation and quality of life.

The tech hub that offers work-life balance as well as digital innovation
Photo: Getty Images

For many talented individuals with an international mindset, such factors matter more than a higher salary or other financial incentives.

A recent report on talent from Invest Stockholm suggests the Covid-19 pandemic could see such people “shunning ‘megacities’” in favour of sustainable cities that match their lifestyle values. 

Here, we look at how Stockholm compares internationally in terms of sustainability, as a tech hub, in broader digitalisation, and in the standard of English.

A city that protects the planet

Stockholm has long had a reputation for sustainability – and was named the first European Green Capital by the European Commission back in 2010. So, what about now with major cities everywhere eager to prove their green credentials? 

In the latest Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index (SCI), designed to look at sustainability “from the perspective of the citizen”, Stockholm ranked second to London among 100 global cities. The rankings are built on three pillars – people, planet and profit – which closely align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Stockholm ranked number one globally on the ‘planet’ pillar, thanks to investment in sustainable infrastructure (including measures to promote cycling), low emissions and good air quality. This is no surprise to Irish-born Elaina O’Shea, who chose to move to Stockholm partly due to her desire “for an active, outdoor lifestyle”.

“Everywhere is reachable by bike, tap water tastes great, the air is so clean and housing is dry and warm,” she says. “As a cyclist or runner, I can go anywhere without choking on car fumes. The mentality in business also prioritises reducing waste.”

Photo: Elaina O’Shea

Stockholm also comes in the top ten of the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Mobility Index for urban transport. The city was one of the pioneers in introducing a congestion charge to reduce road traffic at peak times and is currently expanding its metro system.

Heating and hot water in apartments comes mainly from district heating with much of the power generated from biofuel and household waste. 

A city of unicorns … where people come first

When you think of start-ups and unicorn companies, you probably think firstly of Silicon Valley. But did you know that Stockholm produces more billion-dollar companies per capita than any region except the Californian tech hub?

Looking for new career or business opportunities? Get free advice on how to get connected to Stockholm

Spotify and Skype are perhaps the biggest names to emerge from the Swedish capital, while gaming giants like King and Mojang (the developer behind Minecraft) have also made their mark internationally.

O’Shea has previously lived in London and Dublin but says when she decided to go into the tech industry, she knew she wanted to make Stockholm her home.

“Ireland is thought of as a tech hub but Stockholm is savvier,” says O’Shea, who now works in software as a service (SaaS). “The flat hierarchies in Stockholm mean things happen faster when people have great ideas.”

Photo: Ting Liu

Ting Liu, a software engineer originally from China, moved from Berlin to Stockholm just over a year ago. She has also lived in South Korea and Spain.

Like O’Shea, she finds Stockholm to be highly efficient while still encouraging real work-life balance. “In South Korea, the work ethic is insane and leaves you exhausted,” she says.  “There are lots of tech opportunities in Asia. But money isn’t everything and I prefer to have a life.” 

In fact, her salary isn’t much different to what she earned in Seoul, she adds, but in Stockholm “you feel respected as a human being”.

Digital society: helping you get things done

International residents are used to dealing with bureaucracy. But it doesn’t mean they want to tolerate it being unnecessarily – or tortuously – slow. In Stockholm, there’s not much to fear with the city offering residents more than 100 e-services across many areas.

The European Commission’s Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI) ranks Sweden as one of the EU leaders in digitalisation; it comes second behind only Finland and well ahead of major economies like the UK, Germany and France.

Residents and businesses benefit from fast broadband throughout Stockholm and residents have a huge choice of fast payment options, as Sweden leads the race to become the first almost cashless society.

Liu says getting a German work permit required lots of paperwork and took almost three months, she says, whereas in Stockholm she got one in under a week.

“In Berlin, you do lots of things by sending letters and you still rely heavily on cash. In Stockholm, you can always pay by card and lots more things can be done online. You don’t need to make an appointment and visit the registration office just to change your address.” 

It’s easy to get by in English

International residents of Stockholm find the level of English in the city also makes their lives far easier. Liu says she hasn’t started seriously studying Swedish due to the pandemic and her preference for face-to-face learning. 

“Everyone here, including the cashiers in the supermarket, speaks fluent English and that’s a big advantage,” she says. “In Germany, I didn’t speak the language and quite often I couldn’t communicate with people outside of work.”

Sweden has long been one of the worldwide leaders for English as a second language and recently placed fourth globally in the English Proficiency Index.

Want new opportunities and a better quality of life? Get free, tailor-made advice on business in Stockholm – and follow these links for Stockholm’s Talent Guide and Entrepreneur’s Guide.

For members


Ten easy-access cafés and libraries to study or work from in Stockholm

Whether you are a student looking for a place to study or someone who works remotely and is looking for a new atmosphere, Stockholm caters to a diverse range of preferences and needs.

Ten easy-access cafés and libraries to study or work from in Stockholm

At times, it’s necessary to seek out a fresh workspace or study environment to enhance our focus and productivity.

Here’s our selection of Stockholm cafés where you can enjoy a cup of coffee and the aroma of the beans in the air, to libraries where you can completely get into the zone and options that give you a chance to network in an office-like space.

Stockholm City Libraries

If you like to work in a quiet and peaceful place, then one of Stockholm City’s Libraries might be the place for you. It offers work and study places, free Wi-Fi and they also have printing facilities. A library card is not required to access the library, but if you want to borrow or reserve books then it is needed.

More information and to find the closest library to you, can be found here.

Stockholm University Library

The library on Stockholm University’s campus is open to everyone. This library has a mix of quiet work areas as well as noisy sections. Most seats have power outlets available, students and those who have access to Eduroam can use that network, but a temporary login can be found at the library entrance. In addition, there is a café and two shops situated within the same building.

More information can be found here.

Location: Universitetsvägen 14D, 114 18 Stockholm

KTH Library

Another university library which is open to everyone is the KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s library.

Here you can find a number of quiet places to work and study, with the majority of seats equipped with power outlets. Eduroam’s wireless network is available throughout the library along with a guest network, details on how to connect to this can be found at the information desk.

Café Stories is located in the entrance hall, but be aware that no foods, such as sandwiches, wraps or salads are allowed in the quiet sections of the library. Snacks and drinks which have lids are allowed in.

Find additional details here.

Location: Kungliga Tekniska högskolans bibliotek, Osquars backe 21, 114 28 Stockholm

Goto 10

Goto 10 allows its members to access work lounges, hold events, record podcasts and test a 3D printer all within their premises (they’ve also got hubs in Malmö and Linköping). The membership is free and in return you are asked to contribute to creating content for Goto 10.

Their lounges include Wi-Fi, seating with power outlets, microwaves and a coffee machine.

Information about Goto 10 and how you can become a member can be found here.

Location: Hammarby kaj 10D, 120 30 Stockholm

Scandic Hotel

The hotel group Scandic offers co-working spaces and a hotel room office in their hotels. Prices for their co-working spaces start from 99 kronor per day and it includes free Wi-Fi, power outlets, coffee and tea, printing and copying services, and a 10 percent discount on food.
The co-working spaces are available in all 270 Scandic hotels, in six countries and 26 of those are in Stockholm.

More information and a price list can be found here.

Bröd & Salt

The café chain Bröd & Salt has shops all across the city. The chain also offers a workspace subscription called Club Salt, which gives you access to six of their co-working spaces. These workspaces are located in Torsplan, Jarlsgatan, Odenplan, Kungsholmen, Fleminggatan and Uppsala if you want to venture outside the capital. They offer shared spaces to work, with power outlets and Wi-Fi, and the subscription comes with a discount on a variety of menu items sold at Bröd & Salt.

Subscriptions for the co-working space start from 599 kronor per month.

More information can be found here.

Espresso House

You can find Espresso House in many corners of the country. They may be part of a chain with everything that entails, but they are popular spots to work from, which is evident from the many laptops that can be seen when you enter. The cafés usually offer free Wi-Fi and some seats have a power outlet as well. It is important to note that it could get a bit loud in the café.

Find your closest Espresso House here.


Another café chain in Sweden and in Stockholm is Waynes. The company has a number of shops across the city and like many cafés it provides free Wi-Fi and a certain amount of power outlets. If you do not want to travel too far, but still want a nice coffee shop to work from then Waynes fits that description.

Find out more here.


Another popular café to work from is ilcaffé. Located in Bergsgatan, Drottninggatan, Långholmsgatan and Södermannagatan, this café has free Wi-Fi and a number of power outlets. The café offers a range of sandwiches, treats and coffee, so there is no wonder why it has become a popular work hub.

Information about ilcaffé can be found here.

Urban Deli

The hotel, restaurant and café chain Urban Deli has five shops in Stockholm. They are located in Sveavägen, Nytorget, Sickla, Centralen and Hagastaden. The shop in Sveavägen in particular is a popular spot used by those who want to enjoy a coffee or a meal and work or study away. It has free Wi-Fi and power outlets at certain seats.

You can find more information here.