For many companies, the sauna is an important part of the corporate culture. Warner Music Finland agrees. Unlike a few decades ago, however, the sauna no longer serves as a place to make secret agreements.
Lasse Kurki, A&R Manager at Warner Music Finland, is warming up a sauna at half past ten in the morning on the top floor of an office situated in Olavinkatu, Kamppi.
"Going to the sauna in the daytime somehow feels a bit rebellious and impudent," he says, adding that members of the band Kauniit ja uhkarohkeat are expected for a visit and a sauna.
"Sauna creates a more spontaneous atmosphere; a different kind of trust and a more relaxed connection can be achieved there," says Kurki. For the record company, the saunas are part of the often-used premises for entertaining guests. But what exactly takes place in a sauna? A corporate sauna culture reminds many people of Kekkonen and negotiations between men.
Jukka-Pekka Puro, researcher of speech communication from the University of Turku, has studied discussions taking place in a sauna and confirms that Kekkonen is exactly the person behind the modern reputation of the Finnish sauna culture.
"In effect, Kekkonen created the culture of making agreements in the sauna. When managing relations with the USSR, a certain type of machismo and testing of physical stamina was important, and state visits usually included skiing, topped with a heavy dose of steam to prove one's masculinity. This also served to create and strengthen relations with the East and to provide a place for vital negotiations," explains Puro.
Sauna building the image of Warner Music
The sauna at Warner is not a place for negotiations; it is dedicated to relaxation and parties.
"A new record, for instance, is often listened through for the first time in the large conference room next to the sauna, after which a good steam is in order. We also entertain artists and business partners in our sauna," says Mikko Manninen, Finance Controller at Warner.
According to Manninen, employees who cycle or jog to work also utilise the shower facilities on a daily basis.
A sauna in an office is also significant for the brand of this international record company, highlighting Finnish culture and the company's personality.
"Foreign visitors are definitely at least given a tour of our saunas," says Manninen.
Jukka-Pekka Puro also acknowledges the significance of the sauna as means of standing out and creating a certain image.
"Large Japanese companies, for example, often organise traditional tea ceremonies for their guests. These are important ways of highlighting the local culture and pushing the roots of the company deeper into its native soil," says Puro.
Warner Music's sauna says no to discrimination
Jukka-Pekka Puro also sees the sauna culture as problematic in terms of equality unless rules are established.
"Agreements in the sauna evoke strong notions of a space where only the chosen few are allowed. Women, for example, had no place in the business side of the sauna culture, which is why they were excluded from vital negotiations," he explains.
That is why it is important to mutually agree on the use of a company's sauna facility and to eliminate the aspect of negotiations and decision-making from the sauna experience. Minna Paakkola, HR Manager at Warner, agrees although the company has not needed to particularly emphasise this issue.
"In our company, the sauna culture is shared by all, even though the men and women of the company take turns enjoying the sauna. I don't think it would cross anyone's mind to use the sauna for negotiations," says Paakkola who is an avid sauna-goer.
Jukka-Pekka Puro evaluates that the popularity of the sauna today has to do with relaxation and enjoying the moment. This is probably one of the reasons why many companies want to have a sauna in their facilities.
"As an environment, the sauna invites slow discussion and doesn't contain disruptions such as phones and computers," he says.