CEO of Finland’s Supercell believes in work-life balance and an international workforce

Mobile game developer Supercell, headquartered in Helsinki, is known for its emphasis on employee wellbeing. Cofounder and CEO Ilkka Paananen shares his ideas about the work environments of the future.

Every month, 250 million people around the world play Supercell’s games: Hay Day, Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, Clash Royale and Brawl Stars.

Founded in 2010, Supercell maintains offices in Helsinki, San Francisco, Seoul and Shanghai. The company is thoroughly international and multicultural, with more than 45 nationalities among its more than 400 employees.

“We want to create global games for diverse players,” says CEO Ilkka Paananen. “Multiculturalism and diversity are part of everything we do. Interacting with colleagues from different backgrounds is important business-wise, but it also enriches our lives and makes our work more interesting. We have seen that diversity makes our teams better. Future workplaces will be fundamentally international.”

Supercell believes in independent teams that take responsibility for their work. The company slogan is, “The best teams make the best games.”

Growing the team

A man in blue jeans and a black T-shirt leans against the wall in a hall featuring wooden archways.

Ilkka Paananen stands in the lobby of Supercell’s Helsinki eight-storey headquarters building, which is constructed almost entirely out of wood.Photo: Sampo Korhonen

“We want our teams to be the best in the world,” says Paananen. “We start with two to three people who complement each other perfectly, and continue growing the team from there.

“Supercell was founded on the principle that every team works as a cell inside the company. This means that we trust the team and the people in it to make their own decisions, organise their own work and take responsibility for creating a game that they believe in. I do not want to tell people how to do their work. Trust is the fundamental value that keeps Supercell together.”

Paananen thinks that employees will be even more independent in the future.

“There will be less micromanagement, and employees will take even more responsibility for their work,” he says. “With various remote working tools, we are not always in our offices anymore, and this requires trust. Our teams can choose for themselves if they work at the office or not. We want the best people to work for us, and sometimes it can mean that they work remotely from different parts of the world. In the years to come, we will definitely get more technical tools to help us do this.”

Remember to take a break

Supercell’s Ilkka Paananen talks about being an entrepreneur in Finland.Video: ThisisFINLAND

Paananen expects to see many individuals with international networks working together in the future.

“Societies should be more supportive of the different ways of working,” he says. “Some people like freelancing and others like having stable employment. Diversity is key here as well. All work should be valued and properly paid, but we should not limit its structures too much.”

Another important value at Supercell is supporting work-life balance.

“We make sure everyone takes their holidays and remembers to look after themselves,” says Paananen. “We discuss coping at work and the importance of private life and work-life balance. You do not build good games if you burn yourself out. With remote working, it is very easy to slip into working from morning until evening. As a CEO, I take my full month’s summer holiday and go home in the evenings. I know sometimes creating games is so much fun it’s hard to stop, but you have to take a break.” He smiles.

By Päivi Brink, ThisisFINLAND Magazine 2023